Change is threatening and those who survive it are those who can adapt.
I’ve been in teaching long enough to know that Darwin’s dictum is true. I’ve seen over the years that it wasn’t necessarily the best, most talented teachers who survived to make a successful career – I saw some brilliant inspirational teachers leave after only a couple of years.
The rapid pace of change simply defeated them.
Those who went on to thrive and succeed were those who could adapt to the new and often exacting demands of the environment – whether that was a change in government education policy, a change of head teacher, the unexpected outcome of an Ofsted inspection or the stresses and strains of teaching a new and challenging group of kids.
But for those teachers who did survive to make a difference, where and how did they get the faith and the belief to do it?
In my view, the teaching profession provides three fundamental sources that underpin the faith to manage change: our identity, our hope and our destination.
Our identity as a profession is to know who we are and why we are different from other jobs and professions. Get to know what it is that makes teachers different and special.
Our hope is that we have a moral purpose in what we do. We’re trying to make a difference and to do a moral good. Well, aren’t we?
And our destination is that place where the lives of those we teach are better and more fulfilled through education. That place is not reached by exam passes but as an end in itself. We’re trying to take others to a different, better place – even if we can only take them as far as glimpsing it.
Where we come from, where we’re going to and why. These are the fundamentals of a profession with a moral purpose – like teaching.
When we really know these things as a profession we will have more confidence to adapt to change and survive it.
How do I know that?
Because I’ve lived through ephemeral government policies, ambitious and bullying head teachers, arbitrary and superficial Ofsted inspections and transient classes of difficult kids.
But the fundamental values of a profession don’t change. They will sustain you through good times and bad.
For those of you thinking of leaving teaching this summer, I hope you’ll think again.
Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and headteacher in London for over 20 years and then for a decade with the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching professionalism and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk. You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk and book him for a talk. His book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) was published in March 2014.