When talking about the teacher’s status, there are two things to be considered: the social status and the professional status. They influence each other to some extent because changes in one area lead to changes in the other. The Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (2002-2007) saw teaching as a very high status profession: “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”
Unfortunately, nowadays, we are almost afraid to ask the question: “Is teaching still a respected profession?” because we might not like the answer. We do not want to point fingers, but we, teachers, are partially to blame for the lowering of the social status of our profession. There are teachers who do their job well, with dedication and vocation, as there are teachers who ended up being teachers by mistake, who lack the motivation and skills to do their jobs well. According to Penny Ur, “there are still too many amateurs around, who think that it is enough to know English in order to teach it, resulting in lowering of teaching standards.”
Education International, a global union federation representing more than 30 million teachers worldwide, considers the importance of recognition and respect for the daily challenges of the teaching profession and states the following:
Teachers should be accorded a high professional status in society commensurate with their professional responsibilities, qualifications and skills, and the contribution which their profession makes to the development of society. (Article XI).
If we analyse the issue of low social status for teachers today as a cause and effect process, we might say that society fails to respect teachers because (some) teachers fail to do their job properly.
As far as the professional status is concerned, there is a professional code that teachers must uphold. It refers to three aspects:
1. Professional values and practice (teachers have to respect the social, cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds of all students; they have to treat students with respect and consideration; they have to demonstrate and promote the positive values and attitudes expected from the students; they have to communicate sensitively and effectively with parents and carers; they have to contribute to the corporate life of schools; they have to take responsibility for professional development);
2. Knowledge and understanding (teachers have to demonstrate mastery of the subject they are trained to teach; they also have to demonstrate knowledge of aims, principles, learning goals, curriculum);
3. Teaching (teachers have to demonstrate pedagogic competence in planning, teaching techniques, monitoring, assessing, classroom management).
Like any other profession, teaching has its highs and lows, its rewards and disappointments. As teachers, we live moments when we experience a sense of achievement and moments when we feel frustrated. We have to pay attention not to let teaching become just an ordinary job, an occupation and remember that it was vocation to have brought us into this world of educating young, creative minds.
More and more teachers say that, at times, they forget about the joy of teaching due to demotivation and lack of energy. This phenomenon is called BURNOUT and it is, luckily, a temporary condition.
The secret in dealing with all the challenges that surround us is not to lose sight of the big picture (developing our students’ personality in a harmonious way) and proper management of our time and energy resources.
Some of the challenges that teachers have to face nowadays have to do with:
- workload (too much paperwork, too many responsibilities and commissions – all these are time and energy-consuming, resources which could be better used on working with students);
- stress (long working hours, pressure of inspections, students’ misbehaviour, lack of parental support, teaching students who lack motivation, coping with change, dealing with colleagues and school administration staff, role conflict ambiguity, poor working conditions);
- low salary (some teachers leave the system because they are not financially motivated and cannot find motivation elsewhere).
While it is true that we cannot do much about the low salary (apart from working even harder in order to receive some bonuses), there are some tricks we can pull to manage the other stress factors: they say that if you cannot change things, you have to change your attitude. And since complaining does not help much, we have to try and become more efficient and effective in doing what it is expected of us (try to do the paperwork on time, meet deadlines, find ways to keep order and maintain discipline in the classroom, get parents to be more involved in their children’s education, establish good relationships with colleagues, ask for guidance and support from the more experienced teachers).
Harmer, Jeremy (2012): Essential Teacher Knowledge. Core Concepts in English Language Teaching, Pearce Education
Richards, J.C., Renandya, W.A. (2002): Methodology in Language Teaching. An Anthology of Current Practice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press