No daughter of mine is going to be a teacher

If you're a teacher with children of your own, would you encourage them to follow your own career path?
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The Independent Online
WE WERE all delighted with Joanna's A-level results. She did extremely well and got into her first-choice university with no problems at all. Thoughts then turned inevitably towards her future. What will she decide to do? Certainly, everyone knows that she is intelligent, lively and imaginative - a young woman of many talents. And everyone has said to Joanna - and I mean everyone - "Don't become a teacher. You are far too clever. It would be such a waste."

I am the deputy head of an inner-city comprehensive but, sadly, I have found myself agreeing with this. What an indictment of the way in which my profession is perceived. You would have thought that as we are dragged into the new millennium by an increasingly complex technological world, informed and dedicated teachers would be vital. You would have thought that we'd have put George Bernard Shaw's remarks about teachers behind us. We haven't. It isn't a job for the brightest minds at all.

This shouldn't be so. Of course it shouldn't. There should be no finer or more important duty than that of helping to shape and inform the minds of the future. It should be seen as a great responsibility, which requires imagination and wit and intelligence, all the things our best young people have. Except that today, we don't think teaching is a suitable career for them.

The profession always needs good new recruits. It needs the vibrant enthusiasm of youth. I have seen the way in which talented young teachers can transform a department and a school. They are the transfusion that the lifeblood of a school needs. But where are they going to come from, when it seems to me that so few teachers would ever advise their own children to join the profession? Isn't this something that should make alarm bells start ringing somewhere?

Just think about the implications of this for a moment. If teachers are discouraging their own children and also the children they teach from entering the profession, isn't there something fundamentally wrong?

Does this not reflect the way in which we are now seen, and how we see ourselves?

Certainly it wasn't always like this. When I started out, more than 25 years ago, the profession seemed to me to be full of intelligent and talented individuals who had been encouraged to believe that they could make a difference. They were deeply committed to their subject, driven by a desire to pass on their knowledge in the belief that they had something important and worthwhile to say. We're now telling people like these not to bother.

"Do you really want to be like me?" we ask, because we are not happy with the sort of people we have become, or with the way we are viewed. We feel that we are being blamed and criticised, judged by performance league tables that have no real meaning, watched ever more closely because we can't be trusted to do things properly, expected to put in goodness knows how many extra hours, and then told by others that our working days are too short.

It can surely come as no surprise that we are not prepared to pass this situation on as a legacy to our children. What perhaps is even more worrying, though, is that others outside the profession see this too.

Would I become a teacher now, if I were starting my life over again? I honestly don't know. I still think that it is the most important of jobs and I still enjoy a lot of what I do. But could I really, truthfully, encourage someone to join me?

What we need are teachers who are comfortable about themselves, and their place in society. Instead, we are constantly hounded and vilified. The game's not worth the prize, Joanna. Do something else.

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