Schools are at their essence about students – the student sits (or should sit) at the heart of all endeavour in the school; schools are there in order to educate students and to assist in guiding their personal development and growth. Schools were invented to ensure that young people were well-prepared to play a role in society – this is why they are so important, and why we should value them. They enable children to become adults. This is the central and immovable reason for their existence.
We should not, however, overlook the teachers who prompt, facilitate, guide and oversee this incredibly important process. A campaign to recruit teachers in the UK in the late 1990s had as its slogan “No-one forgets a good teacher”, and this struck a chord because it is very true. Teachers matter to young people precisely because they are the people who will often have unlocked the understanding that they were seeking, or because they will have eased their fears, or because they will have shown them how to develop and practise the tools to be able to organise and extend their own learning. What teachers give is a gift – not hand-delivered on a platter, but teased out of individual students so that it becomes theirs: teachers give students the gift of their own education.
Without teachers, no student would learn to the same degree; or at the least, it would be much, much harder. The best teachers will not tell students what to think, but will guide them, wisely, into learning how to think. The best teachers will respond to the very individual needs – mental, physical and emotional – of students, and will go out of their way to observe, understand and evaluate the impact that they as teachers are having, so as to redirect their efforts to make them most effective. Teachers empower students.
It is only right, therefore, that we should invest in the professional and personal growth of these important people. With the exception of witnessing the growth and learning of young people, there is little that is more exciting than seeing the growth and development of teachers, because this will impact directly and positively on their ability to be able to educate. And it is particularly thrilling to see this growth and development of teachers stimulated by their colleagues – by professional conversations, by insights gained into the work that goes on in different disciplines, presented to teachers by teachers. For we are all in schools not as individuals, but as a team, with the child at the heart, and when we work together to connect what we do, both latitudinally in the present, and longitudinally from pre-school to university entry and beyond, the quality of education of that child is unsurpassable. We should absolutely be enabling our teachers to learn and grow, just as we enable our students to learn and grow.
And hooray for our amazing teachers!