While not quite as bad as 2020, 2021 has been an eventful year. But, in the midst of virus mutations and political turbulence, we’ve had a few brief moments of normalcy: lockdowns have been lifted, and pupils once again returned to schools.
We asked our members if they could reflect back on their 2021 teaching highlights, which revealed a strong preference for face-to-face teaching. One member expressed that her highlight was “students returning to the classroom and feeling so very glad to see them”. Similarly another member emphasised the importance of teacher-pupil relationships, stating their highlight was “pupils coming back into class, and saying how much they missed everything”, while another simply stated, “my students”. Other highlights included hearing “children singing again” and “practical science lessons,” both of which we would have taken for granted prior to the pandemic.
It’s inspiring to see so many of our members remain undeterred and committed to their profession. Taking pleasure in their daily routines and finding joy in their classrooms, such as from “seeing students achieve beyond their expectations” and working with equally enthusiastic teachers and SENCOs. One member, for example, says her favourite part was “seeing my staff find creative ways of providing children with rich learning experiences”.
Advice for colleagues
Amid the stresses and frustrations, we can be grateful that we can take away a few lessons from 2021. We also asked our members what piece of advice they would give to colleagues across the profession. “Never underestimate children—they will surprise you,” one member said. “In regard to SEN practice, see the child not the label!” another member advised.
While children are an essential part of teaching, teachers must also be supported. “Accept what you can’t change and ensure you have support from family, friends and colleagues”, one member said, while another stressed the importance of a good work-life balance, saying, “Leave teaching at the door when you leave work and live in the moment with your family and friends”.
Our members’ comments focused heavily on wellbeing: “be kind to yourself” was mentioned by two different members, and is as important advice as ever for teachers, students, and everyone in these stressful times. In the teaching profession, there is also a strong sense of camaraderie, with teachers encouraging and uplifting one another. One member stated, “We can do this TOGETHER”. Despite the challenges teachers have faced over the last twenty-one months, on top of other issues like workload, many of our members remain positive and hopeful: “Keep focusing on creativity as this gives hope,” one member advised. Another member shared to “Retain your passion. It’s the best job in the world.”
Hopes for 2022
While the immediate future remains uncertain, our members remain optimistic about a successful 2022. Most of our members expressed a desire for recognition, such as for the public to have a better understanding of the effort and time that teachers put in, when asked what they would like to see change in education in 2022. A member expressed his desire for “fairer media representations of our profession,” while another stated that teaching should be treated more professionally. Multiple members mentioned that better pay would be a form of recognition as well as a way to compensate for the wage cuts.
Some members also expressed a desire for curriculum changes to include more alternatives to “academic subjects,” as well as “a curriculum that enables all children to succeed,” as one member hoped. Other changes that members would like to see in 2022 include the postponement of OFSTED and more TA support for students who require it.