I Don’t Want To Be A Hero, I Just Want To Be A Teacher

Dear Yuri,

I’m in limbo. Stuck between wanting to return to work and wanting to wait.

I know the implications of schools staying closed, of kids falling behind, of the pressure on staff next year to make the grade. The sadness and emptiness I feel when I do my job, upload lessons, communicate with students through messages. But that’s not what this is about.

This is about safety. This is about a plan that feels like it prioritises financial gain above the emotional and physical well-being of children, of teachers and of families.  If schools don’t let more kids back people can’t work, we know that. Try telling children not to sit together at lunch. Try getting them to follow one way systems. Try keeping them from playing football, sharing food, chewing pens. In an office I must socially distance, I must not hot desk, I must not share equipment. But in a school, dealing with over 150 children every day, with 1000 kids in corridors, I’m safe. Viruses are scared of detentions it seems.

The call hasn’t been because of vulnerable children needing support, it’s been based on their potential exams. Exams that are used to judge staff and schools and declare us failing, to ask us “what more could you have done?”. Ofsted are asking when they resume inspections. The government immediately wants us to assess who is behind in reading, in writing and fix it. Not to check if kids are ok, not to see if being away from their friends, their teacher and their wider family has hurt them.

And it hurts. Because I got into this to help, to make a difference. And the press, the politicians, commentators are saying this is my fault. That I’m not rallying around. That I’m lazy. That I’m on holiday on full pay. The tide has turned from key worker to public enemy number one. From “teachers work hard” to “teachers hardly work”. I should be a hero. I should step up like the NHS did.

And I wish I could.

But I don’t want to be a hero. I just want to be a teacher, and do what I’ve been trained to do.

I don’t want to be told I have no clue. I don’t want to be accused of letting the system down. I don’t want to be accused of being a shirker, or a skiver, or a sponger. But I apparently am. And that’s fine. I’ll enjoy another year of pay freezes and walk into my classroom, without social distancing, without PPE and without setting work for the kids still at home. Because that’s government guidelines.

Claire, Bournemouth, England

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