NHSG - In praise of teaching

In praise of teaching

June 26, 2024

A blog by Mrs Amanda Hardie, Head of NHSG

We recently had the honour of attending the prestigious TES Awards in London, with over 1,000 education professionals in attendance. It was a truly glorious event, celebrating all that is outstanding in the sector – and there was certainly much to shout about.

Every single day I am reminded of how much I love my job and how rewarding a career in teaching can be. I feel unbelievably privileged to be able to do what I do for a living. Yet all too often, when it comes to education, the media headlines focus on the negative challenges teachers face – the pressure, the scrutiny, the overwhelming responsibility.

Of course, I’m not going to pretend that these challenges don’t exist – they absolutely do. But in the right school environment, with the right support, teachers can thrive in fulfilling careers that have the potential to positively transform not only the lives of the pupils they teach, but their own lives too.

As a profession, teaching is often portrayed in a negative light – workloads, increasing pastoral demands and scrutiny from external agencies are all regularly discussed topics. This has had a detrimental impact on the recruitment of a new generation of teachers nationally, and this is something that I feel will hinder potential teachers and pupils alike if we don’t challenge perceptions.

On the other hand, teaching is sometimes considered a walk in the park due to the holidays that we have. But we need to remember that, in addition to the fact that most teachers are in fact working at points during those breaks, the intense nature of teaching during term time means that taking the foot off the pedal from time to time is a pre-requisite for wellbeing. Returning to start a new term feeling refreshed and energised will undoubtedly benefit the children and young people we teach – never mind the longer-term health and wellbeing of our staff. It’s a win-win.

Teaching isn’t for everyone. But if you’re passionate about your subject area, and passionate about changing young lives, then it’s a career worth pursuing. Schools are all unique, so to consider the sector as one homogeneous environment would be inaccurate.

As Head of NHSG, I know that, while schools have statutory obligations and frameworks to adhere to, we also have autonomy to create our own culture and ways of working. If we can get that right, no teacher needs to feel alone or overwhelmed. Fostering a culture of praise, collaboration and support can make all the difference in terms of job satisfaction, and this is passed on to the pupils who learn with us.

We’ve always encouraged pupils to embrace their inner cheerleader, to discover their unique abilities and to see failure as something to learn and grow from, rather than a setback. But just as every pupil is unique, so is every teacher. If we can instil a culture where teachers are able to focus on their passion – just as our subject specialist teachers do in both junior and secondary schools – this passion will rub off on our pupils. And if we can ensure that teachers feel able to say when they are struggling and share their challenges with colleagues – without feeling like they’re going to be criticised – then their happiness, satisfaction and motivation will again be passed onto the pupils.

If a teacher is struggling with a particular class or pupil, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t ask their peers how they have managed the situation. And if they are dealing with traumatic pastoral issues, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t ask for wellbeing support for themselves. We need to walk the walk when it comes to classroom culture – and ensure that the behaviours we are encouraging in our pupils are replicated in the staff room. This in turn creates a ripple effect of mutual respect and praise that makes teaching the truly special and rewarding career it’s supposed to be.

It’s never going to be plain sailing. As teachers, we hold so much responsibility and sometimes it can be a lot to carry. But I know that, if ever I am having a bad day, all I have to do is walk into a classroom to be reminded of why I do what I do. Simply chatting to the girls and seeing them inspired by my colleagues is all I need to regulate a little before I have to deal with whatever challenge I am facing. Schools are in such powerful positions in terms of being able to shape the life of a young person and at NHSG we give them myriad opportunities that will allow them to move forward into the future and be the girl they’ve always wanted to be. And as teachers, being able to play a part in that process is simply magical.