Teachers seldom get the thanks they deserve, but what do you think this is, Dead Poets’ Society? Sixth former, Kate Grimsdale stands on her desk to express her gratitude
Can I ask you, just for a second, to try and forget the madness that is going on around you and put yourself in the moment? I am conducting an experiment and I need you to read this carefully as there will be a short test at the end.
School closures have brought uncertainty and apprehension for students and teachers alike. The classroom has been replaced with online lessons and packs have been sent home for parents to take on the role of teachers. I know of one who declared day three an INSET day because two days of home-schooling had proved just too much. She claimed that if the coronavirus didn’t kill her, distance learning would.
It made me laugh. But in all seriousness, home-schooling is going to have varying levels of success. The family we are born into is totally arbitrary – it’s just luck of the draw – and home-schooling may just increase gaps that reflect our society’s inequalities. It accentuates the value of our schools, their role in delivering social justice and the life blood running through the heart of them. Teachers. Those people who join the profession to make a difference, who believe that every minute in the classroom is an opportunity to inspire a love of learning. You will do everything in your power to ensure that no child is disadvantaged during this pandemic.
Specifications only make up a fraction of the wisdom you impart
You have always believed in us – even when we lost faith in ourselves. Now is the time for us to demonstrate our belief in you. With your energy and enthusiasm, you bring out the best in us. Yet, efforts that would be highly commended in other professions have become a baseline expectation, and you are too often unappreciated. It is because you have normalised excellence.
I once sat in an English lesson so profound I looked at my teacher in awe and felt the urge to stand up and clap. Of course… I didn’t. I suspect very few have spontaneously acted on the urge. I hate to break it to you, but your “O Captain! My Captain!” moment is probably not coming. But I know I’m not alone in having felt that way, so please accept this letter as a metaphorical ovation.
Exams have been cancelled and a weight of responsibility has been placed on your shoulders. Well, what’s new? You are responsible for educating the next generation – and there is no greater responsibility than that.
The scientist working on the Covid-19 vaccine was inspired by your Chemistry lessons. But we all know course specifications only make up a fraction of the knowledge and wisdom you impart. That same scientist won’t give up until a vaccine has been found – a resilience and a perseverance that emulate teachers like my maths teacher, who found numerous ways of explaining the same problem to make sure everyone understood, regardless of learning abilities.
You ignited the passion for medicine in the doctors in intensive care. But it’s their determination to get the job done that gets them through a gruelling 14-hour shift. That trait, they learnt from a teacher like my school’s director of music, who dedicates his life to the department. For the first two years, I assumed he slept at school.
The compassion and empathy nurses display at patients’ bedsides was modelled by teachers like my German teacher, who shed a tear with me when I didn’t get an interview for my dream university. I’d been blinkered by relentlessly pursuing that dream and she opened my eyes, allowing me to carve out a new path.
You are impassioned and compassionate leaders who have nurtured the critical, curious and courageous minds we will need to navigate our way through this global crisis.
I asked you at the beginning to pay attention for the test at the end.
There is no test.
We don’t need exams to tell us the value of hard work. You taught us so much more than that.