A testament to teachers in testing times

18 Apr 2020, 8:28

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.

Your thoughts

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  1. FionaShaw

    What an amazing young woman. Thank you for recognising the work of your dedicated teachers. Your sentiment is shared by too few, yet we continue fighting in the face of belittlement, denigration and ingraitude.
    To all your teachers, including your parents, thank you.

    • Micky T

      Perhaps the government can give teachers back their pensions on a final salary basis. We did go into teaching to help the next generation. A decent pension at the end made the financial struggle worthwhile. Exodus coming from teaching now we can see a different more attractive life beyond the classroom onpine.
      Appraisals and boring and undifferentiated IT insets destroy the soul of inspirational teachers made to conform. Box tickets beware the next generation are not mugs. They see through spin and nonsense. Great article by a young lady going places. Empathy level 100%.

  2. From teachers and educational support staff everywhere, I thank you Kate. When we emerge from the darkness into the blazing light ahead, I wonder if the value of education will finally be realised and placed back in the hands of those who are best placed, and qualified, to address the needs and and inspirations of the individuals in their care. Let teachers and educators get on with their work. Respect them. Value them. And reward them appropriately.

  3. Pauline Mack

    Amazing and thoughtful.
    School can be the best days of your life a d the worst for some if you dont fit.
    Character, confidence and self worth are also key to strong education.
    Oh that this new government would see the deep value of school and allow more flexibility in curriculum..more money for sport and the arts.
    Thank you teachers for your incredible hard work and inspiration for many

  4. Martin Smyth

    This is an excellent piece of writing and wonderfully articulated. Thank you so much Kate for offering such powerful affirmation to all those dedicated teachers out there. All the very best wishes to you in your future studies.

  5. Riffith Khan

    What a befitting tribute to the entire teaching profession.Your optimism and gratitude shines through each line.
    A truly inspirational peice which revives faith not only in our youths but in a promising future once more.
    Thank you.

  6. Kevin Feldon

    A wonderful and well thpught out article. Congratulation to the aithor. At the same time, it is interesting to note that there is no mention of duplicitous politicians, who you know are lieing because their lips are moving!

  7. J Feldon

    As the mother of a very dedicated teacher who spends many hours beyond the school timetable (evening and weekends) working and encouraging her pupils to achieve their full potential . She’s always available to help them solve all sorts of problems in life and school . Thankyou for this recognition

  8. Adetayo Babs

    I am almost moved to tears for your words as you nailed it!!! Thank you so much. I am a Science teacher in a typical inner London School, where we are not just teachers, we play the role Social worker, counsellors, ‘punching bag’ for their frustrations of simply being teenagers and much more but I would not change it for the world!
    Thanks so much I am sharing this with as many of my colleagues as possible. It will definitely cheer them up.

  9. Michele Gordon

    Absolutely beautiful. Full marks for your articulate, eloquent piece of writing. You brought tears to my eyes. Magnificent .Teachers have molded you with generosity and kindness and guided you onto a path for success. Thankyou so much for that delightful ,heartfelt powerful piece of literature.

  10. Chris Binks

    Wow! That’s a truly lovely piece of writing, Kate, and it should be compulsory reading for all those who do their best to bring the best out of young people. Thank you for your very kind words and good luck with your future studies. Please aim for a First! I already know that you have the ability!