Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Workforce - 'Criminally Boring' Curriculum Slaves: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Workforce - 'Criminally Boring' Curriculum Slaves: News

Article excerpt

But teachers' bad reputation is down to the media, survey finds.

To some, they are mavericks who pull dramatic classroom stunts that stay in the memory for decades. To others, they are "crowd controllers" and "curriculum slaves". But teachers are more likely to be seen simply as "boring" and "unremarkable", new research says.

This negative perception can be attributed to an antagonistic media, a celebrity-dominated culture and worsening classroom behaviour, according to members of the public.

An academic from the University of Sussex in the UK surveyed people of all ages, from teenagers to pensioners, on their attitudes towards schools, teachers and students. Opinions on teachers tended to be polarised.

"Attributes like dedication, caring, brilliance, knowledge and fun contrasted starkly with failure, incompetence, militancy, laziness and too trendy," study author Simon Thompson writes in the report.

Most respondents recognised that teachers worked hard and had little free time. "You're either a teacher or you have a life," one commentator said. Another said that a teacher might be better described as a "psychologist, presenter, social worker, curriculum slave, crowd controller".

And many respondents used the survey as an opportunity to recall their own school experiences. One, for example, talked about a history teacher who tore up a Pounds 5 note, in order to demonstrate that money has symbolic, rather than inherent, value. This led to a discussion about hyperinflation in Weimar Germany. "I went on to do a history degree after being taught by her," the respondent said.

But others recalled indifferent teachers, including one "so boring it makes it a crime to be so". Indeed, a lack of respect for teachers, and education in general, was a repeated refrain in the study, which surveyed 189 people in the UK.

One contributor said that teaching was a profession "full of unremarkable men and women, trying their best to do a job that is, by turns, dull and difficult".

But it was acknowledged that this was rarely the fault of the teachers themselves. Respondents pointed out that attitudes towards teachers merely reflected the broader attitudes of society. "Unrealistic aspirations, a celebrity-dominated culture, the need to be seen to be cool and the non- parenting preoccupations of parents mean that teachers are fighting an uphill struggle," one said. …

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