Primary Teachers Talking: A Study of Teaching as Work

By Jennifer Nias | Go to book overview

Chapter ten

Conclusion

No book about teachers written in 1988 can ignore the political and economic changes which have affected the profession in the past decade. Yet the latest date at which the evidence used here was collected is 1985 and the full consequences of the 1988 Education Act have yet to be felt. Over-much speculation about its effects would not therefore be fruitful.

Accordingly, this chapter falls into three loosely linked parts. In the first I draw out three main themes which have run throughout this study. In the second I plait them together with the notion of motivation, while in the third I use the ideas underlying one theory of motivation to comment upon the impact, and possible consequences, of national developments in the past decade on teachers’ continuing willingness to give more of their ‘selves’ to their work than they are minimally required to do.

The most pervasive and persistent theme to emerge from this study is the centrality to individual teachers of their sense of self. In interpreting this fact, one has three choices. One is to assume that all workers discuss their work in terms of its impact upon their ‘selves’ and that teachers are in this respect no different from any other occupational group. The second is to accept that teachers are peculiarly and abnormally egocentric, a hypothesis which it would be impossible to substantiate and difficult to sustain. The third is to argue, as I have throughout, that teaching as work requires its practitioners to be self-conscious.

For a number of historical, philosophical, psychological, and cultural reasons, teachers in English primary schools are socialized (from their pre-service education onwards) into a tradition of isolation, individualism, self-reliance, and autonomy—in which high value is attached to self-investment and the establishment of a personal relationship with pupils. The teacher as a person is held by many within the profession and outside it to be at the centre of not only the classroom but also the educational process. By implication, therefore, it matters to teachers themselves, as well as to their pupils, who and what they are. Their self-image is more important to them as practitioners than is the case in occupations where the person can easily be separated from the craft.

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