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Anonymous Teacher 'Instead of cheers and claps, we are getting sneers from the public'

A teacher says the TUI calls this week for an early Christmas break were unhelpful, as those in her profession face a change in tone from the public.

I HAVE BEEN listening to the negative comments about teachers over the past couple of months. I am a teacher working in a primary school. I was on maternity leave last year when Covid ‘hit’ so while my colleagues were scrambling to prepare for distance learning, I was knee-deep in bottles and holding my baby tight as I listened to the news each night.

When I returned to work in September, I, like all my colleagues, was apprehensive and scared about what to expect. With a small baby at home, I was worried but I believed the experts and trusted the public health team and put on a smile (behind a mask) to welcome our children back to school.

The return to school wasn’t easy. I was placed on supervising duties in the morning which meant standing at the gate before school began and only allowing parents and children in at the allocated time.

Very often, parents were early and not too pleased to have to wait outside the school gate. The mornings that it was raining, were the worst of course, with people losing their patience very quickly.

The new narrative

Parents were stressed, people were worried. I dreaded going to work but not because of the fear of covid transmission but because of the morning supervision and the never-ending looks of disgust on the faces of parents as we tried to protect the school community and keep the children safe.

After a few weeks when the routine was in place this all calmed down and mornings began to run smoothly. People started saying hello again and waving as they passed.

The children were delighted to be back at school and we all got on with it and adjusted to the new norm. We were still very worried of course at the prospect of a Covid outbreak but it appeared anxiety levels were lessening.

This welcomed change in atmosphere was short-lived. As soon as the ASTI union balloted in favour of industrial action the social media backlash hit an all-time peak. As I listened to the radio in the morning going to work, I was blasted by anti-teacher discussion and debate. One morning I had a cry on my 40-minute commute, just exhausted by it all.

Any concerns raised by teachers in relation to Covid were being ignored, as understandably the media feared for their own children’s wellbeing.

A change in tone

I believe the wellbeing of teachers has been largely ignored in the pursuit of the greater good. Our mental health is being damaged daily by the bombardment of abuse on social media as they put on a brave face and head to the frontline. Instead of cheers and claps, we are getting sneers from the public.

The suggestion by the TUI that schools should close early for Christmas filled me with a sense of dread.

I knew what was in store for me on my commute home that day, so I turned the radio off. I had a dentist appointment that evening and he had the radio on in the background. Of course, they were discussing the TUI’s suggestion at length.

As I lay in the chair the dentist said: “I would love an Early Christmas too, wouldn’t you?”. Automatically assuming I would agree with an anti-teacher rhetoric, I suppose. I laughed a little (as much as can with your mouth open) enough for him to realise I was a teacher.

When I left his office that evening, he called after me “I hope you get your early Christmas holidays”. He, like many others, assumed I would be in favour of an early closure but I don’t think schools should close early.

I understand and agree with parents who worry about childcare for those two days. I think that closing early would in the long run lower staff morale because of the reaction the public would have to it. I personally would rather work the day and a half than deal with the negative comments.

Teachers are not teachers’ unions

Just listening to the comments on that programme showed me the low opinion that some members of the public have of teachers. This was not something requested by teachers on the ground, yet, we are taking the criticism.

It is being used as another excuse for an attack on our characters. We live under this constant cloud of fear. Like everyone, Covid-19 is a huge concern. We fear for our family, our vulnerable colleagues, our students but we also fear that people will have some reason to belittle and attack our profession.

We would like to be respected and for our worries to be addressed, without the constant fear of backlash from the public.

As I prepare for work each night I think of my students and how they have adapted so well to what is a much-changed classroom environment. I think of how teaching has changed over the past nine months and how far we have come since March.

I think of all the school staff and the effort that has been made to keep schools open. I am proud of the efforts being made daily by schools all around the country. I am proud to be a teacher.

When I go to bed like everyone, I dream of my Christmas holidays; I dream about being able to return to my native county to celebrate with family that I haven’t seen in months. I remind myself that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed and ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ because after all, these are difficult times.

Remember to be kind. Teachers are struggling too.

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