Back in 2014 I heard about the idea for a College of Teaching and I wrote this blogpost outlining why I, as an ordinary classroom teacher, was so excited at the prospect of what this organisation could do for me and why I was so desperate for it to get off the ground. Four years later, it exists and I’m not a member – not even at affiliate level.
By the time the organisation was formed, I wasn’t teaching full time in a school any more, and while I still and always will describe myself as a teacher (and do still teach), the fact that I don’t have the role full time in one school means I don’t feel it’s my place to be in the college, much as I support it. I do what I can to encourage others to join – my husband was one of the first, even if he never did receive his lovely member’s card! And he appreciates the access to journals and the editions of Impact he’s received and found useful. But I didn’t join, because what I wrote about four years ago and what excited me so much, was the opportunity for every day classroom teachers to lead their own professional organisation.
Now I was that kind of teacher who was obsessive and lived for the job. I had no problem ignoring my own kids, health, sleep, whatever, to campaign, write blogs, read edu books, whatever it took…Frankly, it was an addiction. I know that was unhealthy but I would have happily loaded onto my 70 hour week, an application to stand for council. It may well have broken our family and me. The fact of the matter is that although many teachers might love to join, most simply don’t have the time to get actively involved. For those that do, it’s amazing – go for it. But for the silent majority, there needs to be an acceptance that the small fee (the price of a couple of cocktails) and occasional browse of Impact is enough because there is enough faith in the organisation to represent them and fight for their profession. And there’s the rub.
The organisation needs people to help organise and be involved. It needs to be grassroots enough so that people can do this. But workload means the people its aimed at, simply can’t. So what can we do?
We could look to allowing sabbaticals and secondments. But it takes money and there’s too little around. See below.
We could trust people with decades of teaching experience but who for now are doing something else to speak for us, but that leaves the organisation open to the accusation that it’s not for teachers. To allow that, we’d have to accept that sometimes we need champions who have the time and head space to represent us – and that takes trust.
We could get to a point where involvement in the Chartered College at council level counted in your hours for your job. That it was costed and paid for. But where would that money come from? Well I guess it’s possible that if they had enough members, the cost could be covered by membership fees. And here’s the thing…
All the very best things that the College could accomplish, depends on members. At the moment, in its infancy, it is dependent on DfE funding and that undermines its independence. As soon as it can become self funding, it can be the organisation we need – influencing policy, offering career recognition, championing research and information, promoting the image of the profession among the wider public, offering balance to media bias about teaching, holding policy and practice to account – just being there to prop teachers up and support them…you know, all the things we say we want. And to do that people have to join. There has to be a period of holding breath and trusting in that age old process of forming, storming, norming and performing. That takes time.
Does that make me a hypocrite, asking you to join while I don’t? I hope not. I’m keeping my distance precisely because I want it to belong to teachers who are doing the slog, living the grind and making the difference. But if they – you – don’t throw their weight behind it – then this sliver of hope will slither into the ether and we’ll never know what might have been. Surely, surely, it’s worth a punt?