Why teachers feel the need to compare themselves with other professions (and why it may not help)

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This started as a long blog post (staying in draft) following the staff dress code discussion on Twitter. 

It got me thinking about how many times I’ve seen teachers & leaders in social media use comparisons with other professions to try and justify why teachers/education should do something in a certain way. A couple to easily recall:

  • Qualified teacher status – teachers being compared to surgeons “you wouldn’t want an unqualified surgeon to operate on you”
  • Dress code – Lawyers compared to teachers “we expect lawyers to dress professionally so, so should we”

I’m sure there are more. 

The problem is that these comparisons are hugely flawed. The initial post outlined these flaws but I’m guessing most already know what they are.

So why do we use these comparisons?

I think the Government and the media between them can paint such a negative picture of teachers and education that we feel the need to compare ourselves with ‘respected’ professions in order to justify being classed as a profession.

I also don’t think it helps when the media gives a voice to some parents who complain about the minutiae of schools when we are actually all trying to do our best within a professional environment. Sometimes the power that social media and local media have, has the power to undermine the status of teachers and a school very quickly. 

But do we need to spend time justifying our professionalism? Surely we’re spending time thinking of great comparisons with other professionals instead of setting out why teaching is a respected profession and a unique one at that? We shouldn’t need to make these comparisons. In fact, should we need to justify our professionalism at all?

I hope the College of Teaching may go some way in ensuring that instead of using these false comparisons we can define ourselves in terms of quality of teaching, research and practice, rather than in the terms of other professions that may have little to do with the day-to-day requirements of the teaching profession.

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One thought on “Why teachers feel the need to compare themselves with other professions (and why it may not help)

  1. You make some good points. I have a slightly different viewpoint, probably due to old age.
    Having been a teacher for more than 30 years I do believe that teaching is a demanding job comparable to other professions. However, as a profession we do ourselves no favours. Government Education Ministers can come up with the craziest ideas about the curriculum and we just roll over and accept them. Would other professionals do that? If doctors are presented with a stupid idea then we hear about it. Similarly with lawyers.
    In terms of representing teachers, our professional bodies spend more time disagreeing with one another in a bid to gain members, rather than improving the education system.
    When Mr Gove constantly demoralised the profession over several years, what did we do other than sulk. I am not suggesting teachers should take industrial action, but they need to demand representatives who can actually represent them as professionals, and lead on developing and improving our education system. The image that we present in public is of whingers. Teachers need to take control of the profession and manage the standards of that profession. Experience tells me that they won’t. Sadly.

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