Monday 27 March 2017

In my opinion: Why people respect this most noble of professions

UK Tory leader David Cameron recently pledged to raise standards in schools by turning teaching into "a noble profession".

In a speech delivered on Thursday last, Cameron said that "if we want to give our children the best, it's time we made our teaching the best".

He added that a UK government led by him would be "brazenly elitist" when picking the best teachers, ensuring that teaching "attracts the best brains" and "commands the most respect".

Reading that, I reflected on how fortunate we are as a society to have such a high calibre of entrant to the teaching profession in Ireland. Entry to programmes of teacher education is highly sought after.

Those who enter through the CAO application system are within the top quartile of academic achievement.

Similarly, post-graduate entrants are high academic achievers, many transferring from other well regarded professions into the teaching profession.

It also occurred to me how fortunate the teaching profession is in Ireland to be held in generally high regard by the Irish public.

It already commands the respect which David Cameron is aspiring towards for teachers in the UK and there is regard for our teachers' scholarship, the nature of their work, and the roles they play within the community.

The Teaching Council has published the findings of a survey which have shown that, overall, there are positive attitudes to the teaching profession in Ireland -- with the majority of respondents satisfied with the way teachers do their jobs.

Indeed, of the 12 professions and occupations referenced in the survey, teaching ranked second only to nurses in terms of satisfaction levels.

Four in every five respondents believed that teachers played an important role in our society.

Seven in 10 respondents rated teachers as either "trusted" or "very trusted", while almost three in every four parents said that teachers do their job either "well" or "very well".

It is interesting to note that parents appeared to have a greater understanding of the complexity of teaching and the skill levels required than did non-parents. I can only assume that this was as a result of their direct involvement with teachers.

Mr Cameron's speech also prompted me to think about teaching as a noble profession and to question why it has earned this title.

In my opinion, teaching is indeed a noble profession and one of which I am proud to be a member.

Teaching is noble in the sense of the moral dimension of teaching which, I believe, renders it virtually unique as a profession.

Next to that of our parents, the influence our teachers have on us is carried with us throughout our lives.

When one considers the work of teachers in shaping the lives of our young people and developing them to their full potential, there can be no doubt about the importance of their role in society.

In fulfilling that role, teachers work closely with parents and, like parents, are motivated by the best interests of the young people in their care.

I welcome the survey findings published by the Teaching Council as they provide a strong endorsement of that contribution and affirm the wonderful work that teachers do.

Irish Independent

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