Wednesday 24 May 2017

Staff only: The yobbish teachers who need a lesson in manners

E Grade

It should have come as no shock to any of us to witness the hot reception that greeted Minister Mary Coughlan.

Even though I'm as pee'd off as anyone about how the Government has had no qualms about taking money out of teachers' salaries in order to give it to the banks, I'd still balk at subjecting any lone individual to this kind of hostility.

It's just plain rude.

But as I was saying, it's no surprise that teachers can be rude -- that's the way it has always been with a significant minority of my colleagues.

I first came across this phenomenon way back when I had just started primary school.

For any of the older generation of educators, be they religious teaching brothers, nuns or lay people, the fact that I had been brought up by my parents to speak politely and enunciate words clearly and not use some of the medieval dialect that has survived in those parts to the present day, was a source of unveiled scorn to them.

The consensus seemed to be that to be polite was somehow 'un-Irish' and redolent of perceived 'Englishness', even though I had never been to England and had absolutely no family connections with the country at all.

"Are you English?" became a persistent query as I progressed through those early years, unwilling and unable to adopt a fake local accent and mangle English grammar and bellow 'wha'?' (surely the most common sound made in Ireland) whenever someone had addressed me.

So there I was, born in Ireland and possessing a 100pc Irish name and my teachers were trying to ostracise and mock me for not speaking badly and for saying please and thank you.

Which brings us back to how my colleagues in the teaching unions have again shot themselves in the foot with unnecessary and utterly pointless yobbishness.

I'm not a huge fan of Mary Coughlan (though I like her album Tired and Emotional) and I think her Government is rubbish, but I still think that a minister of this State, not to mention a woman, should be treated with due respect and that nobody is going to be impressed or even think it's funny if she is ill treated.

The public -- the children we teach and their parents -- are not impressed and have even less sympathy for our situation and how we want to fight to maintain a good standard for our pupils.

Presidents of the unions go on TV and announce that we cannot reach the kids that need education more than anything, but they don't give concrete examples of what is missing and what we need because of cutbacks.

The moment is gone and Miriam or Pat have moved on to something else.

The viewers are left thinking 'whinge, moan. Out of touch'.

There has to be a difference between how we as teachers put across our case and how, for example, the transport unions do it.

Heckling successive education ministers will cost us in terms of respect and effectiveness.

Irish Independent

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