Teaching is a Gift Not a Job

Teachers go to work every day to transform and inspire young people.

I have always genuinely believed that teaching is a vocation and pupils know when their school community cares about them and works tirelessly to shape their minds, inspire them and provide them with the skills to survive the ever changing world around them. Never has this been more true than in 2020, where the world for all of us, but maybe even more so for our children and young people, has tilted on its axis and become even more challenging.

This year has been very different from any I have known. But despite having to paddle through unchartered waters, schools have coped amazingly, rapidly responding to the challenges that COVID-19 presents whilst simultaneously dealing with the pre-Covid pressures of the job.

As Teachers and Leaders, you have managed the changes brilliantly and all of us working alongside schools recognise this.

Ofsted’s recent annual report and briefings highlight how much Heads are doing to support their staff and communities. I have seen countless examples of this in our Surrey schools with Heads increasing their teaching commitment to take the pressure off others, dealing with ever-changing Public Health guidance, putting in place and monitoring systems to keep everyone safe, alleviating the concerns of worried parents and carers – I could go on. All of this whilst juggling the ‘normal’ challenges of leadership.

We know how relentless and challenging at times this has been.

One of the most significant roles that schools have played during the year has been the extra mile (or 10 miles!) that schools have gone to support their wider communities and in particular the most vulnerable and marginalised families, including ensuring that children are fed, have access to resources, and the emotional support needed to manage through these difficult times.

Too often the crucial role that schools play within their local communities, including through the support they offer for pupil health and welfare, is underacknowledged – this cannot be the case moving forward.

I am so lucky and privileged to work with amazing schools, teachers, and Heads that are doing incredible work. This has been an incredibly tough year and you might not see it yet, but the work you are doing is really making a difference to the children you work with every day.

Every day you give innumerable gifts to your pupils and communities; I hope that during the Christmas break you can give the gift of time and relaxation to yourselves and your families.

As we start 2021 – and simply because a little positivity goes a long way- I share a poem by Laura Kelly Fanucci.

When this is over, may we never again take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the shops
Conversations with neighbours
A crowded theatre
Friday night out
Communal prayers

A routine check-up
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
The stadium roaring
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
Life itself.

When this ends
may we find
that we have become
more like the people
we wanted to be
we were called to be
we hoped to be
and may we stay
that way — better
for each other
because of the worst.

Thank you for everything that you are doing.

Maria Dawes, SAfE CEO

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