Irish society and its teachers

For reasons that will become obvious over the next few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the disconnection between Irish society and its teachers, why is that we feel so under fire whenever we open the paper or the phone rings from a parent? There are probably many answers, I think I might have one.
Recently on the Late Late Show, John Hurt was asked why he returned to Ireland so often. His response struck me as interesting, he said the Irish had a classless understanding of family. I know what he meant, a place where people are valued for what they are rather than for what they own or what they do. For too long Irish society wasn’t like that. We had ‘Look how much money I have’ tv programmes where going over budget is a bit of gas. We had the luxury of ‘foreign nationals’ who would do the work we wouldn’t do, and who we could lament were taking over the country. And we had politicians who dreamed they were buckling their swash along new motorways past building site after building site and that nobody could touch them, or cared.
But, still there were placed where how much money you or you family had didn’t matter, there we places where people from other countries were included as equals, there were places politicians never glanced at when it came to investment.
Those places were schools. Schools where kids are valued for who they are not for their address. Schools with teachers who encouraged kids to use their education as the route out of poverty, or exclusion, or discrimination.
All this needs to be said because somehow, somehow we have begun to take those places for granted, even strip them and the people who crank them into action every morning of a sense of public confidence.
So, many of us keep our heads down and wait for a shaft of light to brighten our classrooms, when a girl or boy smiles and ‘gets it’ or when someone surpasses their own expectations, the student who as proud of an Ordinary Level B grade as anyone who got 580 points is who we work for. And we’re quiet as we’re reduced to units in a factory system where the churning out of stats is paramount. A Murder Machine, didn’t someone call it a century ago?
But still we love our work and we push on, we turn off the radio or tv when we’re getting hammered, and put our heads down and mark a few more papers or prepare another class. So the answer isn’t that schools and teachers haven’t dragged Irish society down, rather, like a kid who doesn’t want to listen, Irish society will turn it’s back. But it’ll come round. We’ll be here, waiting to rebuild.


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