Who am I? Asking what a teacher is to children in the current climate.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, more and more teachers are questioning their role as educators, and asking themselves: who am I? With children spending so much of their time in schools as it is, teachers have always been another constant in their lives. But with the added factor of children not being able to socialise in the same way when outside of school, does that responsibility now fall to the teachers too?
Edward, aged 12, from a local secondary school said: “Our teacher comes up with fun activities to keep us interested and we learn something.” But surely there’s more to teaching than that, especially during COVID-19, right?
It’s well documented that social interaction is a key to childhood development, so it’s no wonder it’s taken seriously when we’re looking at how best to educate our children. They need a balance between learning and listening, and socialising and experimenting. On top of this, they need care, a sense of belonging and knowledge that they’re loved. These different criteria are fulfilled usually through a mixture of time at school, time at home and time elsewhere, normally undertaking something extracurricular or social.
But now that schools have to follow strict rules on distancing, and children can’t play as freely as they used to when not in school, should we be looking to our teachers to provide those additional social elements to our kids?
Jane, aged 11, certainly felt supported at primary school. “I love my teacher because she never gave up on me.”
Originally, teachers were there to teach a subject and nothing more. As society moved on, they have started to play a more hollistic role, providing children with emotional support and a place where they can ask questions and navigate social interactions with their peers.
Alice, aged 9, said: “I think my teacher is really caring because she always asks how I am.”
As a result of this shift in role requirements, children end up building on these social interactions outside of school too.
But, Coronavirus has limited that building, meaning that school, being one of the few places remaining open during the lockdowns, has had to fill the gap. Teachers are more and more forming a part of children’s social lives, and that goes for all age groups.
Lily aged 6, from a local primary school said: “I feel sad when I can’t hug my friends, but my teacher makes me happy again.”
This isn’t all that surprising though, looking at the way that children interact with their teachers. They’re around them every weekday, for a number of hours, and they use their teachers as examples or role models, be that consciously or subconsciously. Seeing behaviour is a way to learn behaviour, so just by spending time with their teachers, children could very possibly pick up ethics, actions or even temperaments from them.
Take Joe for example. He’s eight years old and is currently at primary school. He said: “My teacher’s the best because he makes me smile every day.”
So what does this mean for the teacher themselves? Is this a lot of pressure? It sure sounds like it when we first look at it. But in reality, this is more a privilege than anything else, and no teacher goes into teaching without some desire to imprint positivity on children. Teachers face long hours, work to take home even when they leave the ‘office’ and a pressure to do right by young people, but they are also the ones who can offer children a safe space to talk about their problems, a place to laugh, make mistakes comfortably and learn from them and a space to discover what they desire in their social interactions.
All this value comes from the person behind the teacher. During Coronavirus, our teachers have taken one for the team, and absorbed another responsibility on top of their usual ones, making themselves not just a learning hub for their pupils, but a social one too.
Ruby, aged 15 from York Secondary School said: “A teacher to me is someone I appreciate as they help me learn and adapt for the future. I wouldn’t be where I am without them!”