TP-Issue14.5 | 23 VO I CES A letter to... people criticising teachers I want to go back to school. Because when school is on I know I’m really good at my job. I’m organised at work, I can get stuff done and I can do what I love doing – teach students – and can do it well. And then I can get home and I don’t need to worry about whether my three-year-old daughter is getting a good deal during the day, and I can be a good dad and husband and help out doing all the things that need doing. When school is on I can take hats on and off with ease, and I’m not burdened by the crushing guilt each day that I’m not being a good enough dad to my little girl. Every teacher I know and have spoken to wants exactly the same thing. The emotions I feel are the same as any teacher’s.We are a madly driven profession, one wildly and chaotically in love with its work, one which feels the strongest pulls of vocation – of being called to labour.Whether things should be like that is a different question. I’m not here to discuss the teacher-as-martyr complex and howwe go about building a sustainable profession. The simple fact is, we want to go back to school. I’d be surprised if you found a teacher who didn’t. The problem is, just because I want something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.We live in more complicated times than that, and however much I wish the virus was gone, finished, into the green and Covid alert level one – it isn’t. And the question of when we go back is not answered by assessing howmuch I want to go back. If it were, we would have been back months ago. The question of when to go back is answered by assessing whether or not it is safe. Safe for teachers, safe for non-teachers, safe for students, safe for the people the pupils live with and could carry a deadly virus to. Is it safe to go back?Whether or not I want to go back has nothing to do with it. So when I see members of the chattering classes saying that teachers are obstructing the reopening of schools, or front pages of massive national newspapers saying that militant unions are standing in the way of ‘hero’ teachers, I get worried. I get really worried. Lord knows I’ve had my problems with the unions and have taken many a public position against them. But isn’t it possible that the reason why unions and teachers are saying we shouldn’t go back isn’t because they don’t want to – as I’ve said, we want to go back to work – but because we don’t think it’s safe yet? You might disagree and think it is safe, but you surely have to at least acknowledge that it’s possible someone could disagree with you, not because they are some feckless over-unionised work-shy wastrel, but because they don’t think it’s safe? If I’ve read the guidelines, suggestions, FAQs and policy documents and thought,“Oh boy, they haven’t thought this through,” it’s not because I’m enjoying my lockdown sipping lychee martinis on the veranda, but because I don’t think it’s safe. A friend and colleague told me that they cried after seeing some of the media coverage teachers have received; that they felt they had already given so much, and then to be accused of obstructing the one thing they cared about most – their students’ welfare – it’s just too much. So here’s the question: can you acknowledge that teachers know a little something about children and schools and might have a different opinion to you, an opinion that is not based on 1980s union belligerence, but instead on expertise and knowledge? I hope you can. I hope you can listen to teachers without rejecting their voices out of hand. Because if you do reject them, if you ignore their experience and skill and fail to invite them to the table, then some very bad things could happen. And again, urging caution and hesitation rips at the very fabric of my being because, as I might have mentioned, I really, really , want to go back to school. From Adam AdamBoxer is head of science at a school in north London and a Y7 science teacher for Oak National Academy. .t ir . t | 17 We all desperately want to go back to school, but we need to know that it’s safe... Each issueweaskacontributor to penanote theywould love to send @adamboxer1