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Is it just me or are teachers getting younger?

Miranda is a Primary Supply Teacher working in schools through Protocol Education in Manchester

No wonder I often feel long in the tooth as I set foot in various classrooms across the North West. I am. Long gone are the days when a staff room might look like the day room at the Evergreens. Many of the ‘teacher chill out areas’ I enter remind me of the dot com era, only without the pin ball machines and beer kegs. I have even been in one called a ‘teacher chill out area.’ Really.

According to the OECD, Britain's primary school teachers are by far the youngest among developed countries, and its teachers are the youngest in the whole of Europe. Well fancy that. Does it make a difference that as many as 60% of UK primary school teachers are 40 or younger, and around a third are spring chickens of 30 or younger? I think so. I love working with younger people. I also love working with older people. I just don’t like working with people the same age – too alike you see.

Younger teachers bring so much to the mix. I know it’s a cliché but I don’t care. Younger teachers tend to be better at working technology into their lessons. This doesn’t mean they are better teachers, but it does mean that they are very much in touch with the kind of kit that children will be using in their home lives, in further education, and in the workplace. Even five years can make a difference to your fluency with IT.

My friends who are in their thirties use their apps, smart phones, ipads, and communication networks with pride and a certain flourish. My friends who are in their twenties use them as if they are a part of their body, a part that can achieve things in the real world but without their real body needing to move from the chair. My mother once sent me (and everyone else in her contacts) a text that read: ‘Double click. Send.  Righto I think I may have cracked it.’ I can only imagine she thought that a ‘smart’ phone could read your thoughts and maybe translate them into something useful for all your friends to share?

Younger people have been to college more recently. Their skills and approach are box fresh, and their learning is up-to-date. They are recent products of a learning environment, so their understanding of what it is like to be a 21st century learner is nicely drip-drip-dripping into their teaching style and understanding of pedagogy.

Older teachers are great too, especially those approaching retirement, for they can spot patterns. They have seen phonics come in and go out and come in again.  They have watched curriculums rise and fall and loosen and tighten like skirt hemlines. They have heard the rhetoric, and they have got the t-shirt. What does it say? ‘I’ve been teaching for 40 years and all I got was more of the same?’ or…’this lousy pension…’ or ‘sciatica and a few paper cuts.’ Hey, if anyone wants to open up a teachers’ t-shirt shop with me, I’m game. You can see I’ve got some great ideas! Mature teachers are invaluable because they can cut through to the matter in hand. They know there are elements in primary ed that are fundamental and have proven ways of getting these across to young people.

The people to beware of are those teachers who are somewhere in the middle of their careers/lives, for they are neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. Actually, I don’t really believe that. I think being in the middle is a good place to be. You can’t be down with the kids, but you are probably not invisible to them or an intimidating presence for them.

By keeping your ears and eyes open and looking both ways, it’s possible to learn both from those who think they know and those who really do. 

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Tags: Miranda, ProtoBlog, primary teacher, teach in Manchester, young teacher, new teacher, technology, ipad, age, protocol education

Category: Australian Teachers

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