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What is World Teachers’ Day 2020?

What is World Teachers’ Day 2020? Well, it celebrates great teachers worldwide. It shines a light on their massive contribution and achievements despite over-extended education systems and limited resources. They are key if we are to have any chance of achieving the UN’s SDG 4 Education – Leaving no-one behind.

Who started World Teachers’ Day?

Photo of young girls learning in classWorld Teachers’ Day has been celebrated since 1994 and commemorates the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This set the standards and benchmarks for teacher training, development, recruitment and employment. It also created a framework for the conditions in which teaching and learning takes place, and sets out both the responsibilities and rights of teachers in all sectors of an education system. It’s a partnership between UNESCO, the ILO, UNICEF and Education International.

What is the purpose of World Teachers’ Day?

Photo of male teacher explaining chemistry equationsAccording to UNESCO World Teachers’ Day is:

the occasion to mark progress and reflect on ways to counter the remaining challenges for the promotion of the teaching profession.

I was lucky enough to have several great teachers but my favourite was Bruce our Latin teacher (sadly no longer with us). In my comprehensive school Latin wasn’t mainstream even in the late 1970s but it was an option. Bruce was Welsh, lyrical, quirky and chain smoked Capstan full-strength in lessons (those were the days!).  We merrily started our set book for O Level (part of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”) only for him to announce on return from the Christmas break, that we’d been studying the wrong book and should have been learning Virgil’s Aeneid Book II! I can still recite great chunks of that book in both Latin and English thanks to the major panic that set in! More important than the A I eventually got for Latin (sorry couldn’t resist that and A* didn’t exist then), was the key it gave me into learning languages – a love that remains with me today. You just can’t beat a great teacher…Thanks Bruce.

What is the theme of World Teachers’ Day 2020?

World Teachers’ Day this year celebrates teachers under the banner “Teachers: Leading in crisis, re-imagining the future”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the tough challenges faced by educators in over-extended education systems throughout the world. It has made it increasingly difficult for children and young people to access the education which is their right and placed significant additional burdens on parents, carers and teachers alike.

Teachers have shown exceptional leadership in relation to the pandemic. Their contributions to provide remote learning, support vulnerable learners, re-open schools, and ensure that learning gaps have been minimised have been extraordinary. There are few signs that the pandemic will end any time soon so the role of teachers in building resilience in the system and in shaping the future of education and their profession remains front and centre.

Why should we celebrate our Teachers?

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, and the dedicated target (SDG 4.c) recognises teachers as key to the achievement of the Education 2030 agenda. If no-one is to be left behind, it’s critical that education is kept at the top of our national and international agenda. As Soroptimists we recognise that education is central to our mission to improve the lives of women and girls everywhere. And educating boys and men is just as important if they are to help female voices be heard and women’s talents and contributions to be recognised and valued equally.

Photo of a primary school teacher and her classIn 2020 however I suspect we are celebrating much more sincerely than usual as so many parents and carers have discovered what it’s like to take on the education of their children without the resources, training and patience of the professionals.

Our Club President Jenny McLelland has a young daughter and she and her husband had a lot of juggling to do while schools were closed – despite/owing to both being key workers. Jenny’s very pragmatic about it all…for her it was all about sensible compromises and balance. As she says “Children don’t know what’s coming next…it can be a very scary experience for them. Time for formal learning is important but so is time for play and interaction with others. You do the best you can in the circumstances you’re faced with.”

My neighbours have two young children too. Mum Kelly shared her thoughts on the subject with me:

Our children, aged 6 and 4 require our full attention. With my husband still having to go work daily, this left me at home trying to juggle ‘life’!
Our school were fantastic at sending out weekly spellings and tasks based around a theme for our eldest, whilst the youngest learns through play. Each night I would search Twinkl and download worksheets for each subject, trying to ensure the children maintained the same level of learning at home. I didn’t want them to suffer or regress.
My bank balance took a hit, whilst Amazon flourished in providing workbooks, instruments, experiments and tools to make each lesson fun.
I have a whole new love for teachers. I am great at the preparation, even sharing my lesson plans with other parents, but the execution and patience is not my strong point. I couldn’t understand why the children just couldn’t sit and complete the worksheets, but instead needed me to sit with them and turn everything into a game. ICT was a daily lesson, asking Google to translate when I didn’t understand the difference between ‘conjunctions’ and ‘convections’, division and multiplication in 2020 is not taught the only way I know.
Trying to maintain my job as redundancies were in full force, I started work at 4am to have a few hours’ focus before they woke and juggled for the next 8 hours. I felt the additional pressure to be visible virtually and upped my output. Sorting out daily chores and getting the children to bed at their usual bedtime of 7pm, meant I could then pick the laptop up and focus on work for another couple of hours. Most days spent on TEAM calls for hours at a time, colleagues and clients got used to a child either sat on my lap, whizzing behind on a scooter dressed as a superhero or princess, or shouting for their food.

Enough said really. So on World Teachers’ Day let’s all raise a glass to our hardworking teachers and celebrate a “whole new love” for teachers everywhere!

P.S. If you’re interested in helping disadvantaged young people access higher education at the UK’s top universities, take a look at The Access Project and consider becoming a volunteer tutor.