Teachers’ Day: achievements and challenges of a profession in constant change


In Spain there are a little more than three-quarters of a million non-university professors (specifically, 755,242). It is a very important group in the workforce. Teachers’ Day, established by UNESCO in 1994, is a perfect occasion to reflect on what these hundreds of thousands of professionals do and how they work.

Being a teacher has always been a laborious and difficult task, although many people do not believe it. In fact, a difficult task is to be a good teacher or a good teacher and to teach well. Although in the collective imagination there is the idea that it is a simple job because it works with children or adolescents, with many parties and vacations and easy to do, the truth is that the education of children has always been a complex task.

It is also patient work, if done well. Patience is required to accept and attend to the diversity that exists in a classroom: diversity in terms of previous experiences and expectations, hopes and projections, feelings and capacities, which has been increasing in recent years. Society has become more complex and, therefore, the work of teachers has also assumed more levels of complexity (and sometimes, of perplexity).

The evolution of social values

But now we must add other questions that reinforce that complexity and perplexity of which we spoke. We refer to changes linked to the macro context and the evolution of values ​​and social conceptions. We would also have to talk about changes in the context of the pandemic, of compulsory virtuality, of the classroom in person, with all the curricular and methodological derivations that they entail.

And, finally, important changes in the political and administrative context (governments, laws, regulations …).

As a consequence, the demands on teachers are increasing, perhaps also due to the gradual loss of responsibility of families in the education and socialization of the youngest.

Contradictory demands

These demands are also sometimes contradictory. Teachers must ensure the acquisition of knowledge without forgetting values ​​and attitudes. Now, suddenly and without much explanation, competences appear as the structuring axis of the curriculum, of the planning and intervention of the teaching staff.

It is also important for teachers to learn to handle methods and strategies in accordance with new teaching approaches, to have interpersonal skills to live with students, families, colleagues (increasingly diverse); and have the desire and sufficient skills to master the most advanced information and communication technologies in which he has not been trained, and the art of knowing how to integrate them into the curriculum and in the classroom, without breaks and without turning them into an occasional appendix. , anecdotal.

Educational reforms are taking place, leaving the teaching staff on the sidelines, hardly considering the way of doing it in the classrooms, and without rigorously addressing the issue of the professionalization of the teaching staff.

New ways of teaching

During the past decades there have been important social and scientific changes that force teachers to consider new ways of teaching. From a primarily instructional function, it has gradually moved to an educational and social agent function.

Socio-cultural issues (for example, communication, group work, processes, joint project development, democratic decision-making, etc.) have become more relevant. It has been a fundamental change in the profession of being a teacher.

This also carries its dangers, since the increase in demands can lead to an intensification of educational work (working a lot and doing a lot of things wrong) and a certain de-professionalization caused by a lack of clear delimitation of the functions of teachers. Aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic.

Job improvements

Despite the fact that being a teacher has never been a well-paid profession, during the last century in Spain this pitiful situation that led to poor economic living (or to supplement the diet with gifts from the disciples) has been overcome. But these conquests have been hard-won: demands, strikes, associations, unions, etc. Slowly, the importance of work and its correspondence with a living wage has been socially relocated, although still not entirely satisfactory due to the cuts in recent decades.

Regardless of salary issues, teachers have always obtained the respect of many parents who found help or advice. Being a teacher has always been, socially, a profession worthy of respect for society, although not so much, it is possible, for those who govern and make the laws.

We are in the 21st century. These are different times for education and the teaching profession. Today, education focuses on developing analytical and comprehension skills, solving real problems, personal development, fostering critical thinking, etc .; and ignores instruction in knowledge. The relationship between teachers and students has also changed, now students are no longer a mere recipient and become an active part of the learning process. And that needs support, a lot of support.

Author Bio: Francisco Imbernón Muñozis Professor of Pedagogy at the University of Barcelona