Every week, anonymous teachers from schools across the UK write about the highs, lows, struggles and rewards of their job for a series which arguably offers the most realistic picture of the UK education system available to outsiders. The Guardian’s Secret Teacher began in 2012 and provides honest accounts (often brutally so) detailing what it is to work in UK primary and secondary schools, offering precise observations and connecting them to the wider state of the national education system. We get to read about the frustrations and difficulties as well as the joy and fulfilment when something goes right. It’s often moving and, at its best, affirms the value of education.
The series began with one anonymous teacher blogging every week, but soon shifted to a format of different weekly contributors. The first blog charts the emotional peaks and troughs of a newly qualified teacher’s first year in a school: the thrill and novelty of September, the lull of November, the excitement of the Christmas period, the new-year slump and the Spring home-run. In the four years since, the series has featured a teacher examining how the discussion of LGBT rights has changed since they were a pupil; a rally for school holidays to be shortened; and an appreciation of the welcome humour of classroom mishaps.
Something the series does particularly well is provide an honest insight into the pressures of the job and the frequency and impact of stress-related problems. Several of the blogs concern teachers’ struggles with mental health and substance abuse – alarmingly common in the indsutry – and the series has done much to raise awareness of these under-reported and problems which can be poorly understood by those unaffected. See this teacher’s account of their struggle with severe depression and this blog by a teacher whose dependence on alcohol has steadily escalated.
Since the series was introduced, The Guardian has launched two similar features examining different aspects of education in the UK: Academics Anonymous, which started in 2014 and features weekly submissions from university staff; and Security Leak, a very funny series written by an anonymous university security guard. Perhaps a further mark of Secret Teacher's significance is it’s the parody Twitter account set up in its honour.
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