"Lazy, lazy teachers": Teachers’ perceptions of how their profession is valued by society, policymakers, and the media during COVID-19

School closures during COVID-19 have led to close and very public scrutiny of how teachers have approached remote education. We know that teachers’ perceptions of how their profession is valued are associated with morale and retention as well as student attainment. The current study, therefore, examined how teachers’ perceptions of how others value their profession have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Twenty-four teachers from English state schools were interviewed in June 2020, representing mainstream primary and secondary schools and a wide range of years of experience. A reflective thematic analysis of the interview data was conducted. Four themes were identified: (1) heroes or villains?; (2) key workers or not?; (3) voiceless and disrespected; and (4) appreciated locally. Teachers reported discomfort and distress about media reports that asked them to be heroes and criticized them as villains when they questioned the safety of staff and students returning to school buildings. They resented the negative way in which their profession has been portrayed by the media, and the ramifications for public opinion. Teachers were also angry and frustrated by what they perceived as the government’s refusal to consult with them as a profession, and their failure to communicate effectively. However, teachers also reported feeling more valued than ever by their students’ parents. Findings are discussed in terms of how to improve the situation during COVID-19 and recommendations for the future.
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