I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response to my article in yesterday’s GuardianTeach. Mainly by the support, but there’s something nagging.
See, I’m worried. I think that’s clear from the article. I’m also so saddened and frustrated to see so many talented people walking away from the profession I love. There are Bad Days, of course. There are frustrations, of course. Spoon-feeding Year 11s hours before deadlines eats my head and makes me wonder what we’ve taught them about resilience and independence. People don’t always behave impeccably. Not even big ones.
And I’ve vowed, through my book, that I will acknowledge this sense of injustice and rage and downright exhaustion felt by many teachers – and I won’t shy from this. But I will also be optimistic and pragmatic in my approach to these.
I love our profession (it IS a profession!). I love the corridor banter and the breakthroughs in the difficult and honest conversations with people big and small. I love the sense of buzz and purpose of a busy school day. I love the unexpected giggles with crazy Year 8s and the thank yous from the grateful Year 11s above. I love knowing that as I enter the car park, there is always at least one thing that I’m really looking forward to. I love hearing from students 15 years on and writing references (even if they are for the occasional court case). I love seeing new teachers face challenges and grow. I love the surprise Avon perfume birthday gift and marking a book to find a child has really Got It. I love feeling like Part of It All. I love the feeling of being at a place for a few years and knowing all the students and all the boltholes and open-door classrooms and staffroom hilarity.
When I started teaching, it was soon after Thatcher (one of Thatcher’s children, me) and people were wary. My parents encouraged me to re-think. Others questioned my ambition. I said, ‘you have to be in it to fight it’. And, after numerous debates with myself and with others, I still believe this.
See, with the writing and the research and everything else, I realised I have options. I’d love to train new teachers, mentor and coach existing teachers, work with universities, and these options MIGHT be possible. This is exciting and quite exhausting. ‘What are you planning to do in September?’ someone asked me today (my current lovely job was always temporary). ‘About fifty things,’ was the response. ‘But I can’t decide which ones’. I’d considered going at least partly freelance. I may still.
But there’s one thing for sure, I won’t walk away. I’d be a hypocrite to express my disappointment and sadness at those walking away and not to be in the thick of it myself. I’d be a hypocrite to empathise and listen if I didn’t know exactly how it felt. Also, young people keep me sane.
So, I don’t know quite what and I don’t know quite where I’ll be working – and I won’t work just anywhere. I firmly believe there has to be a match in ethos between teacher and employee – but I won’t be leaving teaching any time soon. Because you have to be in it to make a difference. And it would be entirely ludicrous to be writing a book called How to Survive and Thrive in Teaching if I weren’t walking the walk with the rest of you.