As I observed, the return to work has not been as bad as the contemplation of it. Once the teaching gets going, it’s fine – at least while everyone is fresh and relatively compliant…
I have started my new classes with a discussion of how one becomes proficient at sport or music and how one has to work hard in the short term to achieve the satisfaction and success that come later. I have been plain with my classes and told them not to expect to be gratuitously entertained by me this year “because I have more important things we need to do to make a success of your education.”
Although we are clearly still in the honeymoon period, so far they seem to have accepted this without question. One thing that no educational initiative, diktat or even technique can really match is the simple honesty of someone who tells it how they see it. I think that cuts through, even to those who might be expected to be too hardened to hear. This is why I argue that nothing is as important in teaching as the integrity and authenticity of the individual teacher.
I scarpered indecently quickly after school yesterday, and just about covered the 40 miles before Jeremy Corbyn came on stage. I was prepared to be disappointed – but he turned out to be a level, plain speaking man, who was unfazed by the presence of two nations’ T.V. cameras and a large press turnout. He filled a large university lecture hall to bursting and proceeded to set out his proposals with not a single swipe at a rival or opponent. Unlike the previous candidate whom I saw, he had substantive arguments, communicating them effectively and in straightforward way. He provided clear reasoning rather than hot air, advocated actions rather than ‘personality’. I left in little doubt that he would be an effective leader of his party and fully capable of holding his own in the Commons. If only he can cut through the smears and prejudices of those who are not necessarily hearing his actual words.
Whatever one thinks of his politics, he seems a man who is thoughtful, reasoned and above all sincere. It is true that he is untested – but so is anyone until they are put to the test; in the meantime, plausibility is all we have to go on. However, he certainly did not come across as the soft-touch that is being reported. Above all, what distinguished him from the previous candidate who said nothing substantive about anything was his passion and sincerity, visible in his person and not just his words. And his apparent lack of interest in either his own status or the media opportunities he was ignoring by directly engaging with the people present made this impression all the stronger.
I think this is why he is gaining support – that sincerity cuts through any amount of hype or P.R. window-dressing – just like it does with children in a classroom. Call me an idealist, but I don’t actually see what’s wrong with that – people do respond to honesty over any amount of slick manipulation.