Dilemma: how do you attract high-calibre people to work in education, and then retain them while not only restricting their material rewards but also expecting them to function like unquestioning automatons in a centrally-dictated machine that allows no room for thoughtful individualism? That is what the current system appears to be trying to do.
Teaching is the Great Exception: while it demands professional-level commitment and ethics, it still isn’t even really certain what it is, or what it’s for. I’m not convinced that the current answers are any better than most that went before. But as it becomes increasingly corporate, it seems intent on eliminating any trace of the sometimes eccentric, even defiant individualism that often defines great teachers.
And it claims to be trying to turn out more such people while using a model that crushes the early shoots of such individualism in their infancy.
I was a secondary-school humanities teacher in south-east England for nearly thirty years, and I think I learned a bit in that time. I’m principally a geographer, but also extensively taught Critical Thinking and European Studies. I also dabbled with French, General Studies, careers education, Business Studies, History and R.E.
In Autumn 2016, the pressures of the job caught up with me, in a vicious combination of the long-term effects of stress and the unpleasant way my school was going about shedding expensive staff. Since then, I have been convalescing and considering what happens next. I retain my interest in all things educational, though it would take a lot at the age of 54 to coax me back full time to the pressures of the profession.
I used my years as I believe all teachers should – in evolving a technique that is bespoke to the individual concerned. In doing so, I sometimes found solutions in unexpected places, which I feel deserve wider consideration. I will be discussing them here. My second book (and first on education): The Great Exception – why teaching is a profession like no other – is due out in early 2018.
I am not an educational theorist – I’m more interested in what works for real people in real classrooms, having real, hopefully balanced wider lives. I believe that teaching is a unique, humanistic activity that can learn best by looking outward to wider human experience, not inward to the ever more incestuous world of the research wonk or management quack.
The aim is not to be unconstructively critical, but nonetheless to comment on the madness that British state education has become, and to offer lesser-known ideas and thoughts, sometimes from beyond the education world, that may be of use to teachers wishing to develop more holistic practices.
My blog is called ‘Teaching – Personally’ in reference to both my own desire for reasonable professional autonomy – and the only way to educate people effectively.
All views are merely my own.