Day 3 – A letter to society
I can’t help but feel a great sense of despair hanging over much of the country. There is great jubilation from some, still celebrating the Conservative whitewash of May’s general election. This is ever more present with the recent announcement of the budget. However, the Conservative result has left many people feeling despondent, and I must confess I can see why. The future certainly looks bleak for many people.
I can’t comment on how this will affect those living below the line and I won’t pretend that I can. I can’t comment on how this will affect people who are afraid of losing their jobs. I can’t comment on how this will affect people who have to choose between food and heating. I am fortunate in the respect that my job is fairly secure, as far as the economy goes. However, I feel an overwhelming sense of regret that I can’t do my job in the way that I would like to.
Why did I want to become a teacher? I knew very early on that I wanted to be involved in education; at seven, I made it clear to my mother and father that I wanted to teach, and practiced, both with my sisters and my small china ornaments; at twelve, my form tutor showed me what pastoral care really meant, when she protected us and mentored us through school, even changing year groups so that she could continue to care for my year group; at fourteen, I was taught by a woman who inspired me to love English more than I already did, and even though she was only my teacher for one year of schooling, the imprint she left on me is lasting to this day. My school experience was far from perfect, however I barely remember the negatives anymore, sapping the goodness, instead, from the positive moments and inspiring people I encountered. My plan was always this; to get my degree, to move into teacher training and live happily ever after, swanning into the sunset, the modern day female John Keating.
Sadly, and inevitably, this is not the case. With current monitoring systems, and expected progress, and constantly moving goalposts, I spend more time expecting my children to do the impossible, than allowing them to develop and become human beings who strive to find out more, who are interested in the world around them, who are compassionate, kind and sociable. I suffocate them, trying to make them achieve what has been deemed acceptable by the end of the year.
“Miss, can’t we just read all lesson?” (Music to any teachers ears in the current educational and social climate where reading isn’t “cool”, surely?)
“Sadly, no, because I have to make you reach a target, which in my heart of hearts, I know you won’t reach, not because you won’t try and not because I won’t do my utmost to get you there, but because you aren’t wired that way, or you aren’t mature enough yet, or you just don’t get how to use punctuation, even though your story gave me goosebumps.”
Levels go backwards. Next time that you get a high score on Pacman, or play a really great game of tennis, or finally manage to do that thing you’ve been trying incredibly hard to do, I want you to take five weeks off without even thinking about that Pacman, or tennis, or that thing. After those five weeks off, I want you to try and do it again. Off the bat. Go. Let me know how you get on with that.
Some children need Learning Support Assistants, or Teaching Assistants to simply make it through the day; anxiety, pressure, self-loathing stopping them living the adolescent life they deserve. Some children need a little bit of extra help to keep up with the rest of their peers, academically, or emotionally. Some children are just happy to see a stamp, or a sticker in their book, telling them they did well. Each child is different, unique and wonderful; never has that been more prevalent to me than now.
However, it’s more and more difficult for me to give these children the time, care and academic nurturing they deserve. It will always be my number one priority, but it’s becoming saturated, at the bottom of the pile, by data analysis, admin tasks and learning and relearning 15 specifications for a million different standardised testing units.
Britain, it is time that we stopped viewing children as monsters that need to be institutionalised and instead, saw them as the creative, funny, incredible people that they are just starting out as. I teach children that make me laugh until I cry every day, children that teach me things, children that mould me into the teacher that I want to be far quicker than my year of training or future mentoring or professional development could ever do.
I am coming closer and closer to the end of my NQT year. My biggest achievement this year, is this: I have recently studied ‘Wonder’, a story about a boy with a facial disfigurement, with, as society has deemed them, a ‘difficult’ group of boys. I could have cried when I had a discussion about what life must be like for this boy, starting out in school, and it was mature and nobody made inappropriate comments and everybody was compassionate. That is true education, in my eyes, and I am happy to have been a part of it.
Put whatever bureaucratic pressure you like on me; I can’t guarantee I won’t break under it, but I will try not to – that is a whole other issue for another day. Just, please, don’t put pressure on children who are just discovering who they want to be. We should be helping them to work that out, not binding them so tight, they can’t breathe. The question this country should be asking, is when did children become a business, and stop being people; stop being the incredible future we are so keen to protect?