In a recent staff meeting I was asked to list every child in my class. I was confident I could do this and did quickly. However a large reason for this is that my children normally retain the same seats throughout the day. We mix for math’s but I teach in a different room at this time so the only image I held in my head was that of the carefully choreographed set up that I plotted back in the dizzy heights of August. Some of my peers took a little longer. They all got there but the sudden outbursts of ‘oh of course’ punctuated the room more in a call of relief than anything else I feel. They care just the same, they are just as committed but relationships are difficult to foster sometimes. Trust is often hard to gain.
Some people call education a conveyor belt, churning out carbon copies of nice pliable citizens ready to be chewed up by the machine. But I don’t buy this. It’s not about producing generic learners all suited and booted to traipse into offices across the land. The time I spend with my class isn’t actually about teaching them to read and write (sorry parents) it’s about far more than that. And relationships are at the heart of this. When you meet someone and fall in love you don’t often set them a test or a series of trials, unless you’re locked in some sort of weird Channel 4 game show. You look into their heart, their values, and their purpose in life.
I find teaching, education as a whole as a basis for this. At my current school we have a charter, a promise if you like, from us to the children and by extension their parents. A guarantee that every child will get the same chances and opportunities, they may not choose to take them but they have them. Our oath to them that we will give our blood, sweat and tears to help mould them into a wonderful, caring and kind individual who happens to be able to do maths and read properly. Ask society what they want, don’t forget that, ask parents what they want. A polite, kind and hardworking child or a super bright but emotionally stunted, selfish success? Then ask which one you want walking past you when you’ve had an accident in the street. No, the two aren’t exclusive but we shouldn’t focus on one and negate the other.
I looked at our charter recently. For a long time. It’s not about tests. It’s about children looking back and thinking they took school and lived it, loved it even. Having had the chance to sing and act on stage, to build a fire, to sleep beneath the stars and raise money for less fortunate. Our children will have the chance to wear Armour, every single one, they will be able to be taught the names of trees and be allowed to climb them. Wonderful, selfless staff will give up their time to run after school clubs, they don’t need to be coerced (something that’s bounced around Edu twitter recently). They do it because they care. This emotion, prevalent all over the country, is why we do what can be a really bloody hard job.
Every class is important, every class I have stays with me but what I care most about is them leaving me better humans than when I get them. Kindness, love, empathy. The world.