I’m never very good with the vocabulary of curricular matters. Especially big, nationwide, and current curricular matters, like Curriculum For Excellence. I mean, I’m not completely ignorant, but when I try to talk about them, I end up sounding like the boys from “The I.T. Crowd” talking about football:
I am aware, however, of the philosophy of lifelong learning, and I pretty much agree with that. Because, if there is one job on this planet which involves lifelong learning, it is teaching. And I don’t mean the business of making lifelong learners out of sleepy, grumpy, disease-carrying adolescents. I mean the business of ME learning on a daily basis how to do this job better.
21 years in, and I’m still learning. I teach the same texts year on year, but not because I want to make things easier for myself, although I do not judge anyone else for doing so (seriously, only someone as addicted to cortisol as I am tries to make teaching harder for themselves); rather because I want to teach them better this time around. So I revise the teaching materials, try new methodologies, find better ways of assessing the pupils’ grasp on what they are reading and writing.
Today is a case in point; sitting in a classroom after work with colleagues from my school and a catchment area primary, going over the benefits and ways of enabling our pupils to engage usefully in peer assessment activities. Wincing as I spot better ways of doing things in my classroom, because a little voice whispers that I should, after 20 years’ experience, know these ways already.
I know where this continual need to prove myself (and to improve myself) as a teacher comes from. 20 years ago, a headmaster in a school in the North of England told me, two months into the job there, that he didn’t think I was cut out for the job of teaching. Year Two was the worst year of my teaching experience, even including the year when I was repeatedly crank-called by a particularly vicious little madam. She is now a social worker: go figure.
And his is the voice bubbling under my daily teaching experience: the one that calls me a fraud, a fake, someone who is not really meant to be doing this. Doesn’t matter that the headmaster was a bit of a shit in terms of people management, or that the last – well, 15 years anyway – have proven his words to be utterly worthless. It’s still there, poking at me, making me justify myself and the decisions I make on the content and style of the lessons.
Still, it makes teaching for me as fraught, lively, enervating and engaging as it was 20 years ago. And, given I’ve got another 20 years on the clock before I can retire with a full pension, perhaps that is actually a good thing.