“Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you” Courtney Barnett
I read an advert for a school this week. It was clinical; it seemed a perfect school with disciplined and happy children who only sought knowledge and aspiration… Nothing wrong with this but the advert was a lie. It made me wonder how the perfect teacher in the perfect school could help prepare someone for life. In the same way as when I read this ‘Every Child. Every Day, Every Chance’ I think: Every CHANCE? Every DAY? What happens when you miss one? It hides behind reality with gimmicky word play. So I wrote this about why I am in education.
So, as I walk out onto the light saturated platform I feel slightly vulnerable. My high heels are firm and my make-up is well applied. I look good. But, I know I am different… I am proud, why would I not be? But I am different… I am a teacher. My experiences of life are part of my toolkit.
As a kid I was always a geek. I listened to bands that were hated and I played Dungeons & Dragons. I understand bullies (even when parents shout at me I do not), I saw what it was to be gay in a sea side town where everyone wore a white shirt and beat the crap out of anyone different (It was an alternative Saturday night sport). I was accused of being a ‘gay boy’ by association. I wish now I had the courage to say I was even though I was not. Equally, I know ‘geek’ when it was something to hide from, and I hid from this for many years. Leaking the truth only when I felt I had trust. Only now am I proud to be different. I have always felt that being different was part of being someone. Even now that has never changed. I am a teacher.
So are we all that different? And then I read your advert for a teacher… Nothing to see. Move along. It was all normal. Kids were lovely, teaching was fantastic. It was ‘the’ dream.
Maybe I have worked in all the wrong places? Maybe I see life differently? Maybe I am an enemy of promise? Maybe I stop the ‘kids’ from making the progress they could? But I do not look for a quiet, subservient life and therefore why would a school be any different? I do not expect the ‘kids’ to be funny, well behaved and set (like a jelly mould) into a certain expectation. We change and we move. Is that the basic principle of life? What is shocking now will be part of the norm in the future. Isn’t that how progress happens?
So put me on the stage. If I have to dress up, then so be it. If my make-up smears, then so be it. If I am a geek, then so be it. If I am gay, then so be it. We are teachers and we are here for everyone who walks the stage. We must be writers, we must be stars, we must be abused and we must be scared, bullied, in love and jilted. We must grieve and we must dance. We are the teachers. We must be bright, clever and gifted… We must be ambitious. We must want to hold the stars in our hands and even as they burn us we must hand them over. I hope you always remember that. Even when the world is perfect and the photographs in your prospectus look so aspirational. We must suffer the cutting edge of abuse. We must understand attraction and gambles. We must cry. We must know foolish mistakes and amazing chances, to luck out and to make decisions that resonate with who we are… We must be teachers and forget the rules, break them even. We must listen to the people who matter most. We are teachers and when we walk that stage we must do it as though we live our lives again. That is Shakespeare’s stage, glitter, glam and bling with blood splattered for all to nod their heads at. That stage is life. I want to help you walk this stage as you. Not as I want you to be. I am a teacher.