We can be heroes just for one day
We can be us just for one day – Bowie
I am not a super hero. I am a head teacher. A paid professional working in the education sector (despite recent claims that we are not a profession I strongly believe we are) hoping that the many decisions I make ensure the children in my school get quality teaching and learning experiences that makes a difference to their lives.
By saying this some of you will be annoyed at my grumpy take on a wellbeing phrase used to inspire a generation of potential new teachers. It’s just I feel education needs to be firmly ground in the realties of teaching and learning. An NQT quickly realises this after their first term. You see teaching is not lived out in some weird fantasy though at times it really does feel like this. If I was a super hero my super hero name would be…
Striving for Better Futures Man. Naff, ain’t it?
Recently, I have not taken down an international Super Villian seconds before they nuke London; I have not reversed time by flying against Earth’s rotation (which is a shame becasue I’m sure this would help with SATs prep) and I have not whizzed through the streets of Soho attached to spider webs chasing Doctor Octopus (Or Damian Hinds even).
In fact, I have struggled to remove a spider from the bath (It was MASSIVE alright!?!), ran away from a very annoyed cat in the street, avoided eye contact with an angry man at the train station and, not complained to Premier Inn staff when they got my breakfast order wrong. If the truth be told I can’t remember the last time I put on any type of body hugging Lycra. Well, in public.
I’d probably like to be a Super Hero. Be able to fly. Burn things with my eyes. Wear Lycra in public. Never have a hangover. Be feared by the cruel and powerful. I would love it for a few hours… but I am not a super hero. I know this sounds grumpy but from where I am sitting no one in education should accept the ‘cape honours’ becasue it damages what we actually do.
I believe that by telling people they are a Super Hero for doing their job we create a myth that perverts what we REALLY are. I don’t need to pretend I am something I am not. I am a head teacher. A suited senior leader (who incites many mixed reactions) leading a complex school and trying to make sure it runs as smoothly as possible. A school leader who gets it wrong, gets emotional, finds it really hard, gets stressed, can be badly organised, farts, makes mistakes… The list is endless. What is crucial in our narrative is that we don’t put leaders on some sort of pedestal. This is particularly true in times where kicking the stool, stamping on the skull and lumber punching the brain of anyone on a pedestal has become a national pass-time. I add teachers in to this as well, because they are leaders in schools. They need to be recognised, realistically via good pay, good treatment and the right working conditions – not a narrative that supports the…
‘Well, they are super heroes’
By saying this we also say, it’s alright to treat teachers badly becasue that little bit of martyrdom will support the work until you drop mentally that prevails all too often.
‘They are Super Heroes…’
By saying this we support the people who should be creating the right conditions for effective working. They must love the super hero narrative. In the same way some school leaders like banners that say Outstanding.
So, please please please stop making out that we are something we are not. There are few things in our job that makes me more uncomfortable than people saying that we are some unsung heroes… doing it for the kids for no reward and little respect. It’s just plain wrong. But, it also creates myths about what we ‘really’ do. We are not heart surgeons and yet we mess with hearts on a daily basis. We are not in the business of saving lives but helping to build them. We don’t need any other title but…
We are teachers.
That is enough. That has history and gravitas beyond the fantasy capers of any super heroes I know. It also tells the narrative of what we do. It does not pretend we are something else.