I went to see Tony Benn at the Citizens’ Theatre last night. I’m not particularly political, but my mum’s a huge admirer of his, and I said I’d come along. He was as intelligent, insightful and entertaining as I’d expected, but one thing he said (twice, as it happens) keeps recurring to me. He said that “teachers who explain the world and movements which change the world are the way forward.” I’m not sure how broad his definition of ‘teacher’ was, although the importance of teachers was a running theme of the discussion, but it brought back to me the reasons I stayed in this job. Not the reasons I applied for it, which were the usual ‘good hours, good money, good holidays, what else will I do with my 2:2 in English?’ reasons, but the reasons I stayed. From the moment I observed my first lesson on my first placement, a good month or more into the course, I’ve known that education is a vocation of paramount importance. How many experiences, other than schooldays, are so widely shared by so many? What better place to allow the minds of those who would start those world-changing movements to explore and develop.
And there’re the dangers in education, not of incompetent teachers or underfunded schools, but in teachers lacking passion, and schools with a culture of low expectation. So much responsibility rests with us, for explaining the world and equipping others to change it.
The thing about teachers, though, from my observation, is that responsibility doesn’t burden us. Rather, it frees us, as we know we’re doing something fundamentally vital to the world, and it makes us proud. Six years on, and I’m still delighted to reply to the question “so what do you do?”