Teaching Actually


In the film Love Actually, real footage of people arriving at Heathrow was used to illustrate the ubiquitous nature of love. As I watch a gaggle of man-children swagger through the departures lounge at Corfu airport with a confidence they probably don’t feel I clicked back into work mode. The trek through passport control towards the gates for flights to the UK, I’m struck by how each group of people represents the folks in each particular faction of the edutwitter world I’ve been avoiding for a week.


Now before we begin, and teachers who are limping bravely towards the end of term think it must be nice to be able to take a holiday in term time, let me tell you; what I gain in the flexibility of consultancy you get back in the security of a contract and pension. And besides, as for many consultants, things change and I’m about to rejoin the rank and file. More on that soon.


Anyway, where was I? Oh yes - my people watching coupled with the headspace between two roles led to some interesting observations. These were the groups I saw:


The men children joined the passport queue behind me. They were playing early 90s EDM. Except we didn’t call it that then. They were apparently unaware that the rhythm of the night has been in existence for quite some time now. There’s a few of these groups around the departure lounge; still smiling, even though they look like they need their beds. It must be exhausting discovering all this new stuff for the first time. Some of these kids will go on to be the tour guides. Attracted by working with people who think like them, sacrificing any future learning that would be gained by honing the craft for the bright lights of the corridors of power or the glory reflected from the shiny front cover of their collected thoughts, packaged up as the next big thing.


There are several couples who probably told their now grown-up children off for playing a similar kind of tune. They’ve seen all this before. They keep their distance and watch the kids over the rims of their glasses, knowing that they’ll calm down eventually and realise that at the most basic level, nothing really changes. Same shit, different day, but just because a day contains a small annoyance and some paperwork the joy is still there. Whilst these guys are sitting quietly in the departure lounge, well prepared for every travel eventuality, their teacher counterparts are likely to be sitting quietly in the staff room, watching the energetic newbies over their glasses. Their kids do well, and they’ll know the answer if the newbies would only ask. Like a knowledgable tour guide who knows where the best local delicacies can be found and how to avoid the tourist traps. Pearls of wisdom gathered over decades.


Then there are the more grown up kids. In this particular scenario they all seem to be scousers. I envy these folks. They skip through the border control queue with their collection of close-by breaks stamped into their well-worn passports. They’re loving life. Although when you scratch the tanned surface there are worry lines - a distinctly average pay packet for an average teacher wont be enough soon. The joy is leaching out of their lives as the price of living demands more of their hard earned cash. These main pay scale teachers and plodding middle leaders drive our schools just as the fun-loving middle income people drive the short haul holiday industry. If they can’t afford to carry on, where will we be?


Then there are the riders on the storm. Although the ominous final song Jim Morrison recorded with The Doors was less about the calm ‘islands in a storm’ that I misheard as a child, and more about a murderous American hitchhiker in the 1950’s, I’m sticking with the monika as these singular travellers do resemble quiet yet triumphant riders through a particularly drawn out storm. One of these calm travellers stood next to the excited kids, wearing a killer outfit of some beautifully tailored Scandi linen trousers, shoes that cost more than my day rate, and a Hype hoodie. Like the one in my son’s wardrobe. The perfect combination of modern comfort and neat sophistication. With the time served of the mature folks in the corner of the staff room, and the most effective modern approaches, these folks have been around the block a few times and are in for the long game. The kids don’t really know what to make of these folks. Their confidence seems to wane when regarded by the stalwarts of travel. They don’t know what to make of their quiet confidence. Perhaps they are threatened. We often fear what we don’t understand. And we really don’t like other people showing up our inexperience or lack of hard-earned understanding of our own job. It doesn’t help that many of the riders of our particular storm are women, and women right now are furious. Furious that men who think they are right are making decisions that affect us. Perhaps the murderous theme of ‘Riders on the Storm’ is a little to close for comfort at this time.


Perhaps that is what the edutwitter tensions boil down to? I know that I’ve been appalled by the misogyny that I seem to see everywhere. Perhaps it was always there. Perhaps it’s just how it is and I’m seeing something wrong when there isn’t anything to see. But as I return to real life, and particularly in my new role, I’m looking out for anything that prevents pupils getting a decent education. They don’t get another go. Youth and energy only get you so far. Both are essential, but they are not everything. The same goes for the hard-working middle. We need to ensure they are supported and developed so they continue to drive the system. The statistics around the teachers we lose after five years are startling. Most importantly, everyone needs to be included in this. Each rider plays a part, and together we are more than the sum of our parts. As Jo Cox said, ‘we have more in common than that which divides us.’

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