When I left teaching, my Year 6 class were also off to pastures new. Their new secondary schools were welcoming them in September when I set off on my own new adventure. I was delighted to meet one of their parents on the platform – a friendly face – but also because I could find out just how his son was faring after his first two weeks. I often think of them, even now, and wonder how they’re getting along, halfway through Year 8.
The children were one of my biggest considerations in choosing to leave teaching. I am under no illusions – I am not God’s gift to teaching. I think God has gifted me in teaching, but I’m definitely not His solution to it. But in leaving I felt I was betraying the children. I passionately wanted to help children achieve all that they could. I wanted to help them all to read, write and calculate yes, of course I did. But I also wanted them to find that they were resilient, that they were kind, that they were unique and had talents and interests distinct to them. Each child has a life full of ideas and opportunities ahead. All will be different; some will be remarkable, some seemingly unremarkable – all will be important. Each will leave an imprint on the lives of others, and as teachers we are given the privilege to shape these lives and minds that will one day shape others.
The children are the predominant reason teachers don’t tend to leave mid year, or feel wracked with guilt if for some reason they do.
Now don’t get me wrong, a definite plus point of being a non-classroom based educator is that if the group is challenging, I simply say goodbye to them after an hour. If they talk over me and none of my strategies seem to be effective, it’s of little consequence. It’s annoying certainly, but I’m sure they’ve gone away with a few new facts, some new experiences and a fun day out, so my job is done. I am able to look with sympathy on the teacher whose educating is made harder by constant behaviour management before any ‘real’ learning can be embarked upon.
Not being required to mark each individual’s six or seven books on a daily and weekly basis is a dream come true, but there’s also something missing. I don’t know who in the class loves football or swimming, who is scared of spiders or struggles to sleep at night. It is this pastoral side of teaching that it one of the biggest shocks as an NQT, and the side I probably miss the most. I was that child’s advocate in school, striving for the best for them as an individual, as well as us as a class. You’ll hear many a teacher talk about ‘my children’, and that’s how we see them – as ours to care for, nurture, promote and protect.
To be a teacher, of any description, is a job of privilege. To be a classroom teacher is to know those children well; to be aware of their talents and fears and how to motivate them. It is to see each child as a unique, valued contributor to the classroom dynamic. It is to help mould and shape them into considerate young people.
It isn’t to prepare them for a test, or to teach them to be knowledgeable beyond anything their parents have ever needed to know.
Except it is – at times lauded as glorified babysitting while encouraging ten year olds to recall grammar beyond an A-Level student.
Teaching is about children. Schools are about children.
Except they’re not – schools are being morphed into businesses, churning out a production line of identical containers of knowledge.
Where did the sight of individuality fail?
When a group troop into my session, they may be dressed in their matching outfits but each one has taken away something different from their visit. It is in leaving teaching that the sheer variety and magnitude of different personalities has been magnified for me. One size does not fit every adult, why should one size fit every child?