English has always been my passion: as a child I loved reading and had the wildest of imaginations. This translated as an adult to a career in education that allowed me to share my passion for books and love of writing. Beginning, initially, in a challenging secondary school setting, I quickly learnt that being a teacher was a life-style choice, not just a profession. In order to inspire and nurture the same love of reading I had as a child, I couldn’t turn up at 8.30am and leave at 3.30pm. It was, and continues to be, a journey of blood, sweat and tears with huge highs and Eureka moments but catastrophic lows where I have, and still do, close my classroom door and weep, feeling I have let myself, and the children I desperately want to achieve the success they deserve, down! Who would have thought you would invest so much in little Jimmy that seeing him frustrated with himself in struggling to identify a metaphor that you had taught the day before would be a personal failure? Well, that is teaching. It’s English teaching. It’s maths teaching. It’s history teaching.
Good teachers are reflective practitioners (the reason I have never taught metaphors in the same way that I taught Jimmy) who strive to make learning enjoyable but challenging, who have high expectations but create a ‘safe’ environment to ‘fail’ in order to develop a resilience to life that remains with the child into adulthood, shaping their future, the path they tread. We present ourselves as role models and expose children to a wealth of knowledge and skills that equip them for a life after statutory education; a life that requires them to be a learner; a way to make a difference; a way to facilitate progressive change. As Nelson Mandela famously stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and therefore the role of the teacher is amongst the most important of roles.
When I reflect on my journey as a teacher, I think about the burning desire to see young people succeed and that success has looked very different for every child that has entered my classroom. What made me a better teacher was accepting that success looks very different for everyone but expectations don’t always correlate. I expect that every child who walks through my door enjoys success that has resulted from challenge and I expect that they will not give up trying until they achieve this. I will never under-estimate the children I teach because I will always challenge them to be the very best version of themselves and that is because I am invested in them. Don’t ever tell me it’s just a job!