Teaching in conflict, leaving in peace


Despite leaving the teaching profession last summer I continue to be fascinated by education news. It's the absurdities that get to me:

the low morale within the best job in the world

the recruitment crisis that isn't real (according to DfE)

the continuously rising standards that keep pace with rises in exasperation from employers and universities, and in mental illness amongst both teenagers and teachers

the data-performance gap that dominates the agenda in educational management - real teaching and learning, genuine achievement and self-efficacy, internal motivation driven by curiosity and fun, actually look surprising - curiously out of place and vulnerable - when they happen

These old bones are staffroom staples and teachers respond in very different ways. Some see a dysfunctional system that has betrayed their idealism, whilst others are pragmatic about getting the job done despite questionable values and objectives. There are the Churchillians for whom failure is not an option, let victory take from us what it will (usually some freakish new Head of Deparment). And there are the Tragedians, for whom all prideful endeavour is ultimately broken on the wheel of fate (usually working in the drama department).

My exit from the classroom came as a result of a growing self-awareness of the way in which my own strengths (I am an sensitive, introverted, emotional and spontaneous person at my best) interacted with the contradictory personal and organisational demands of school systems. Doing the job well always redefined me in a way that felt false, inauthentic, and therefore intolerable.

But that's just me, and it's not a problem I just have with school - I hasten to add and to emphasise that this is a significant and indeed critical problem for a section of the population (both adults and children) with regard to school, but not for everyone. School still works in the same way that aluminium smelting, one of the dirtiest and most wasteful extractive industries on earth, works. You just have to look at it selectively. Education has been reformed in a way that delivers a politically acceptable bottom line, and it continues to be this bottom line that drives policy. That process excludes the willing and otherwise generous contributions of people like me. Me and school have thus separated, but without bitterness (at least on my side). I happen to find aluminium foil extremely useful.


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