I like being a teacher, because I like teaching.
This is not a tautology: a statement that is trivially true (I thought I’d explain that for any geography teachers reading). In fact far from being obviously true it sometimes feels like something that teachers are not meant to admit. Many teachers wouldn’t say that being a teacher is about teaching. A lot of teachers would say “I like being a teacher, because I like children”. A large number of teachers would say “I don’t like being a teacher. What am I doing with my life? Help!” I also suspect a certain number of teachers might think (but daren’t say) “I like being a teacher because I have long holidays, can be off ill for weeks without anybody minding, and I have no worries about my work because I just let the kids colour in pictures or draw posters in most of my lessons.”
But for me, I like explaining my subject to people so that they will learn. I’ve probably crossed the line now. I’ve all but admitted that I’d enjoy teaching adults as much as I do children. I’ve just put my academic function ahead of my pastoral function. Anybody hearing the above in a job interview would now be writing in their notepad: “Only interested in his subject, hates children. Suspected as much when I saw he had a good degree.”
Despite my disdain for Chantel and Jordan and their efforts to disrupt the learning of others I don’t actually hate children. Even the most challenging classes grow on me over time. I have never met a child I disliked anywhere near as much as I have disliked the average member of SMT. Most of the children I teach I actually quite like. However, (unlike some of my colleagues who find children to be wondrous, precious, innocent beings, uncorrupted by the world, who enrich our lives with their joyous exuberance,) I do find that children have a particular fault: they don’t know very much. I have never met a child who couldn’t be improved by learning more. I get the most satisfaction out of my relationship with the children I teach when I cause them to learn. Ignorance is not bliss, it’s annoying and must be dealt with. That is the purpose of my work.
Sometimes this is confusing to children who aren’t used to being expected to learn. One girl at Stafford Grove School complained to me: “You don’t teach us properly, you just tell us things we need to know”. Sometimes it’s confusing to my superiors. Again, at Stafford Green I was told “Don’t keep trying to teach your year 11 classes, just give them old exam papers to practise” and told that none of them would achieve the grade I was trying to get them to (in the end three did). But to me it is the only point of teaching. When it comes down to it the teachers that make a difference for the rest of your life are the ones that get you to learn.
As it happens I’m not actually that interested in my subject, I like it but I don’t subscribe to the latest academic journals, or plan to study it further in the future. When you get much beyond what is taught at A-Level it’s fairly tedious. I just enjoy teaching it and I enjoy getting children to learn it. I’m sure in some eras, some cultures, this might even be considered a good thing for a teacher to gain satisfaction from and a good attitude for a teacher to have.
Discussion of this entry has now appeared on TES.