And On the Plus Side

April 20, 2008

You know how much I hate to be negative. So I thought I’d mention just a few of the things I like about my job:

1. Kids are funny. Well sometimes. But they at least know absurdity when they see it. They are far more likely than adults to try and find out what the crazy fat boy in year 9 looks like when wearing mascara and lipstick, or to walk up to the head and ask “Who the hell are you?”

2. I enjoy my subject. Bizarrely, I enjoy teaching it more than I ever enjoyed learning it. There’s nothing like having to explain something to get you thinking about it in a very fundamental way.

3. I do get to make a difference. In two of the tough schools mentioned in this blog then, in between all the chaos, I got to teach sixth form classes and roughly once every two years I helped prepare a child for getting into Oxbridge, from schools where most students don’t even consider university. Less dramatically, I can usually see progress being made in my lessons.

4. I get to think about philosophy, psychology, history, politics and ethics on a daily basis. I enjoy that sort of thing. A teacher who understands nothing of justice, virtue, the mind, social class, social change and human nature will get very little out of the profession. Except promotion to SMT, of course.

5. I’ve made lots of friends in teaching. Well at least three.

6. Most of the time I’m in charge. It’s great bossing people around. Anybody who says it isn’t is a liar.

7. I never have any shortage of people to tell me if my shirt’s untucked; if my flies are undone; if my hair’s a mess, or if I smell.

8. Whenever anybody claims that children (and by extension all people) are basically good, I get to look at them with a sense of pity and the warm smug satisfaction of knowing that, whatever illusions I hold about the world, at least I will never say anything as stupid as that.

9. It is a genuinely satisfying experience to see somebody learn something particularly if they thought they couldn’t.

10. The holidays.


  1. “It’s great bossing people around. Anybody who says it isn’t is a liar.”

    SO true! I didn’t even realize how much I like telling people what to do until I started teaching.

  2. You forgot the pension and the short days. Together with the holidays, none of my non-teaching acquaintance can see what a teacher could possibly have to moan about.

  3. Short days??? I work longer hours as a teacher than I ever worked as an engineer!!!

  4. Great list!

    11. I have an audience for my own personal Comedy Club. And, even when I am not funny, they can’t leave. They may not laugh, and they may even boo, but like it or not, they are there until the end of the show.

  5. I’m with you, commenter #4. (^_^)

  6. I so got a chuckle out of #8 about pittying the people that think that all children are basically good.

    That goes right along the same lines of me laughing at the thought that “there is no such thing as a stupid question”. I get them on a daily basis and if the question is especially “stupid” I actually make a point of letting them know just how silly it is. I am always encouraging people to ask questions but they really need to be well thought out before the hand goes up in the air.

  7. It’s a difficult transition out in the real world to stop telling people what to do. It’s just a natural reaction. I always loved the parents who said, “My child would never lie.” How ridiculous is that? My own kids thrived on sneaking things by me. Now, that’s reality.

  8. Re: Stupid questions — You’re right; there is such a thing. The four most common types are

    1. The ones they ask that show they are at least 5 minutes behind anyone who was listening. :-P
    2. The ones they already know the answer to (e.g. “Can I turn my homework in late?” when I NEVER take late homework)
    3. The ones they don’t really need to know the answer to (e.g. “How many questions are on the test?” asked while I’m passing it out.)
    4. Poorly timed ones (e.g. “What did we do in class yesterday? Can you give me my makeup work?” asked in the middle of a lecture.)

    Can you tell it’s a pet peeve??

    Loved the list & agree with them all – #2, 9, & 10 are biggest for me!

  9. Do you invite former pupils who “have made it” to your classes? Would be interesting to hear how the pupils react to that.

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