First of all, I need to say a big ‘thank you’ to those of you who have commented, liked and shared my last blog. I’m used to being a teeny tiny, slightly nerdy fish in an incredibly big ocean, and so for it to garner such attention is a bit mind-blowing. And scary (very scary). And a bit sad, because it obviously touched a nerve with a lot of people, which just goes to show how demoralised so many people are right now – not just teachers, but the vast majority of public sector workers out there who feel everything has just gone insane over the last couple of years (I have a lot of friends who work for the DWP, and the stories I hear are enough to make your hair curl. Seriously – if you ever have to deal with the Jobcentre, please don’t blame the poor sod on the end of the phone who is trying to deal with your problem. They are just as frustrated and appalled by this mess as you are).
I feel incredibly nervous at writing a follow-up blog. I could have gone back to sporadically writing about my writing journey (I’m sprucing up my latest novel before sending it to my publisher whilst trying to ignore the rejections another one of my novels is attracting, if you’re interested. Getting an Agent is hard…), but this is a subject I feel so strongly about, and after it provoked such discussion, I felt it churlish to treat it as if it has never happened (which, believe me, is a tempting offer). Y’see, I’m not a hugely political person. I’m not really all that politically literate (I know more about the rules of Dungeons and Dragons than I do about modern politics), and I tend to write stuff from the heart rather than from any great political platform. I don’t want to change the world, or even your opinion. But I do want to share this with you. This is taken from a conversation I had with another dear teacher friend of mine earlier today:
“I’m fighting for the kids. Don’t want more money, sod the pensions and screw my holidays. I just want to pick my kids up from school and hear them say they enjoyed themselves for once. That they weren’t being tested to oblivion. 2 weeks ago, (my son) was asked, what do you consider to be your key academic strengths. At 10! Why is that important? When I was his age I was desperate to read the next CS Lewis book, and learn about the history of theatre, and history generally. And learn the solar system off by heart and make models. I didn’t even know what academic meant! Think I turned out ok…”
I don’t think I can sum it up better than that. She didn’t say this to an audience, or indeed to anyone else but me and the couple of other people who commented on my status update. I sincerely hope she doesn’t mind me sharing it with a wider audience, but I think it’s an important thing to share. When teachers start saying this kind of stuff, you know it’s time to worry.
Everyone wants their children to succeed. Everyone wants the best for them. That is no different for teachers. There is nothing like marking a set of books and finding that every single kid in your class has taken what you’ve taught them to heart and tried their hardest to produce the best piece of work they are capable of based on it. I am not ashamed to say I have been reduced to actual tears of joy whilst marking (and I bet you thought you’d never hear a teacher ever say that!), which is why the current culture upsets me so much. It is taking the joy out of it all, for both the person delivering it and those it is being delivered to – all for the sake of a bunch of numbers. Because data is King right now. Have a son or daughter who likes, for example, drama but isn’t hugely good at it? Forget them taking it for GCSE even if they find it rewarding and enjoyable, because if they fail, they run the risk of damaging the school’s rating in the league tables (and yes, that has happened recently, and on more than one occasion). Silly me – I thought schools were there for the good of the kids, rather than the good of their position in the league tables.
I noticed everything went downhill when we were earmarked for forced Academy-isation, too. (And they took credit for our jump in results this year, despite the fact that they were only really involved in the last term, you know, after the YR 11s had all but left…)