Yesterday I phoned my mother, and asked her to suggest a location/time for me to take her out to lunch. (During the holidays I make every effort with my family! This links to my ways of alleviating the stresses of teaching!) She responded after whispering to my Dad. ‘Yes. OK! You can take us to Birmingham!’ My initial reaction was, err thats over 120 miles away each way! I drive to work everyday and to accept this would be like utter torture. However, I quickly responded with a smile and assertive. ‘Yes, sure, what time…?’
When I got to Birmingham I met up with my family and ‘uncles/aunties’. (In Asian culture, anyone who you respect/has association with the family/is older than you is an aunt or uncle.) Apparently it has been around 9 years since I had seen them last!
One of those ‘uncles’ who used to live with us, who occasionally used to take me to school, used to be one of the coolest men I knew. Somebody who I looked up to was now a class A drug addict. He was wearing oversized, ripping at the seams clothes. He had several teeth missing to accompany his darkened, jagged others. His hair was messy, thin and irregular. His mannerisms were lost, ‘uncle’ was not there. He itched and fidgeted as he spoke. He was unsure of what he had just said, his memory was fading it seemed. He constantly gulped as if it was his last breath.
I felt sad.
I was shocked.
Who was to blame for this?
I found it amazing that my father, sat and talked to this uncle like nothing was wrong. I knew however, that this was with a real sense of discomfort. My dad looked at me and struggled to explain the state of this man. My dad looked as if he had let my uncle down simply because of the state he had chose to put himself in.
What followed has triggered me to write this post…
Amongst the food and the memories this uncle in my childhood, he started lecturing his younger sons who arrived to say hello to me. He told them they should listen to him, and they should not make the mistakes he has. He shouted and stressed the importance of education and the value in listening to elders/teachers and other respected individuals. I could see from these young 14, 17 and 18 year old faces they were thinking…
‘What the Fu*k do you know?
How can you tell me all this after you clearly didn’t do it?
What a hypocrite…’
They were angry, they were embarrassed. They were determined to not be like him. How do I know? I could tell…
This led me to think…
Do we actually have an impact on our students when we continually say to them…
Do all you can!
Achieve all you want/dream of?
Be the best you can be!
Reach for the stars…
And all that kind of stuff…?
What I mean is, do students think we are hypocrites that are talking sh*t? Do they think…
Well, why didn’t you then?
Are they wondering why we did not become scientists, actors, architects, vets, dentists, pilots, engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants etc?
— Dan@designthinking (@dandesignthink) April 13, 2015
Bare with me…Let me reference from MY experience…
I am often asked having read Law at University,
Sir… Why did you not become a Lawyer?
Sir… Why did you not become a Barrister?
I have also heard students say to PE teachers during a Ski Trip…
Sir, what would you know! You are only a PE teacher…
Shocking? Surprising? Nonsense?
Does society as a whole only value jobs based on their pay bracket? Is this cultural? Is this just the way a capitalist society is set up?
Historically, in the UK if you look at the most sought after graduate jobs, teaching does not come into this list. However things seem to be changing… rankings here place Teach First as number 2.
Unsurprisingly being an educator does not come into many top 10 most well paid lists either. Nevertheless, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has published a report highlighting forty job roles which are believed to be key to the country’s economic growth. Teaching is now in this list… but do students/parents/adults see this?
Is the status of the profession changing?
What do students actually think of Teachers?
I know there are thousands that value us, that think we are more important than even their parents. But generally do they do think we should have done more with our subjects? (Too massive a generalisation to make?)
I guess… I am thinking about all those that say, we must show a love for our subject more than anything. That we must show an unfettering affiliation with the joys of our subject and all it brings. (I agree to an extent…) So if we do, is sharing it with others by teaching us, really reaching for the stars? Is doing all we can with/for/at our subject and demonstrating that to our students enough for them to explore other avenues with it.
Do Music teachers ‘gain’ more kudos/respect/authenticity if they are in a band? PE teachers if they play a high level of sport? If teachers are published writers and so on…?
Do we ever promote becoming a teacher or a social worker to the students who you may call Higher Attainers/Gifted and Talented etc… if not, why not? Reflect… Do you at all?
I think it comes down to PASSION. That word which I have read others say is something that isn’t helpful in education. Passion is something that infuriates them… But, I think that is what prevents us from being labelled with the tag/blur of as if we have failed to do what we are preaching to our students.
We teach and went into teaching because of a love for learning. A love for children. A love for wandering…. We can and more than often demonstrate that to the children in our care. Is that enough? For them? For others?
So… on reflection I do not think my uncle is a hypocrite. I do not think my dad has failed him either. I know he has a passion for his kids, he has a love for his children. He wants the best for them. He is an amazing man that despite all his ‘issues’ he still wants his children to be all they can…
I think teachers are using their lives to propel others. I know no other profession with such a selfless, relentless pursuit of happiness for all.