And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn
Alone. Rubbish. Fog. Not good enough. Derailed. Failure. Extinguished. Frightening. Weak. Noise.
My academic diary is the artifact of my year. I gaze at it as I sit here and ponder whether I would advise myself against publishing this post, however I’ve been reviewing this blog, containing over ten years of writing, and know that I write for myself first and if readers find this useful, that is great. Will this be career ending? Perhaps. But then perhaps that’s because I’m in the wrong place. But, and here’s the thing, I’m not. I am David, a geography teacher and leader. Teaching is a wonderful profession. It’s hard. Bloody hard. But rewarding. Brilliant. Social. Human. Qualifications and qualities.
Inspired by the brilliant Matt Haig (thank you Leah) , here are five reasons that make me ignore the fire hose of negativity. Over the past twelve months I’ve gone through redundancy, failed to complete a 100 mile ultra-marathon (I got to 67) and (much to my embarrassment) not attended a few events and not given my best at others (sorry Primary Rocks and Southern Rocks). Thank you to those who didn’t ask why. Go back longer than that and I have failed to secure many, many jobs. As I struggle to #beDavid I have emerged stronger. A fantastic headteacher I once worked for told me that I can’t do it any other way and that I need to be me.
I became a teacher to make a difference. Sometimes I feel that I haven’t. What drives me and stoked the fire is not a long list of accomplishments and impact statement, I can list those in spades. It’s not Fellowships and awards but camaraderie and togetherness: a shared sense of purpose and a common goal. Today I realise that is for others to judge.
So, what are my reasons to stay in teaching?
1. Being a learner
I’m a learner (although I still need to learn how to unicycle and french plait) and teaching means that I am constantly learning. Whilst acknowledging the issues around workload, I love curriculum change. Thinking hard about what to teach and how to teach it. Focusing upon the quality of the subject rather than the examination. This year I have:
- Seen how Year 3 geography visits and Year 6 sailing residential are very different from secondary. they are brilliant. As a bug fan of hippy moments, I loved the idea of forgiveness shown by the campfire. Pupils wrote who they needed to forgive on paper and threw it in to the fire. I’ve done this around negative thoughts also.
- Understood how leading teaching and learning in an all-through setting is rewarding, taxing, messy and exciting. I’ve lear
- Led self-directed learning and shifted a culture
- Worked with the brilliant Kristian Still, we push each other and are open, candid, passionate and committed. Southern Rocks is a reason to stay in teaching. Campfire CPD: teachers talking to teachers about teaching.
- Listened to the head of PISA and nodded along, realising that there isn’t one way to teach. There is no Holy Grail.
- Thrived on implementing a new Language of Learning, balancing the brilliant vision and direction of a larger organisation with local contextual needs.
- Teaching A’Level geography and loving the NEA and Power & Borers and the sheer complexity of the synoptic links and brilliant conversations with our learners.
- Being inspired during every walk around the school. We truly do operate on the basis that we do it for the young people and our staff, not for anyone else who cares to walk through the gate.
- Failed, learned, nudged and succeeded. I will fail again. And each time I do I will get better.
2. National scale.
This year I spent a term working at our fantastic Teacher Academy, helping to design, deliver and evaluate the action research programme for our 400 educators. This was challenging, messy and I loved working with our dedicated team and being exposed to working on a national scale. The biggest lesson is that it’s not about shiny awards and the limelight but grafting and getting the job done. Much of our work is in making the mundane memorable and for every moment in the spotlight, there are hours of toil.
What we do and what we share makes a difference on a much wider scale than the classroom. We never truly know our true impact
3. Reception class always cheers me up
Back in September, I was asked to step up to Chair of Governors at my son’s school. This, without a doubt, has been the highlight of my year. It stokes the fire and I forget how many times the hairs on the back of my neck has stood up on end. Spine tingling brilliance. Inspirational leadership. I learned that getting a hug from my son during an Ofsted inspection is worth a thousand Welsh rugby victories (even though he does think I’m weird) and that if you;re ever feeling down, spending time in the Reception class will sort the ghouls out. Every. Single. Time. I can’t wait to see the staff on Thursday morning and thank them for the year (giving my time is so much better than giving my words or even sugary treats). Thank them for saving my life. Thank them for keeping me in teaching.
Brilliant curriculum, praised by Ofsted and solid results. I can’t wait for this work to continue.
4. Fun Bucket Dave becomes Deputy Dave
I’ve lost count of the job applications and rejections. Leah you were right (not always though so don’t let it go to your head). This year I stepped up whilst developing geography.
5. I wasn’t always a teacher. I am not only a teacher.
Teaching isn’t always about teaching. Reasons to staying teaching?
- Running – the mileage may be down on previous years (currently around 600ish miles) but it’s the time, fitness and the culture around the trail running community.
- Gretal – the van would never have come about if it wasn’t for having to make a choice between losing my job and staying to fight it. In every way the right decision. Waking up on a beach. Hearing her engine echoing off the dry stone walls as she purred up the Pass of Llanberis.
- This year my son danced along Crib Goch then strolled up Snowdon. What am I if I encourage him to always do his best if I give up?
Teaching offers the challenge and the scope to pursue what really matters in life as I live up to my socialist roots in the Welsh mining valleys. Teaching is frustrating. A political football. But teaching is about human interactions and the messy brilliance of real people and human interactions. It isn’t a predictable science and teaching needs the brave, the bold and those that make the mundane memorable.
Together. Truth. Clearness. Acceptable. Forward. Triumph. Spark. Inspiring. Strong. Signal.
Reasons to stay in teaching.