Why teachers need to be like VW camper drivers

Posted on Posted in thoughts

I’m not really up for writing a post about my hopes for 2018. I’m still coming to terms with a truly pants 2017. One that saw me voluntarily taking redundancy and being set adrift. Finding new adventures and failing to come to terms with my role in it all. Im getting better with that but, this post isn’t about that. I had the opportunity to buy a T25 VW campervan as a result of last year. The aim to just say ‘bugger it’ and get out and about more. She was christened ‘Gretal’ in 2017, although originally built and registered in 1984. I was 6 years old in 1984 and going through the miners strike as the son of an English mine manager in the very Welsh Valleys. So, Rogers, what’s the point, I hear you ask?

Well, when I wriggle behind the wheel and take her for a drive, other VW campervan drivers, of all models, always raise an arm in a ‘hello’ manner. This really hit home after during home from a soul searching thinkle with someone whom I have let down.  It doesn’t matter who I am or what I’ve done, I’ve got a VW classic campervan and that means we are all in the same club. It doesn’t matter how much of a dick I’ve been. The club where the van decides to start when she wants and where she demands TLC and careful looking after. It reminds me of other spheres of life where the same happens:

  • Motorcyclists always have a camaraderie that transcends background, pay packet and political opinon.
  • Trail and fell runners always say hello. I was helped along during my failure to finish a 100 mile ultramarathon for one leg by a bloke who slowed down to help. He gave up his time partly to help me get through.
  • Mountain bikers always ask if help is needed if a fellow cyclist is at the side of the trail. I remember one cyclist giving me their only spare inner tube once so I could get back safely.
  • Mountaineers always say hello and have a chat about upcoming crag conditions or the latest weather forecast. This goes beyond ability and I’be often helped families and muppets-sans-map to get where they need to be.
  • As a member of a running club, we always run at the pace of the slowest member when out for a social run. Ego doesn’t matter.

(I know that young children also are in this group as are dogs. But not cats.)

I’m sure that there are many other examples. These people are part of a club. The crazy ones who share a fellowship around a common goal. There’s no judgement. No put downs. Just support. Bizarrely, such kinships become desirable for those on the outsides (OK, perhaps not ultra marathons). Membership increases. Leaping in to the unknown becomes possible because there will be support out there (when I was taking part in target rifle shooting and competing at a UK wide level, we never mentioned the maximum score, we just referred to each shot as a ‘possible’).

When teaching is the best, we rally around each other. We stay on the side of justice and do our jobs regardless of Government or DfE madness. The nod and the wry smile between colleagues after a brutal week and the support. The knowledge that we are in it together because, let’s face it, this job is nuts, especially as we chase being better. I mean, how many other professions desire so much to be better but have no real clue on how to achieve it. We rely upon the pointers of research that hint at what could work in our position. When teaching is best, a staff is galvanised around one moral purpose that goes beyond imparting knowledge, pass examinations and getting the buggers in to behave.

Look around social media (which, whilst becoming more representative of our calling, isn’t just yet either in terms of numbers or diversity) and we can see those teachers who are like VW campervan owners. BAMEED, WomenEd, TeamEnglish the wonderful Geography community. Communities of practitioners who are not about finding the only way to teach but who are determined to make the lives of teachers and students better.

On the other hand, I am sometimes embarrassed by the antics of what I have come to know as ‘edtwatter.’ The point scoring, put downs that forget that we have a common purpose. Not be be right, but to find out what works best for the individuals in front of us.

So, let’s try to champion teaching. My very best friend always comments on how I love my job whilst many of our peers (in other professions) just see it as a pay packet and look for the weekend. He has also commented that this fire has dulled somewhat recently.

I once asked if teachers where like priests. After a periof of naval gazing and soul seraching, comibg to the conclusion that all I can do is control how I react to most of what happens. I forget this nugget:

What I can control is represented by the small orange circle. For everything else, all I can do is control my reaction to it. In a school, we are out of control of many, many variables, especially considering the political football that we are.

This means that, for any teacher, I’m going to give a smile and a wave of solidarity. We are the crazy ones doing an important job. I won’t turn on teachers, but support them.

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