This is The Secret Teacher’s first blog entry. An occasional series, reflecting life in Thurrock.
MY memory is not good, but I remember my first lesson very well. In fact, it still gives me nightmares. As I nervously entered my classroom, located on the outer rungs of the building, away from the management team, I encountered a lower GCSE class. The subject was Macbeth and it was clear that they were desperate to create a comedy. Their main attraction was a 15-year-old in glasses climbing up desks, pretending to be a monkey. Panicked, a sweat broke out as my shy voice desperately tried to control the situation. For a few weeks, I won them and thought I was Michelle Pfeiffer from Dangerous Minds – but not as glamorous. In the end, they did an amazing job, with the monkey playing Macbeth perfectly.
Almost twenty years later and I couldn’t imagine this scenario now. Many technical advances have improved teaching; overhead projectors with individually produced acetates now replaced by power-points. Questionable attempts at drawings are no longer a feature of the courts, because Google images saves the day. While documentaries and youtube clips are a lifeline for explanation and review.
Yet a lot has changed and it saddens me. The camaraderie of sipping a cup of tea with coworkers over lunch is relegated to special occasions. Despite working until the early hours of the morning, our lunch hour is spent preparing for lessons, helping students revise, phone parents, discuss inappropriate behavior, and grade work. For some, respect has diminished, with many students arguing, talking and acting inappropriately towards staff and each other.
The program is changing, Ofsted’s criteria are changing and expectations are rising. Yet I still teach. I teach for the majority of aspiring, hard-working, thirsty for knowledge and desire to improve. I teach for Results Day in August, when smiles are on the faces of those who have graduated or graduated from college. I teach in the hope that we will have a lasting influence on those who have entered our class.