What would I say to any young person wanting to be a teacher? Don’t. Only joking. Actually, no I’m not. Don’t.
As I prepare to welcome my new class tomorrow, I can’t help but think back to the last couple of days back in July with my old class. It was perfectly clear to me that schools were ready to break up for summer when one of my students, who I thought was having a discussion with a TA, barged into the classroom unannounced clutching a birthing ball and stood there grinning. Did they teach you how to react to this when studying for a PGCE?! No! Neither did they teach us about other harsh realities of educating little people. (Except I’m now in secondary and they’re all taller than me). So before anyone thinks about joining the cult of teaching (no matter how hard you try, you can never escape), read the following:
Expectation versus reality
1. Sitting with my class on the carpet, all their little faces looking adoringly at me while I call out their names, then send one of them trotting off to the office clutching the register.
No, I’m sat at my desk with my class behind me, straining to see their names on the online thing, shouting their names, then cursing when I don’t know which code to type in to show someone’s late, someone has a dentist appointment, someone has a meeting but is in school or someone just fancies a day off to play with their tortoise.
2. They will be transfixed by your every word.
No. You pause to breathe and they think it’s an invitation to discuss their social lives or gossip about some poor soul in another class.
3. You’ll etch various facts on their memories and they’ll build up an encyclopaedic knowledge of various subjects.
No. Whatever you’ve taught them, they have to push out of their brain to find room for some latest battle strategies for Call of Duty or songs to learn for a new Tiktok video.
4. They’ll make lifelong friendships under your guidance
No. It’s divide and conquer. Someone just has to glance at another pupil and there’s a national outrage. That meme going round of someone trying to control angry dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. It’s not a meme. It’s real footage from an actual classroom.
5. You’ll glide round the room like Miss Honey, pausing to praise or help one of your darling little people.
No. You’ll be forever bruised. Those mini tables are the devil incarnate. The corners appear from nowhere determined to inflict actual bodily harm. You’ll also develop extraordinary reflexes from having to stop yourself falling flat on your face because of yet another errant school bag or trailing leg.
6. Your classroom will be fantastically organised, colour co-ordinated and a calming place to learn.
No. It’ll be a mishmash of furntiure, attacked by primary colours à la Jackson Pollock and there’ll be unexplained piles of paper everywhere that just seem to multiply. Plus random pen lids and glue tops scattered on the floor. And you’ll never be able to go to Home Bargains or B&M again without purchasing some absolute must haves (they’re not) for your room and forget completely that you went in for screws for your husband. Your money will never be your own again.
7. You’ll be fantastically prepared every Monday as their eager (another lie) faces arrive at your door.
No. It’ll be windy. They’ll return from break time like crazed loons. The fire alarm will go off. They’ll be traumatised for the rest of the day. A bird will decide to sit outside your window. It will have their undivided attention. Christmas is 49 days away. They can’t possible do any normal work. You might as well just add your planning sheets to one of those unexplained piles of paper cluttering up your classroom.
I think I’ll end on an odd number because that is so apt. Even numbers for me suggests order, completeness, organisation, equality. Odd is chaotic, unfinished, muddled, imbalanced. And that’s pretty much how I feel at the end of every shift!
And don’t even get me started on teaching through a pandemic!