This Teachers Life

First blogged for MidKent 5th Dec 2012

In which Steven becomes the Cliff Richard of MKC blogging. You do not hear from him all year then he releases greatest hits just in time for Christmas. With enough new material to make it almost seem worthwhile.

Things have changed, as they have a habit of doing. When last we met I had a goatee beard. Now I have a full beard. Important changes make us reconsider our life choices, our daily choices and occasionally our lack of choices. Who we are, defined by something other than what we do, and why we do it. Next month I will have been employed at MidKent College for five years. My interests, perspectives and knowledge have changed dramatically in that time, but an aspect of my attitude and sensibility has not. What changes will occur over the next five? I ask myself a lot.

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I recently went to a conference that looked at the future of Media and Film education. There was much discussion about primary, A-level and higher education, but not further education or the lifelong learning sector. “However, not enough discussion is given to the role of FE, and the fact that for many students they are the first generation to stay on at college or sixth form, let alone go to university.” – Me, previously. I still don’t understand students, but I think I’m closer. Thanks to a colleague I have been reading ‘Why Children Fail’ by John Holt. I understand that for some of them, choosing isn’t pro-active, its just better than having no choice and doesn’t fully mean they have clear aspirations. “Students are great. They challenge my perceptions and assumptions…and they enable me to have a class and a job and a home. That’s very important to remember.” – Me, previously.

“Though teaching isn’t a job is it? It’s a vocation, a calling. One of those roles we choose to do because we believe we can make a difference…” A touch of cynicism there, which I have since underpinned with theory, thanks to our friend Stephen Brookfield, who states:

“Reflection becomes critical when educators consider how to challenge our own untested hegemonic assumptions to uncover practices that appear to make teaching easier but actually work against our own long-term interests. Hegemonic assumptions are those that we think are in our own best interests, but have been designed by others who are more powerful to work against us; they have, however, become so embedded in our practices that we can no longer identify the oppression or disenfranchisement contained within them. Examples of hegemonic assumptions include beliefs about teaching as a vocation or calling that justify an overwhelming workload to our own physical and mental detriment.”

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So, as it is the end of the year, what are your academic New Year’s resolutions (that you will admittedly break straight away)? Academically, how will you lose those extra pounds you’ve gained? Academically, how will you experience more culture? Academically, how will you…etc. If you do ‘something’ a certain way, is it because that is the best way to do it, or is it the way it has always been done?

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I still don’t have a business card. I think about it occasionally. Rarely. But I do wonder. Maybe 2013 I’ll get one. Who would I give them to?

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I updated my CV recently, for reasons that were beyond my control (honest!) I’m no longer a school governor and there were a couple of other things to remove. I recently enquired about a slot as a speaker at a conference, and they informed me they could only offer lunch and kudos. Well, that’s all I ever ask for. How is your personal literacy? If you had to write a bio about yourself, when would you begin? What would be the most up-to-date thing about you?

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I’m still lucky and enriched by the conversations I have with colleagues, though there seems to be less of them these days. Less time, though no less inclination. Something to note for 2013. How much of that chat will be productive? Depends on your definition of productive and if you consider touching base important. I do. There is an Anglo-Saxon term – Wyrd. Considered by some to be the personification of fate. The more you try to achieve, the more people will arrive to help you.

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Whilst getting myself up to speed, I rediscovered the following set of questions, around the subject of state, and realized I had never answered them myself. I’m going to spend some time doing that. Will you? Are we bored of the lesson we haven’t even taught them yet? When we plan our schemes of work, our lessons, how much do we take mood into account? How much has the phrase ‘death by PowerPoint’ affected our decision whether or not to use PowerPoint? If your lesson was a colour, what colour would it be?

How is your flow? Is your skill level equal to the challenges you face? Are you bored? Are you aroused? When was the last time you learned new skills, and do you have challenges that enable you to use them?

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Before I vanished I asked the question of whether you feel valued and how much are you worth. In an age of austerity and public sector pay freezes, I really must get back round to that question as well.

Be Seeing You

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