I’ll tell you a secret, as I often do on this blog. Successful teachers are not the ones who manage to get all the work done and jump through all the hoops. They are not the ones who are actually doing the best job. They are not the ones who cannot be faulted in any way.
In order to be a successful teacher, you have to give the appearance that you are doing all those things, when in reality you are not. It’s not actually humanly possible to do all of those things, not in the critical, hyper accountable and super vigilant education workplace we’ve got now.
I like to think that education is similar to politics in this way, because appearances and reputation are everything. Half of the job is maintaining this appearance, and half of it is actually getting the students to learn things.
Anyway, because of this, you’re bound to come across several things that you have to do, or say, or believe in, or work under that are quite obviously untrue. You’re going to have to pretend that they are. Here’s the list:
Results and achievement are everything
Maybe to you, or rather, your senior managers, but probably not to the students. Yes, the results will follow your students around for the rest of their lives, appearing on CVs and application forms forever. But really, to the student who knows they want a particular vocational subject already and in a jobs market where soft skills are the best currency, is it really that life and death that they get a D not a C? You’re going to have to pretend it is.
All students are capable of everything
Actually I believe that pretending and acting as if this is true is important to student’s self image and I understand that some students will surprise you if you act in this way. But that’s just it, it’s some. And it’s only if you pretend rather than tell it like it is. Why not call it like that then? It’s a tactic that you use in order to build self esteem and encourage certain students. I think there’s a danger of taking it too far, which is why you see all those deluded weirdos auditioning on the X Factor. It is not actually reality. But god help you if you ever acknowledge that.
You’re a squeaky clean upstanding member of society
Teachers don’t get hammered, have affairs, swear, go to nudist beaches or do anything else that is questionable at all. If you are a human being and you do want to do any of that stuff, then make sure you don’t get caught. Unless you want to have embarrassing meetings with SMT, appear in the local paper or issue an apologetic statement that gets posted out to parents.
You are facilitating learning
Unless you’re sat in a library full of not only books, but equipment capable of practicing all subjects under the sun on and are saying, “Right then, knock yourself out, come to me if you’ve got any questions,” then you are not facilitating learning in the purest sense of the idea. There is always going to be some aspect of you engineering what they learn, rather than holding their hand (ey, not really, see the last point) on a journey of self discovery, otherwise you’ll be in the cack for not covering the curriculum/specifications properly. Still, you must appear to be as student led in your work as possible.
Something is worthwhile when you know it’s not
Ah there’s loads of them. General Studies is the first one I can think of. Remembering a ruler. There’s loads of subject specific ones, so I won’t pick on anyone else’s except my own. In music, learning to play, “Ode To Joy” on a keyboard with the note letters written on in Sharpie. You’ve got to act like it’s essentially life or death important that they must learn this in order to get on in life, it’s the only way of waking a half asleep student up and getting them to do it. Of course, if they can’t do it, they’ll live.
Are there any other lies that you feel like you tell on a daily basis? Do you do it for the students, or just to keep your job? I’d love to hear about them, so email me.