Wednesday, 3 September 2014

In Praise of Good Teachers.

Good teachers can be loud, puffing, over the top, self-indulgent, vain, self-centred, didactic. They can be impulsive, rebellious - even at times bullying.

They can be intuitive, creative, empathetic, enabling, life-changing, unforgettable, graceful, intelligent, sometimes even intellectual and totally obsessed with their subjects.  
In the case of great teachers all these things are rolled up in one unique intense quixotic bundle.

Good teachers display some unique elements from this list. I hope during my 23 years of teaching I was one of these

I know that nowadays teachers need to be brave in the face of on-site texting, phoning and bullying, hidden knives and drugs, and sleepy over-wrought or over-hung pupils.

On top of this they have to endure befuddling paperwork and head-teachers wrapped up in some arcane business-model involving obsession with their public profile and their accountants' impossible bottom line, rather than the opportunity they have for changing the chances that society may offer their pupils.

Thankfully there are still good and great teachers around who, despite the drawbacks, are pulling off success after success in educating their pupils to change their own lives and the lives of others

At its worse this situation has led to a layer of rather robotic professionals who are rule- followers, ticking-box teachers, survivalist teachers, rather than teachers who synthesise the diverse teacher qualities described above.

For such despairing teachers the pupils and students are at the end of the queue for professional attention. And sadly the ethos of some schools today can drive these often talented, desperate people out of the profession altogether.

At heart I  don't feel sorry for teachers. After all, unlike the pupils, they are volunteers, not victims. I have to save my sympathy for the pupils who have only one stab at this education thing.

But teachers now have to survive in a culture of perpetual tinkering   I recognise that they have to operate in a profession whose architects are ideologically, not pedagogically driven   in a culture where politicians of every persuasion  see schools as a perpetual social laboratory.

All writers use their experience to inform their writing. So inevitably teachers, young and old have played their parts in my fiction.

Here are just two examples:

My novel  Children of the Storm  begins early, on the day  in 1914 when the Germans bombarded Hartlepool and a young teacher arrives at school to find it blown to smithereens and her headmaster dead in the central hall,

In my novel Cruelty Games  Rachel a very idealistic teacher meets Ian,  a charismatic former pupil who, twenty years before set, in train a series of terrible events which have affected Rachel for all of her life

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