Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Strength of Character

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Strength of Character

Article excerpt

One of the biggest surprises for anyone crossing the event horizon into the teaching profession is how little teaching the job actually involves. I, like many greenhorns, entered education panicking about whether or not my subject knowledge was good enough. I needn't have worried because I soon had plenty of other things to know nothing about.

For a start there was the admin, something common to any systematised career, especially in the public sector where accountability and impact are the Scylla and Charybdis of the job. Nurses, police officers, lawyers and many more all skip into their careers hoping to heal, collar rogues and champion justice, only to find that the first things they need to replace are their pens.

Workload, as I will tirelessly repeat, is one of the elephants in the classroom. Any innovation, evolution or revolution of teaching practice that doesn't address this is naive at best and fraudulent at worst. Which is fine, if you don't mind your child being taught by someone who is being eaten alive.

Then there's a more modern malaise that rears its unwanted, unlovely head like a priapic mortician every week or so. If you start a secondary-school career in mathematics in the UK, you may, not unreasonably, expect to spend most of your time teaching maths (and dealing with the associated admin, of course). Not a bit of it. You'll probably be expected to deliver some form of PSHE, perhaps a fascinating course on vandalism, sexting or contraception. If you're lucky, you'll be asked to give careers advice. Heaven forbid that these topics be considered a niche art. …

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