Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Chink in Our Armour

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Chink in Our Armour

Article excerpt

Building up layers of protection may be normal for FE staff, but the real question is why do we need them at all?

It often pays to build yourself a bit of armour against some of the more difficult facets of working in further education. It's helpful to have an extra layer that allows you to deflect the blow of yet another policy shift, or some chain mail to defend against student apathy towards English and maths. A gauntlet that will soften the strike of yet another restructure is pretty much an essential part of your uniform. Fashioning protective gear is necessary to continue the daily business of actually teaching students.

This layer takes many forms. My own suit is made up of amusement at the cyclical nature of things and irreverence in the face of the relentless, pounding seriousness of every decree that crosses my path. Does this mean I don't care? Certainly not, it just allows me to function without having a breakdown every couple of hours. The same goes for my interactions with students; a wry inward smile in response to some shoddy behaviour allows me to steady myself and carry on with my day.

My colleagues have their own suits. For some it's organisation to the nth degree, or a sacred half-hour during the day that allows them to recharge, or venting over a drink after work.

Whatever it looks like, being able to defend yourself against the idiosyncrasies of the FE workplace is essential. But there is an inherent problem with donning our helmets and getting on: acceptance. …

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