Do you think, once Christmas was over, that Scrooge lived happily ever after? Or do you think that his life had ups and downs, regrets and relapses? Do you think he struggled with the changes he made when the twentieth charity worker of the day took his last coin? ‘A Christmas Carol’ is just a story but so are all our lives.
Jacob Marley paid me a visit in the summer of 2014. His chains took the form of monitors and drips but his message was the same: Life is short. Act now! Tragic moments force us to awaken our past, present and future stories. If you escape a moment like this, you are either very lucky or very lonely. My past looked like 24/7 working with my pupils in mind; my present contained 24/7 working with Ofsted in mind and my future held 24/7 working with my soul eaten up by the system. Notice that my family did not appear in the story.
Teaching is a profession that can rule your life if you let it.
I’ve learned to live with not fitting in. Somewhere, I believe there’s a rule book that has remained elusive to me. At school, I was invited to be part of every group as it was cool to have a weird friend. That cross group communication has taught me to get on with anyone but not to fit in. Most of my success has come from naively not following crowds as I never really realised I was going against the grain. Fixing problems brought me happiness; fitting into boxes did not.
Look around! There is no box. My story is just another story, as unique as everybody else’s. There are over seven billion stories going on in the world right now. Stories of loss after terror attacks; stories of families forced to leave homes after war or because Mother Nature destroyed their world. No matter how painful the struggles in my story feel, there are narratives out there far more tragic than anything I’ve experienced so far. The stories out there are vast and varied. Outside our own middle class journeys, stories of turmoil are going on and 5 A- C is not always going to be the solution that will lead to a happy ending.
Supply teaching has allowed me to observe how lots of schools are operating. Despite the schools being filled with young protagonists, each living a unique story, the practice of squeezing them into a box appears to be the norm. Dream big kids but do the same as everybody else. Yes, the world is a scary place in need of some serious rethinking but passing that final exam is your priority. Leave the big problems to the politicians. Ofsted are coming; get ready to perform.
What these children learn in the present will shape the stories of the future. You are a number on a spreadsheet. The politicians rule the world. Exams will lead to success; pass them at all costs. Don’t question, regurgitate. Don’t create, follow. This isn’t the way that all teachers want to teach. It’s the direction they are being forced in. These individuals will live out their stories and, when their stories are over, the next generation stories will begin. As teachers, we can act in place of the ghosts. We can get to know their stories and show them futures fitting their unique lives… If we are allowed.
When the ghosts left me, I quit my job. I have had ups and downs, regrets and relapses. No longer on the SLT scale, I’ve recently accepted to work on basic MPS wages as the school couldn’t afford me otherwise. I’m sure there are easier schools to work in that would pay me well and take me on where I left off. But, in the past, job titles and higher wages have not brought happiness. This message, left by students in one of my toughest classes, did.
Before 2014, my future held leadership, money and success. Now, my future is far less certain. However, my family are now the protagonists in my story. I no longer feel the pressure to get inside a box. Working with Independent Thinking opens doors to allow me to work with schools worldwide and working supply allows me to keep grounded. My role allows me to get to know the individuals that I’m working with, explore their present and support them as they make their own futures happy. I’m still a learning geek and solving big problems still makes me happy. I doubt I’ll ever fit in but the story, although not perfect, feels like the right story to live. 2016 could hold anything for me. I doubt it will hold huge bank balances or leadership roles. If it holds more genuine thank you notes from pupils whose stories feel a bit happier as a result of my work, it’ll be another successful year following Marley’s visit.
The leap into the unknown was scary but looking back on my first year out… So worth it! Here are some of the highlights:
That’s my story… What’s yours?