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Teaching really is the best job in the world

Posted on: 10/10/2019


From the 'Educating Oxfordshire' column of the Oxford Times - Thursday 10 October 2019:

It is definitely fair to say that teachers are really rather terrible for getting together with other teachers and ‘talking shop’. The acronyms flow, pontification abounds and a sort of misty-eyed reminiscence for a time when all was well in the world of education often descends on the conversation.

However, the summer holiday often provides us with a chance to reconnect with our other social lives - those non-teachers we rarely get to see during term time and for whom the intricacies of the job are replaced by a ‘broader brush’ understanding of what goes on in schools. These conversations are, unsurprisingly, very different but, in my experience (and, I would wager, probably that of most teachers), often just as predictable. Predictable in that, almost without fail, every friend or acquaintance I have outside teaching has, at some point in my twelve-year career so far, said, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’

The statement is, of course, predicated on the belief that there is something terribly difficult or unpleasant about working with young people or working in our education system. Of course, it is not always easy and, like many jobs, there are considerable challenges. However, for many of us, the appropriate response to this statement is, ‘I don’t know how I could not do it.’  

As I write, we are four weeks into term here at Didcot Girls’ School and I have already seen and experienced so many satisfying, edifying and joyful things that, rather than feel there is somehow reason to pity me for having such a tough job, I feel so immensely privileged and proud to do the job I do…and, actually, a tiny bit sorry for those that do not get to work with 1400 amazing young people every day! Young people who bring such energy, creativity and dedication to school life that one cannot help but be proud and hopeful for the future. 

Whilst impossible to capture everything here (our school’s Twitter feed is the best place for this), there have been some shining examples by way of illustration.

Firstly, our Transition Mentors deserve a mention for the great work they have been doing ensuring that the new Year 7 this year are supported in their move up from primary school. There cannot be many workplaces where newcomers are ‘inducted’ by a small army of around 50 young people who volunteer to regularly give up their free time to ensure all is well and that everyone feels supported. Why would you not want to work in a place like that?

As well as supporting each other, our students have been showing their support for good causes already this year too. Our annual student-led Macmillan Coffee Morning saw hundreds of students baking, selling and, of course, eating cakes to raise money for such a worthy cause this week. Perhaps even more impressive were the group of students who, alongside three of their teachers, took part in the Pretty Muddy Race for Life recently in support of Cancer Research. Outward-facing, socially-conscious and willing to run 5k through mud? Who would not want to be in the company of such outstanding young people every day?

Finally, our student Climate Change Leaders have been working hard to raise awareness and have their voices heard on the issue they are most passionate about in recent days. As a precursor to the Climate Change Conference they are planning in December, last week saw them mobilise over 800 of their peers to sign a petition calling on political leaders to take account of their voices and the voices of young people everywhere when they make decisions around Climate Change. They not only now have a mandate for change in school from almost the entire student body, but they are also able to lobby MPs and local leaders with a stronger, unified voice. Why would anyone think it a hardship to mix with such mature, impressive future leaders as they go about the task of changing their world?

So, non-teachers out there, rather than ask us how we do it, perhaps you should be asking yourself why you are not doing it yet! It really is the best job in the world.

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