End-of-year reflections

As we approach the end of 2017, it is normal to reflect on the year gone past, and what a year it’s been for me. There have been milestones and setbacks along the way, but more importantly, an enormous amount of learning.

One of the setbacks is that my teacher training journey has come to an end. I am now footloose and fancy free. I don’t really know what the future holds for me. This is a bit of a crossroad moment, but I’m embracing it for what it is. As one door closes, another one will open – I just don’t know where or what this door looks like yet. In retrospect, it was always going to be a big ask to fit my square peg, free-thinking self into the round hole that is teacher training. I’m in no hurry to look up the listings on UCAS for another go at this particular merry-go-round.

On the upside, I’ve just had an honourable mention on Schools Week’s Top Blogs of the Year. For this, I have to thank Andrew Old, who very kindly wrote these words about me:

Finally, my honourable mention is History Lover, who has been writing at historylover.uk since earlier this year.

This is a blog from a trainee teacher. I have to admit, she was going to be my first choice, but a lot of her more controversial posts have been removed, which perhaps tells us something about how difficult it is for new teachers to speak freely.

However, there are still enough of her posts available to get a flavour of her insight into the value of history and the nature of teaching.

I am very pleased and flattered that my blog has received the attention it has. When I first started writing it, I wasn’t sure whether my opinions had value or if they would chime with the education community in any way. I just felt that I had things to say, and I found comfort in getting them off my chest. I may not have reached the heights of some top bloggers, but there have been some positive reactions from people I hold in high esteem. What more could I ask?

Of course, not all the reaction has been positive. There are some malicious people out there, masquerading as warriors of truth and justice. By aiming all this vitriol at me, what good have they achieved? None as far as I can see. However, I must not complain. What has been levelled at me is small change compared to the hate spewed at Andrew Old, whose blog, ‘Scenes From The Battleground’, casts a forensic eye on the big issues in education today. The honesty in that blog, along with the depth of its analysis, makes it a priceless resource for anybody in education. No school leader worth their salt should be in ignorance of the issues that he raises. If anybody has their finger on the pulse of education, it’s Andrew. You may not always agree with his conclusions, but there is no denying he has thought deeply about what he writes, and that his motives are the same as ours – us decent people – the betterment of education for all in this country.

So aim your poisonous darts at us. They might cause us a moment’s pain but they can’t deter us from doing what we think is right. I entered education for all the right reasons: because I wanted to help improve the education of the children in my care and because I felt I had something of value to impart.

I’ve always thought of myself as fairly average. Or rather, I felt there was something special in me but the world around me didn’t acknowledge it, and this sowed the seeds of doubt. I did well enough at school but I never excelled. My teachers didn’t see anything particularly special in me – at least that was my impression. That’s understandable, as for most of my youth, I struggled to communicate the thoughts I had in my head. Quite often, it felt like there was a wall between the real me and the public me. That’s probably why I found Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Villete’ so powerfully moving, though of course, my experience was a far happier one. The insight, that there is often so much more to a person than what they present to the world, has never left me. It’s one of the good things I think I bring to teaching. By blogging, I’ve been able to rise above that wall, and express myself freely. The number of people who follow me and read my blogs are testament that what I have to say is of interest, and hopefully of value. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have been positive about my writing, and encouraged me to go on.

At school, I had good, bad and average teachers, but what they all had in common was deep knowledge of their subject. I was very fortunate to attend private schools, apart from my early years in Geneva, so perhaps my experience isn’t that typical, but my image of teachers was always one of people who were very knowledgeable. It was rather a shock, therefore, when through my son’s education journey at school, I encountered teachers who did not fit that image I had. I shall never forget this note I received from one of my son’s teachers (a deputy head no less).

This note galvanised me. It came after a string of communications littered with spelling and grammatical mistakes had come to my attention. My thought was this. No educated, highly literate person in charge of the education of our children should be writing to such a low standard. Perhaps, the world of education needed more people like me. Perhaps there was a positive contribution I could make here. Some months later, I obtained my first job in school, working as a teaching assistant. That was two years ago.

Despite the ups and downs, I have loved working with children. Yes they have been challenging but they also make the job worthwhile. I was prepared to put up with a lot of aggro just for the privilege of being in the classroom and teaching. Make no mistake, it is a privilege. Being able to shape young minds and broaden their horizons is a wonderful thing. I hope to be in a classroom somewhere again soon, even if I have to start at the bottom of the school hierarchy all over again. I don’t know whether that would be in a primary or a secondary setting. It has become increasingly clear that attainment gaps start in the early years, and I do want to place myself where my talents are put to best use.

I am also, in the meantime, writing a KS3 history book (as discussed here), which will be my blueprint or manifesto for how I would wish to teach my subject. I don’t discount in the longer term, writing a KS2 history book. My big wish is to work somewhere that has the vision and ambition for its pupils that I can embrace, and somewhere that can embrace me, in all my free-thinking square peg ways. Many many years ago, I despaired of ever finding a partner who was a good fit for me, but I did, and we have just celebrated our ten year anniversary. In the same vein, it might take a while but I won’t despair of finding a school that’s the right fit for me. I know it’s out there somewhere (or maybe in the pipeline?) If what I write chimes with you, do get in touch.

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