Due to various push and pull factors (one of them being the need to study political economy thoroughly) I am planning to take a whole year's leave in 2010. This got me thinking as to what I would say to my teaching colleagues at the inevitable staff meeting if I was retiring. I've watched all those other teachers retire and now it's (almost) my turn. Since I'm not I won't get to give the speech but here's a draft of some thoughts about it (short version). btw I'm a secondary teacher.
The life of the soldier has been described as long periods of boredom interspersed with short periods of terror.
aside: maybe the life of some students is more like that of the soldier than the teacher but these days more accurately described as long periods of boredom (as in "this is boring") punctuated by long periods of playing with their mobile phones. If I was to resort to uncharacteristic sarcasm then I might describe them as the you-twit-face generation (thanks rob!), the achievement of dynamic overlap of you tube, twitter and facebook.
At any rate, for the last cottage industry, teaching is the most contradictory of professions
- magic - the magic of a great lesson
- the almost magic of the almost great lesson - where after describing the wonders of the Hubble telescope penetrating the mysteries of the Universe, a student comes out the front, you think you have inspired him to ask a deep question, but instead s/he says "Can I go to the toilet?"
- discovery - the continual discovery of new learning ideas and new student personalities, in the final analysis teaching is a great privilege
- the need for courage - unexpected confrontation, sometimes serious, can and do strike from a clear blue sky. I didn't realise that Nietzsche was a teacher in a Disadvantaged school until I saw this quote: "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger"
- frustration and aggravation - aka the Department and their representatives
- attrition - in the end it wears you down
On the magic days it's the best job in the world. On the need for courage days you wonder why the hell am I doing this
Best story. At the end of an excursion one teacher explained to me that when she went to primary school in her class there was a cupboard labelled "teachers cupboard". She thought that at the end of the school day after the kids had gone home that the teacher got into her cupboard and waited there until the next day!
Best compliment. One student once nicknamed me the detective. I asked why and he said, "You never give up on a case"
(in house anecdotes left out)