The International Monetary Fund are in town. You can’t move for granite-faced white men wearing lanyards. So far I’ve spotted Standard Chartered and Barclays. I haven’t seen any building societies yet.
I ran past a banker this morning and our eyes locked onto one another as I lumbered towards him. He smiled benevolently at me, almost as if my running along this stretch of beautifully-paved promenade was somehow part and parcel of the economic order he was helping to further. I was affronted by this thought – my thought bestowed upon him at a glance. Therefore, I sought to counter it with a teacherly look of my own which spoke of nurturing in loco parental care and the betterment of humanity through the careful fostering of the values of the world’s children. [Pauses typing to do ‘Last Supper’ arms.]
We were locked in this furious tussle of eye contact (at least I was) for about five seconds, but they were five very pregnant seconds. They did in fact give birth to my tripping over a small wall about the height of my shins. I wear the two bruises as a kind of war wound won in a small skirmish on the battlefront between a compassionate cause (teaching) and a cold systematising bleakness (economics as realised by the IMF).
Yes, this was all happening in my mind alone. And yes, I am the sort of person who will blame ‘the banks’ for the size of my spoon in a restaurant (too big and it’s ‘conspicuous consumption gone mad’; too small and it’s ‘austerity fundamentalism’). Yes, either way, it’s all in my mind, and I get to eat the cake anyway (I just ask for another spoon).
What does any of this have to do with my #teacher5aday? Well, whilst I stand on the shoulders of dead hamsters, a man cannot live on hamsters alone. (Do hamsters have shoulders?) Those days are long behind me. I have bigger hamsters to fry (so to speak).
The #teacher5aday initiative comes around every few months to rescue me from a bitter, inward-looking midlife of muttering incoherently behind the backs of bankers and then falling over walls.
As I picked myself up on the other side of the wall, I dusted myself off and wondered at my reluctance to accept nuance and ambiguity, and my tendency to ground my opinions upon shaky foundations of assumption, folklore and us-and-themism. I’m a polar kind of guy. Show me a dichotomy and I’ll sit on it like it’s a see-saw, waiting gleefully for you to sit on the other end.
With that very much in mind, I was very pleased to see the blogs of both Labour Teachers and Conservative Teachers firing on all cylinders after the general election this year. It is healthy for non-teachers to know that our profession is a broad church and that we are as up for democratic debate as the next person (assuming the next person is not an intransigent ideologue). Speaking of ideologues, I consider myself a reformed ideologue (since falling over the wall). I’m taking each day at a time.
Since joining Twitter, and taking my first faltering steps into debate, I’ve enjoyed reading opinions that differ from my own. I’ve also enjoyed the process of refining my opinions and accepting the positions of others. I’m no relativist (not any more): I just accept that I’m wrong. Much of the time.
I’m going to make an effort to stay connected with those who disagree with me. And find ways to continue a healthy, mutually-respectful debate that inches us ever closer to a truth that enriches humanity. How bold. But why not be bold?
Balls to exercise. I have a marathon anecdote to last me the rest of my life. What more do I need? I’m still running, although I’m not really enjoying it as much as I used to. Especially not now that it seems to have morphed into ‘running with bankers’. For now, I’m running to ward off a beer belly. That’ll have to do, whilst I wait for a second, beer-propelled wind.
The first module of my MA damn near snapped my already-brittle mind. I’ve come through the other side with a very clear view that democracy is the most important principle to imbue in our student bodies, and that this should be done by example and not simply by teaching it. I’m quietly proud of my little thesis, and shall nurse it carefully (unlike my treatment of hamsters) until another, better one comes along.
I’m terrible at noticing things. I’ve mentioned before that I often look at my kids and think ‘My God, they’re massive!’ or ‘Which one’s that?’ I see them every day, but only rarely look at them. I get to see them learn and perform on their musical instruments; I read to them almost every night (Treasure Island is tough-going, I’ll admit – we stop frequently so that my kids can explain the nautical terms to me), but for some reason I don’t let the dust settle around them and properly look at them, or talk to them about things that might help them. I’m worried I may be one of those dads who rock up too late to try to tell their children ‘important things’ only to be politely directed back into the living room (as my brother and I did with our dad).
I take photos of my kids, I take pride in them, but there’s something missing in my interactions that bothers me. It’s almost as if I’ve learned parenting from the various cues I get on social networks. Sometimes I don’t know whether I should be feeding my children solid food (they are 8 and 12) or pouring buckets of ice-cold water over them (for charity or something). Either way, I can be secure in the knowledge that I’ll get it wrong.
I really enjoyed my little stint training as an ‘inspector’. It was definitely not an Ofsted-sponsored experience. The team that I inspected, as part of my training, were central in defining the scope of the inspection and, as a result, were open about their areas of concern. I learned a lot from them, and I hope they learned as much from me.
Teaching is a very open, honest and compassionate profession – when it is allowed to be so. I’m not sure what my next step will be, as a volunteer. I’ve begun to entertain delusions of grandeur that may entail volunteering for greater responsibility, but there are probably too many hamster skeletons in my closet.
However, my big promise to myself, based on this round of #teacher5aday analysis, is that I will stay connected with others, based not on their conforming to my expectations (good or ill); but simply by letting go of my assumptions. A relativist would accept everyone and nod to all. I won’t do that. I’ll argue the toss amicably, and hug at the end.
I’ll run with bankers and negotiate the route with them with a smile.