Have you ever dressed up as a stormtrooper?
Being a December child is murderous. Especially for teachers in schools that finish their year in December. Add to that the mounting anticipation for the launch of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and you’ve a volatile cocktail of childish excitement.
In the space of one week in December, my school year will end, I’ll go on holiday, Star Wars will be released, it’ll be my birthday, and then it will be Christmas. [breathes again and stifles fizzing nosebleed]
This miasma of too-much-excitement is conspiring to cultivate the most peculiar desire in me. I am in my forties with a wife and two children; my favourite novel is the magical realist classic, Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’; my favourite poets are William Blake and Sylvia Plath, and I want to dress up as a stormtrooper.
Shhh! Don’t laugh. I’m being serious. I’m browsing Amazon for costumes and… unless I want to look like the unfortunate shade in the picture above, it’s going to cost me more Imperial Credits than I can possibly justify.
Putting that iconic helmet on? Marching around? Getting shot quite easily and slumping back against the wall of a metallic grey tunnel? That’s the life for me.
Then I look back at the poor, silly man in the picture above. What was he thinking? Did he really want to look like a suggestion of a stormtrooper?! Did he pop onto Amazon and think, “I want a Star Wars upper body and a tiny helmet… and my work trousers’ll do”?
Granted, he’s made a bit of an effort with the helmet. Too small it may be, but its production values are well above the stencilled shirt, and miles above the recruitment consultant’s trousers. But, really: he’s not a stormtrooper, is he? At best, he’s a vision of what would happen if River Island won the Galactic Empire’s military clothing contract.
Metaphorically, he’s a v-neck sweater with a sewn-in shirt and tie; he’s a pair of trousers with pockets that don’t really open; he’s wallpaper that looks like a shelf lined with books; he’s pine effect, walnut dash and leatherette.
He is what teachers become when they are beholden to processes that diminish their ability to act with authenticity.
When you have to satisfy a requirement that takes precious time away from teaching and learning; when you have to do a task twice in order to provide evidence that you’ve done a task once; when you have to pretend to certainty… you are dressed like a budget stormtrooper: a sad synecdoche of the least well-camouflaged soldier in popular science fiction. And, as such, you’re an easy target for public ridicule.
My advice to you, once you’ve seen and cracked this veneer of credibility, is this: stay alert to the tasks that take you away from the children. Some necessarily support them by allowing you to improve your teaching and their learning via reflection and deliberation (yours and theirs). Some do nothing of the sort and merely lay a trail of paper and data from your laptop to a functionary who imagines a horde of baying taxpayers on his hunched shoulder.
Stay alert to the tasks that remove you unnecessarily from the child. And fight, tooth and nail, not to do them.
Then, and only then, will you have earned the right to don this: