Something has happened in my professional life to which I will allude but, in keeping with my status as an educational Secret Squirrel, I will not divulge a great deal. Suffice to say, a mantle of fear has lifted from my shoulders and I am rediscovering the professional joy of being present with my students.
Something has changed. A darkness has departed and I can now see into every corner of my classroom. Where once I might have thought firstly of the opinions of others, I find myself dizzy with a new liberty to change tack, respond more naturally and, in essence, be myself.
A preoccupation with veneer and impression has vanished. I am glorying in an interregnum of authenticity. My lessons have a looseness to them, a shoulder-rolling improvisational brio that had been stifled by fear of the opinions of significant others. Understand that by looseness I do not mean fag packet-planned or thoughtless and unintentional: I mean that time spent preoccupied with what stakeholders beyond the student fret over has, for the moment, completely dispersed, and I am free to focus on journeys and worry less about destinations.
Simple things, like the shoes I wear or the way I comb my hair, have become my choice again. There is no one on my shoulder. No one is interested, as long as the children are learning and I am teaching. The lightness is almost unbearably blissful and this bliss is seeping, like rivulets of spring rain, into the thirsty earth of my professionalism.
I know it won’t last forever (what does?), but I hope never to forget this sense of release. This is a purple patch, an upswing: a temporary biorhythmic bell-curve, perhaps. But it has taught me this: if you want me to care for your children, put them at the centre of your Venn, the top of your pyramid, the height of your stake. Don’t crowd out the child with false proxies and irrelevant stakeholders.
Yes, the stakes remain high, but for whom now? For a time now: only for me and for the child. And that is manageable enough for any sane human.
There are no easy lessons and my lesson has been one of the hardest of my life so far. But it has blessed me with a knowledge of shared freedom and the gift of accountability to children.
So, to the jackals and the hyenas of our profession, I say thank you. And goodbye. Your diminished signifance has created a vast new space in my mind.
And – God’s eye! – it is full of children.