I used to be an educationalist, but I jacked it in to become a teacher.
I used to develop educational content (yes, content) for a mobile network. Prior to that, I marketed (yes, marketed) educational books for a small publisher – I even got to write a bit of one.
I think we’re all entitled to voice our thoughts on education and schooling. After all, unless you were found in a reed bed, talking a self-created form of grass language, you probably went to a school of some description. Not least, many of us send our children to school (sometimes passing that reed bed and wondering what that chittering sound could be).
So we’re all touched by school in some way: we see teachers depicted in Hollywood film and Simply Red videos; and represented in the press with blankets over their heads, waving a placard or putting a child into a headlock. School, teaching, students, radiators, bins and tests are all as much a part of our daily life as beer, Page 3 or a dogwhistle-racist comment.
So we can all talk about school and have ideas about how to make it better.
When I worked for the mobile phone company (before I became a teacher), we made a video: our vision (if you will) of 21st Century learning. It depicted a five-year old in front of a plasma screen, watching some educational content. The video was soundtracked by Blur’s ‘The Universal’.
Now, I’m no literary theorist. But. (I’m also no great user of punctuation.) But I do think that most of the cultural content we generate says something important about us; often revealing dissonance in our cultural perception. In this case, we see a small child supposedly enraptured enough by some educational (presumably edutaining) content whilst we are serenaded with the soundtrack to a dystopian vision of universal, ignorant self-gratification. In a way, it was gracefully authentic. We’d simply said “Education, with us, could look like this.” But we’d, perhaps knowingly, suffixed it with “But it most definitely shouldn’t, because it wouldn’t work.”
Now I’m not saying that you need to be a teacher to talk with authority on matters of schooling. In fact I’m saying the opposite. I genuinely believe that teachers should devote their every kilojoule of burning peanut to their job. And that means not talking about their job.
I vividly remember a speech (at BETT) where Nicky Morgan told the audience of teachers that there were some great apps for automatically marking students’ work. I didn’t catch all of the speech – soundtracked as it was by Frank Zappa’s ‘The Central Scrutinizer’ – but I was pretty excited at the prospect of pointing my phone at a pile of short stories and equally grateful that educationalists should be covering my back.
Teachers shouldn’t really hold forth on schooling and education. For one thing, that would be a Busman’s Holiday – the very worst kind of holiday as Busmen attest (from their homes). Teachers talking about their profession should be called a Teacher’s Holiday (which are long enough, thank you very much).
I want people like Richard Branson or Guy Pearce (giving that disturbingly fascistic TED Talk in Prometheus) to talk more about how we should be making education more fitting to our age. I want to know what Maggie Philbin thinks about differentiation and I want to know what Phil Collins plans to do about phonics screening.
So, I think that everyone (except teachers now – because, like the rest of us, I am beholden to my own train of thought) is entitled to vent any old trite, anodyne tosh – about schooling, tests, teaching or future-jobs – that floats their free school.
To follow my own logic, since I’m a teacher and I’ve written myself out of the education debate, I best shut up now. Wouldn’t want to #dis/rupt.
Besides, this marking won’t do itself.
*points phone at short story*
*points phone at short story*
“It really, really, really could happen.”