Friday, September 21, 2018

Having been a teacher

I used to be a teacher, a primary school teacher, but unlike some of my colleagues I don't really think of myself in that way any longer. I've often heard people in teacher education say 'I'm still a teacher, really' meaning that they don't really consider themselves to be a lecturer, an academic or a researcher - part of them is still in the classroom. It's one of those funny things about identity, no matter what you actually are, it's what you think you are that counts, that guides you or gives you anchorage. Moving into a university environment relatively early in my career and into research rather than teacher education perhaps gives me some distance from the classroom and helped to forge my particular professional identity. I think of myself as an education academic, researcher and writer rather than a teacher. Of course a lot of my work is still rooted in schools and classrooms but I'm not a teacher, although I could probably still do it - at a stretch. As a result, visiting a school I used to teach in, as I did last week, was quite a strange affair. Now I've been visiting schools most of my working life and so going in, signing the little touchscreen and wandering around was all quite familiar. That said, the usual sort of atmosphere and environment was in this case overlaid with a memory of how things looked forty years ago, which teachers used to teach in each classroom and a strange bodily sensation of standing again where I'd stood many times before, separated only by the passage of time. And in amongst all this I could just about recall something of what it was like to be a teacher or at least to feel like a teacher. Never mind the fact that they'd closed down some of the spaces we'd opened up, and that looking around it all seemed far more old-fashioned than it had forty years ago - there was an embodied memory. But there were also stories - histories if you like, readily prompted by the shape of a particular room, the look of a corridor, a doorway or stairwell. These were stories about people all of whom seemed to have disappeared without trace. In fact it was if they'd all been wiped out, all except for the young teacher, a contemporary of mine, who'd taken his own life. For a small plaque announced that a large and colourful mural had been commissioned in his memory and a riotous assembly of characters from children's literature clambered up one wall - just dull brickwork in former times. It was a fitting tribute. Of course no-one in the school had the faintest idea who he was, but it was moving to think that he'd left his mark in the way that nobody else had, even though we were all teachers once.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.