I am now roughly half way through my teacher training year. At this point, I feel largely competent as a teacher. I have successfully completed two parent’s evenings and been able to discuss their children’s progress without feeling like a charlatan. I am taking a class through their GCSEs and they are producing brilliant work. I am seeing students develop week by week, improving their skills and making massive leaps ahead in the quality of their writing and analysis of literature. My drama class have blossomed hugely; from wallflowers they have become magnificent little actors and insightful critics. Every day I am amazed at the talent of the children I teach, and I feel such an immense pride in them.
This has been the most surprising aspect of teaching for me; I had no idea how deeply emotionally involved I would become with my students. I care about each and every one of them, and I am so excited by the potential they have to become wonderful, thoughtful adults who will make great waves in the world. This is no ordinary job, where you go home and don’t need to think about it until the next day; these children have worked their way into my heart, and my relationship with them is so much more than just someone who chats to them about books. This is the most amazing thing about teaching; you get to be part of hundreds of little people’s lives every day. They tell you things about themselves that they are too afraid to tell anyone else. You tell them things that open their eyes to possibilities they have never considered before. You have the ability to make a child feel worth something, sometimes for the first time. It’s an incredibly powerful responsibility, bound up in so much more than exam results and detentions. Becoming a teacher has, more than anything else, taught me about the importance of taking the time to care.
This month I found out that my favourite teacher from secondary school had died. When my friend told me, I was surprised to find myself welling up with tears. I was distraught to think that this wonderful, vibrant, compassionate and deeply caring woman who had invested so much time in me at school had gone without me ever really taking the opportunity to tell her how much she had meant to me. She gave me the confidence to study French at A Level, and gave me extra tuition when I struggled. When I didn’t get into my chosen university, she picked me up, dusted me down, and told me to apply to her alma mater because she thought I would love it. She was right; I did. She told me that I was brilliant, that she was proud of me, that I was going to go far in life. She gave me the gift of self confidence at a time when I felt anything but. I took it for granted that it was her job to care about me, but now I am a teacher myself, I realise that it absolutely wasn’t.
Teachers get paid to teach and produce results. They don’t get paid to spend hours after school supporting students who need extra tuition. They don’t get paid for the missed break and lunchtimes consoling sobbing students. They don’t get paid for the sleepless nights worrying about kids who are obviously having a terrible time at home. They don’t get paid for spending their evenings checking university applications or coming up with exciting activities to deliver in extracurricular clubs. They don’t get paid for it, but they do it anyway. It’s not in their job descriptions, but they do it anyway. Why? Because they care. Looking back, I can now realise how much I was cared about by my teachers, and it is such a joy to be able to pay that forward to a new generation. In my classroom this week, as I have consoled students, sorted out bullying issues, given extra tuition and run extracurricular clubs, I have often thought about my lovely French teacher and how she did just the same thing for me and my friends, and many more students before and after us besides. She never had children herself, but I like to think that, in a way, part of her is living on in me. Without her, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I only wish I had taken the time to tell her so. I hope she knew how marvellous she was. And I hope that my students will one day look back and feel the same way about me, too.