I'm Not Disappointed, I'm Just Angry (Introduction)
I am a teacher. Or at least I think I still am. Before I started this profession I had literally no idea what I was in for. I know many people out there who still think that teachers sit behind their desks from 9 until 3 and then clock off and head home for a bit of fifteen to one but these days, this couldn't be further from the truth. Before I started I couldn't imagine starting at 0730 and working straight through to 6 or 7 at night without a break. Couldn’t imagine the commute, couldn’t imagine walking into the 0745 meeting and trudging out the same old tired lines to the same old tired faces, couldn’t imagine standing at the gate and faking a ‘Good Morning’ to every grumpy, crumpled, old-before-their-time teenage face that would sidle by silently to the cheeriest of greetings and then be the first to scream and shout if their little boo-boo wasn’t kissed or if someone said something about someone’s mum, or – God forbid, the nuclear option – someone’s nan. I just couldn’t do it.
Being a teacher has changed me. Irrevocably in some ways. During the holidays I actually return to some vaguely human state. Gone is the inertia, gone is the mini-Hitler barking orders at a ridiculous rate to my three small boys and back comes the fuck-it-let’s-make-a-den-in-the-kitchen-eat-pizza-and-watch-the-greatest-showman-just-don’t-tell-mummy dad I’d always wanted to be and, for the briefest of times before work swallowed me, was. I am reminded of that advert for holidays where a man dives into a pool a monster and magically exits a... well, a man. One previous colleague mischievously used this as his leaving speech with his grinning gammon Scotch-egg face badly photoshopped onto the unfortunate star of the commercial’s fizzog and I just didn’t get it then. I tutted and sidled up to others who were rolling their eyes. I questioned his commitment and in doing so re-enforced mine. I sold another piece of my soul to the machine.
Teachers are their own worst enemies. I can remember myself and one other NQT rapidly running alongside a senior member of staff’s car pointing at our watches as he had the temerity to leave at 4. Probably wanted to get home to see his wife and kids. Or to take his beta blockers and anti depressants. Lightweight. This is not the only problem, I know of teachers who spend hours on marking as they feel it benefits the kids or perhaps they are made to feel the need to by management. They are then dismissed by others as being ‘martyrs’ and belittled by staff and other students. Other colleagues constantly buy things for classrooms at enormous cost to themselves, many work extra hours at weekends, almost all answer emails and phone calls outside of hours not to mention the unending phone calls and letters to parents which is followed by the inevitable ‘That bloody school...’ I know of one case not so long ago where I found two colleagues phoning 101 to report children missing under instruction from their parents. The remit of a teacher is now so wide that the basic role of the parent is now incorporated in many day-to-day aspects of the job. We feed ‘em, we clothe ‘em, we teach ‘em manners and if they don’t pass their GCSEs it’s our fault too. We escort ‘em home, we pay for taxis and sort buses, manned by our own staff to get ‘em to school and while they’re there we sort out their disagreements and fights, their need for tampons, credit for mobile phones, bus fares, medication, sight and hearing tests and in some cases attention, discipline and love.
The one thing I’ve learned from all of my 13 (not a lot I know but Jesus it’s aged me) years in education is the consequences of things. Equal and opposite and all that. The same reason I have to wipe up that fondant spill from my eldest before the baby traipses it everywhere or properly cartoon ‘Home Alone’ style stacks it and I have to explain to A and E why I’m a degenerate unfit parent. Everything and nothing matters all at the same time. Reader - this is what broke me. (I’m not going to use that device again. Or maybe I will - it’s my bloody book).
Rant over. I need some sort of early warning system for when I get preachy. A soapbox blocker. I’ll try to warn you if a preachy bit is coming up but they are hard to see on the horizon – in the blur of a normal day anything can hit you before you even know you’re in the road. That is the beautiful dichotomy of teaching. That is why I, and millions of others, love the job. That is why so many make the treks everyday so that some kids can feel like someone looks out for them. I’ve gone from a keen as mustard trainee, through the various hoops of middle management and landed as a hollow husk of an Assistant Principal. I’ve taught in the affluent suburbs of London, the paedophile capital of the South Coast, a faith school straddling the most deprived and most affluent areas of the south coast and one of the most socially deprived and racially mixed schools in the country (‘challenging’ and ‘vibrant’ are the PC words to use) and through a variety of state and academised schools. I hope these chapters go some way to showing you the amazing work that teachers and support staff up and down this country under increasingly difficult odds and with a horrific media-campaign against them. I hope these chapters will help me forgive myself for taking time away from these people and from the children who need every adult in their lives to stand up and stand by them. But mostly, I hope these chapters go some way to showing you the reality of what turmoil state education in the UK is in and why it is so important to keep this vital, fragile, dying system out of the hands of politicians who feed the flower but not the serpent under’t.
 An NQT is a Newly Qualified Teacher. This is usually accompanied by a knowing ‘oh’ when talking to parents which is shorthand for ‘oh that’s why they’re shit’.