At the end of January I’ll be turning 26. There’s nothing remarkable about being 26, except that it’s the age my dad always says he knew he wanted to be a teacher. (Although if I’d also spent the last two years transporting bodies around hospitals, I imagine I’d be ready for a career change too.)
My dad retired a few years ago now, but with all the recent reports on teacher recruitment in the news, I can’t help but think about all the strange things he did for his job that the DfE don’t put in the adverts.
As a geography teacher, he would spend evenings crouched by the VCR ready to record news reports on the latest natural disaster for a class. Our family holidays were spent taking photos of water systems, mountain ranges and volcanoes to show pupils in the new term. He was even known to get marking done on Christmas Day. (Members of our school leader service can read our article on managing marking and still having a life).
Yet this doesn’t compare to the commitment he showed in his role as an assistant headteacher. Throughout my teenage years, Dad would arrive at school for 7:30 am to pick up litter from the road outside (maybe 7:35 if I was hogging the bathroom). He went without lunch from Monday to Friday to ensure there was an SLT presence in the playground, and would come home with a look of exasperation having spent an hour unblocking the flooded toilets or scrubbing graffiti from the walls of the underpass adjacent to the field, all because “somebody had to do it”.
(I realise at this point you might be thinking this is the worst advert ever for teaching, but bear with me).
Of course I’m prone to remember the odd things he did for his job: but to be fair, it was always totally clear to me why he did them.
He was able to spend every day sharing his love of geography with young minds, and got to connect with disengaged students in a way that gave them a better start in life. He would go miles (often literally) to support parents who could no longer get through to their teenagers, and was always excited about finding new ways to get students thinking about their options post-18. And, though he may not know it, his efforts didn’t go unnoticed. On the not-infrequent occasion I met students from his school and revealed my true identity, I often got the same response: “Oh yeah, your dad’s pretty cool for a teacher”.
In how many other professions can you really impact other people’s lives so much? In fact, it was his commitment to education that led me to start my own career here at The Key.
So I’ll leave anyone on the fence about becoming a teacher with the one thing he still says to me: “It’s the best job in the world, Marianne. Best job in the world”.