Celebrate the unseen successes of your teaching year

graduating student jumps for joy

We are at the end. Some of us are already on the beach, or erecting tented shelter at festivals and campgrounds, or just enjoying the sun in the back garden.

At this time, we all take stock of the past year and make summer promises for dedicating future adventures and the fulfilment of personal goals.

This year, when I look back – before looking forward – I acknowledge one thing: I’m still here.

It’s an undeniable privilege to work with young people, although rarely would many use the word ‘privilege’, even on a good day.  We probably only see these children for 30% of the week but our sway is significant.  I remember being asked to be a godfather to a sixth form pupil of mine.  Of course, I couldn’t be.  Too many conflicts.  I remember the concrete stillness it gave me when I considered the reasons.  Little did I know the effect a few words had had on that pupil two years previously.  Little did I know where that pupil had truly been then, and wasn’t now.

That was a high. A moment to fasten on to. No certificate, no card, no email, just a memory that will do little for any data required by career progress and pay threshold meetings.

If only we knew, highs would rise to the surface thick and fast.  Rarely will we know the impact on the children we work with.

Each child coming to us comes with a story.  Some of those stories will have shared themes and it can be easy to forget that the child lives their story alone, and innocent of the generic experience.  It’s easy to fit them into a set criteria.  I often share with PGCE students simple truths: All children want to like you and want you to like them.

There is one take-away here: children want a relationship with us and that’s the first thing we need before pulling out textbooks, and purple pens.  Some of them may not know what that looks like, so stumble, fall and irritate; some may look for this inappropriately and risk unwittingly being burnt when they cross the line; some may simply sit there, quietly waiting for us to stretch out the olive branch.  Some relationships are easier than others, but each deserves the opportunity.

There are many lessons to be learned.  The rawest lesson I learnt was that I know there are children alive today because years ago I chose to keep myself alive.  There will be people in our lives we never learn are alive because we are alive.

Talk of our profession can never be escaped.  If it’s not the media and the latest scandal, it’s Minister A, B or C twittering from the shadows, it’s the slouch in the pub who had a bad deal at school, or it’s a toxic academy empire scrutinising us from upon high.

Everyone has an opinion on our profession. Almost everyone has had a school education and remembers fondly, or not so fondly their time.  All, apparently, know how it’s done, and few rarely attest to the fact they couldn’t, wouldn’t and shouldn’t spend their days with children.

This summer, breathe some freedom, eat well and read at least one book you’ve been promising yourself. And toast those toes and raise a glass to successes unseen and unknowable.

For these are the successes that do us the most credit.

About the author

Tin Can TeacherI’ve worked in education for 20 years. I’ve spent time teaching abroad, lectured in drama at university, and now I spend my time teaching English at secondary and sixth form level. I currently work away from home during the week, living in the back of my ageing VW T4, just to teach at an exemplary school with exemplary colleagues and kids ever ready for banter and haircut jokes. I write a blog chronicling the rather strange circumstances of all this at www.tincanteacher.blog and you can find me on twitter.

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