I had a quite an emotional chat today with a 62 year old teacher named Bernie. Now Bernie teaches Physics. He has taught Physics for 39 years. God knows how many young men and women he has shared his knowledge and understanding of Newton’s Laws of Motion, Interference of Waves or Quarks and Antiquarks to, but he is tired of doing it.
He is tired of doing it, not because he is old and no longer has the enthusiasm to do it, but because he feels that the profession he has joined has fundamentally changed. When he trained as a teacher, he explained, he was told that his job was to try and impart the understanding of ‘complex ideas to students’. You were a successful teacher when you could do that, challenge a students intellect, make them understand these new concepts and get them a qualification in it. He loves Physics and he loves teaching Physics. Today he feels he has to also be a moral guide, social worker, friend and wet nurse as well as a Physics Teacher. He neither has the inclination or the willingness to do this. It’s not what he signed up for.
He feels PRP and CPD is an insult to him, someone who has spent almost 4 decades trying to master his craft. Last year, he had to sit through an hour of CPD on how QR Codes would revolutionise the teaching profession. Once he found out what it was, he was both amused and exasperated at same time. A waste of an hour, by someone leading CPD who probably didn’t have a single clue how a computer worked or communicated, telling him that a 2D barcode would ‘transform’ his teaching. He questions why he hasn’t had CPD in lesson planning, behaviour management, marking, effective feedback or support to further his subject knowledge. The fundamentals he believes to great teaching. It is what he learnt when he trained as a teacher and everything he has experienced in his time hasn’t changed that outlook but only confirmed it.
I asked Bernie why he hadn’t brought this up with SLT. They were responsible for delivering CPD and they should be trying to deliver what staff want and need, I perhaps said naively. His response shocked me. He had not been spoken to by a member of the SLT for over 18 months, so felt that they wouldn’t care about his thoughts. That he was past his sell by date, archaic and dinosaur. I didn’t know what to say, other than he should take it as a compliment if he was being compared to dinosaur. They are one of the most successful species in the history of the planet for over 150 million years. I’m not sure this brought him much comfort and I think the profession will be a lesser place without him. How could a profession like ours, treat someone who has given up most of his life to educating children, like this?
However Bernie’s words do seem a cautionary tale to me, especially about my enthusiasm to be involved in things I know little about, and push ideas onto others I haven’t first tested myself. I must try not to get caught up in the latest fad, question what I see and hear and ensure that I spend more time on the fundamental cornerstones of good teaching; lesson planning, behaviour management, marking and feedback.