When I think of the many frustrations of my job, I wonder why it is that I am still here more than 25 years later.
We are not valued in our profession. Not in the terms that matter out there. When I look around at my colleagues, there is not one person who does not have at least a four-year degree. Many have added to their initial qualifications; there are two or three with PhD’s and a string of them have M-degrees either completed or in the process.
As the years pass, the focus has become more and more child-centered. I am all in favour of this: one only has to think back on the Dickensian days of vicious beatings by the beadle to know that it was wrong. Many of our fathers and brothers can relate horror stories of boarding school days and prefects who thought they were gods, meting out an unfair system of fagging and caning. Yet, when they found themselves in senior positions they perpetuated the violence, never thinking to put an end to it.
But what is left ? Teachers find themselves in classrooms overfilled. In an attempt to address the horrors of past regimes, those in power refuse or are powerless to assist teachers when it comes to issues of discipline.
Young teachers, straight out of the halls of academe and full of idealistic notions, are unable to cope with the increasing bureaucratic demands. And so, sooner rather than later, they are lost to teaching as they are won over by the lure of easy money which the four holidays a year in education cannot beat.
I know I have painted a bleak picture. So, why am I still here? Why is it that 25 years later, I still get up with a spring in my step each morning?
It’s because every day I am faced with the opportunity to make a difference. A young man, always in trouble with authority, has begun to pay attention in my class. Why? In his words: “Because you treat me like a human being”
No amount of money can give me the thrill that I get from seeing the light go on in the eyes of a teenager when they finally get it.
It’s still the only place I can see myself ten, even fifteen years from now.