I like teaching, I am a natural – if there is such a thing. I should rephrase that, I like hanging out with kids who are changing and developing in front of my eyes. Both my parents were teachers. My mother was amazing. I use to go to her classroom when the high school holidays started before primary ones. My sister and I watched my Dad lecture and my main memory is putting my hands up every time he asked the students a question- I don’t remember any of my lecturers asking us questions.
I didn’t want to be a teacher I knew how much work it is. The emotional commitment. Mum was a natural teacher I never heard her raise her voice at school as she never needed to. Mum treated all her students like they were the best thing in the world even when they had rivers of snot and seemed, to my teenage self, stupid and icky. The first child I looked after was Alexander Young (he was 3) and we connected as people who liked and respected each other and that set the pattern for how I related to kids. I have since looked after kids I have had to learn to relate to, to find that connection. I still have to ‘work at it’. Mostly this is easy as when I’m doing the school holiday programme, for instance, it really makes me happy and I am totally living in the moment, I feel uplifted, I have flow… then when there is a hiccup, and even when there isn’t, I can help but reflect on my day, my role, afterwards and what could have been done better. I’ve worked out tricks for the holiday programme. I have to make sure that I’m on the sign in desk so I attach a name to a face. I’ll know I’ve seen the face before and remember some aspect of the child but not their name..then when some kind of connection is made we are good for the day. Sometimes it’s the parents and knowing who needs some kind of affirmation that their kid is recognised as an individual and will be looked after. I size up the new kids, it’s amazing what you can get out of their 5 minutes of signing in.
I looked in a classroom the other day and it made me go all cold. All the trappings. The kids stuff on the wall, learning intention, lists, timetables etc. I’m no good at that. If that is teaching I am not a natural. Suddenly the Montessori idea of clean walls and no visual clutter is attractive. I have no motivation to do what looks like teaching to the outside word, certainly other teachers/schools. I don’t want a classroom like that. Looking in that very typical classroom (so indistinct from others but in the school I became a teacher so I could work at due it’s location) I was overwhelmed by my inadequacy.
There are always things to work on – like giving kids long enough to make decisions then answer and I always need to work on when to butt out. When I was a nanny my goal was to be mostly invisible, to have the kids pleased to see me, enjoying what we were doing, to do fun stuff (my references say educational stuff) but at the same time not to be essential because I could leave. It’s the same with teaching. I don’t want to be inspirational because my hand in everything should be unseen. The child needs to believe it was their idea (even when they have a little help or push) and that it was their agency that directed all the learning. They should know my name and that I am fair and just but little else. There are always kids who want more than my studied? casual manner, some kind of intimacy and perhaps even advice but I don’t do that, that’s hard even with my own child. Certainly they should not need me as it’s not about me.
What I like is the noise and the chaos that isn’t really chaos but what you get when the creative geniuses are doing their stuff and I’m just observing letting it wash all over me, being lifted up by their flow, enthusiasm and joy.