This week it’s open evening, that time in the college year where having already worked an 8 hour shift, you rearrange your room put out your best resources and prepare to sell your product for the next 3 hours. As I prepare to meet my first students and their parents I admit to feeling mentally and physically drained. However 5 minutes in and I’m buzzing: the energy has come, ‘the spirit is upon me’ and I’m communicating with passion about my area.
Actually that’s not too hard. You see, I really do believe in the product that I’m selling. I have the privilege of teaching Religious Studies and Philosophy. These subjects tackle the great questions we face as human beings, they teach us how to think and more importantly, to think for ourselves. They enable us to understand each other and give us the courage to argue our views with clarity. In fact if I ever get to the point where I am no longer excited by discussing the ultimate questions of life, please take me outside and have me shot! This product that I’m selling is a fantastic product.
I’m not knocking maths, it’s important but whenever I have faced a big decision in my life or career. – it hasn’t been decided by calculus. I love literature and reading but don’t the great novels lead us back to the ultimate questions. I respect science but scientists are not gods and there are plenty of big picture ethical questions that must be addressed. I repeat, this is a great product.
Of course there are frustrations in education. There are systems that reduce your creativity, policies made by those far away who have not set foot in a classroom since they were at school. Sometimes there are lazy students, unreasonable parents, crazy deadlines but these things come and go. So long as the main thing is the main thing and I’m in a department and a college where good teachers day in and day out teach their subjects with enthusiasm, that’s enough.
If you may permit an analogy, think of the roast dinner. You anticipate it, look forward to it, then out it comes and you enjoy it. It is a great product. However when you go into the kitchen it may look quite a mess. Dishes are dirty, there is a slight smell of burning and the chef is gathering a roastie off the floor courtesy of the 5 second rule. Nevertheless you get a great roast dinner. Similarly when you analyse the kitchen that is my classroom, our exam results, and various other things you may find that all is not perfect, I never said it was, just that what I’m selling you overall is a great product.
How can I be so sure? It’s seeing what students we’ve taught go on to do, receiving thank you cards and emails, bumping into former students and finding out what they have gone on to do. On darker days when you are knee deep in spreadsheets these are the things to remember.
You see, one thing we have in education and in this subject in particular is the sense that you make a difference and genuinely transform lives around you. Whether I do this for another 20 years or tomorrow is my last day, I know I have done something worthwhile. Please buy Religious Studies and Philosophy, they’re both fantastic products.