Performance and Paper

There are two sides to this job. Because I’m an English teacher, I like to think of them in terms of vague, woolly and ever- so- slightly pretentious analogy. So lets do that (stay with me on this people, things are about to get a little wiggy).

The first side, or ‘The Actor’, deals with the classroom stuff; interaction with students, the ‘performance’ of teaching, behaviour management and so forth. Out at the front, easily visible, extrovert, vaguely annoying, wears a tie-dye head-scarf.

Then there’s ‘The Accountant’. Responsible for the paperwork; marking, record keeping, form filling etc. Doesn’t get out much, rarely seen, pale, great attention to detail, likes table-top games with many-sided dice.

These two distinct parts wrapped up in one highly-skilled and difficult-to-perform role often lead to the type of duality that Harvey Dent would be proud of:

Heads, I give you an A*. Tails, I shoot you in the face.

Thanks Harvey.

It’s a duality that I’ve struggled with in my own career. To put it bluntly, I’m better at being The Actor than I am The Accountant. To put it even more bluntly, I actively dislike The Accountant. He’s boring and he smells funny. If he was real and not an ill-defined teaching metaphor he and I would not go for mid-week drinks. I enjoy laughing and fun and having a life whereas he enjoys self-sacrifice, accuracy and getting things right first time. Geek.

Then there’s The Actor. Now that’s someone I wouldn’t mind sharing some time with down the local (if it wasn’t for the ridiculous headscarf, mind). Brave, outgoing, funny, ready to talk and listen, able to gauge and adapt to a range of situations. My kind of figurative construct.

Other teachers are different. They are more Accountant than Artist.They see The Artist as flighty, egotistical and really in need of doing a proper day’s work, (preferably in front of an Edexcel spreadsheet). It’s the behind the scenes guy doing all the work that allows them to shine. So who’s in the right? Well, here’s the rub:

In my own experience (which is all I’ve got to offer on this blog, no evidence-based examples here so don’t be asking for any references, capiche?) the creative classroom side and the paperwork side are just about equal. Whether that’s right or not doesn’t change the fact that it’s true and something that needs to be accepted right at the start if you’re not going to go completely looney tunes. The Artist and The Accountant accepted it a long time ago. They bonded (because of, not despite their polarised personalities and their mutual hatred of the cramped living condition inside my skull) and have been happily married for some time and often go down the pub with each other without my knowledge. They spend a lot of time taking the mickey out of my rants about the ‘unfairness’ and ‘tick box exercises’ because they know that in the world outside my head, that’s the job. They are bloody ingrates and they’ve never even shouted me a ginger wine.

I may hang on Tie-Dye’s every word and berate Dungeons and Dragons without mercy but in the long run, it does me no favours. If you treat this hallowed profession with the respect it deserves then you better not have a favourite to the detriment of the other because you’ll start relying too heavily on one when you’re in a scrape and believe me, you don’t want The Actor filling in your end of year tax returns:

“What’s my motivation?”
“Poverty you good-for-nothing beatnik!”
“But if we just make them laugh, show them that through art we can…”
“WE. ARE. GOING. TO. STARVE.”

For me there is no harmony to this duality. It’s a jarring, grand-canyon size fissure that is easy to plummet into like Wile.E.Coyote, but there should be no sidestepping, ducking or hiding in the PE cupboard and locking the door. You’ve got to do the paperwork and you’ve got to perform. Not only that, you’ve got to get good at both. Once you get good, you can get fast and be discerning and those two things mean more time for the aforementioned fun and family and such. Problem is, those things tend to come with time and experience (and that’s a subject for another blog.)

What it comes down to is that this strange and wonderful profession has different facets. There’s a lot to cover and some of it seems boring or unnecessary or out of the comfort zone. In fact a lot of it is unnecessary. Just try not to use that as an excuse to neglect either The Artist or The Accountant.

You may well need them someday.

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