So, by way of a huge clerical error that resulted in an entire PR team losing their jobs, I found myself at the TES Schools Awards in London on Friday. Dressed in a suitably suave trouser/shirt combo that was most definitely not a last minute rush from Primark after realising that ink-stained corduroy might not cut it in the company of actual real grown-up people, I got to spend a bit of time with some good teacher folk and folk who have a vested interest in education and feel vaguely guilty about not being at work until finishing my second glass of fizzy wine, where at that point I came to the slow realisation that it wasn’t a sure bet that anyone at my place would actually notice that I wasn’t there.
I met up with a number of people who I know off The Twitter who were kind enough not to call security after I kept prodding them repeatedly to check they were real, had a chat with some of the sparkly-eyed professionals up for an award and spectacularly failed in trying to get Hugh Dennis to say ‘Milky, milky…lovely’ into my phone so I could use it as a ringtone.
I was sat with mostly TES staff during the ceremony (perhaps so they could rapidly and violently form a human pyramid on top of me if I tried waving my phone in Hugh’s face again) and also, by a cruel twist of fate, a high-ranking member of Ofsted. In a room full of teachers. With wine on every table. I don’t know what he’d done to get the gig, but it must’ve been pretty naughty for his bosses to want to have him ‘disappeared’.
Awards were accepted and speeches were given including an extremely moving one by the daughter of Anne Maguire who was stabbed to death by a pupil whilst doing her job. I teach in Leeds which is where Anne taught but I never met her. Listening to her daughter speak so honestly and with such incredible composure, I wish I had.
The day went on and so did the celebrations. It was fun and it was glitzy and it was a chance for people to kick back and party. Any residual discomfort I may have felt at such public displays of joy and frivolity (on a school day an’ all) was put to rest by a member of the TES’ design team who had drawn the short straw and had the misfortune of sitting next to me and watch me devour the leftover pudding that, for some reason, people were not eating. He said this:
“These things are usually for actors or sports people with loads of money who are used to it. At least here it’s for something worthwhile.”
And he was right. Any recognition of teaching in a positive light is sadly so far out of the ordinary that it can feel distinctly alien. And a public celebration of teachers and teaching? I’m surprised such a thing is even allowed. We’re so used to hiding our light under a bushel then burying that bushel as not to draw attention that there might be a light under it that something as simple as an awards ceremony can collective guilt-trip us. That or make us ever so slightly paranoid that halfway through the event an alarm will sound, the doors will automatically shut and lock and those trapped inside will be subject to a severe programme of ‘re-education’ for daring to have a bit of fun and not be at work.
To combat these feelings I promised myself that I would learn something during my day so if the Re-Education Inspectors asked, I could always say I was doing some research. So here are a couple of factoids I gathered:
- When speaking to journalists, apparently you don’t have to say ‘this is off the record’ at the start of every sentence. It doesn’t really apply when they’re asking you if you have any kids and such and makes you sound like a tool.
- Hotel bars in London are expensive. Imagine what you think I mean by ‘expensive’. Double that.
- When there’s drink to be drunk, teachers get krunk.
And you know what? Good. Everyone’s got to let their hair down some time.