Reading

I’m an English teacher so it’s not a brilliant thing to admit that I have rarely read a book on the subject of education in the last 10 years. But I haven’t…so yeah.

In my defence there are a few reasons for this:

Firstly (and most importantly) I’m a sexy teaching maverick and reading is for squares.

Secondly, it’s a bit of a hang up from my own training days as the literature that was fawned over bore little or no resemblance to what was going on in the schools I was placed in (especially in relation to the model of student that was being discussed). They were giving me Vygotsky, Bloom, and the reflective cycle when what I needed was Bruce Lee, Robocop and guerrilla tactics. This led to me being somewhat suspicious of the ideas held within the set texts that I had to shell out for, and consequently, the grip on actual practice that the authors had. Disillusionment and then, eventually, resentment reigned.

Thirdly, I just couldn’t face it. The job itself gave me more than enough to think about on a daily basis and the inevitable exhaustion at the end of the day meant that I simply didn’t have the capacity to shove anything else into my poor, withered brain. Think about it this way, if you’re swimming to save yourself from drowning you haven’t really got the time to stop for a bit and read up on the most efficient technique for front crawl.

Oh, and finally, they’re like, proper expensive.

‘Excuses!’ I hear you cry.

‘Get stuffed!’ I wittily retort. I like money.

Recently though, I have been trying to make a change. Work is as tough and demanding as ever but I no longer feel like I’m trying to keep my head above water (most days, at least). That greater sense of confidence in my skill as a teacher means that I can now afford the luxury of seeing what other people think about the job that I do.

I’m also reading much more critically. In training, the ideas within the reading list were presented as ‘the right way to do it’. When they were revealed to be more or less nonsensical given what I was seeing in front of me, I made the stark generalisation that it was all a load of toilet.

All of it.

It never occurred to me at the time that I didn’t actually have to take everything on board, that I could use some things, disregard others and actually call-out the stuff I thought wasn’t up to scratch or actually harmful to those I was teaching. I just chucked my toys out of the pram and decided that on-the-job training was the only way to go. Such a rebel.

So now I read AND I question. Strangely enough it has made it easier to stomach some of the weirdness that I come across. Being more critical means that I now never dismiss anything outright without first picking at it to see if I can’t find something useful. It it’s like gold mining. You have to pan through a lot of mud and grit to get to those nuggets of gold, but they are there. And they can make you rich.

So starting to read a lot more around education comes with a certain bittersweet feeling. I wish I’d done it to a greater extent earlier. I love learning and if I hadn’t been so pigheaded I could have learnt a lot. Would it have improved my teaching? That, I can’t really say. I would still have taught in the same places so the chances that I’d be able to implement anything I’d come across are low. Still, it certainly is another regret.

Even sexy teacher mavericks could do with a few extra ideas every now and then. And this sexy teacher maverick now has a uni library reader’s card, so look out.

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