Monday, 2 July 2012
Please Miss, teach me something new?
However, last weekend I wasn’t in a muddy field, I was at Wellington College listening to some of the most incredible and inspirational people in the field of education, and honestly, I learnt so much.
Okay, now bear with me, I know words such as ‘conference’ don’t conjure up great excitement, but stick with me and I promise I’ll try not to be so sombre. This great conference was set in the beautiful grounds of Wellington College, Berkshire, and there was something very impressive about listening to the value of Shakespeare and Facebook in a nineteenth century chapel. There was however also something quite ironic about the discussions on the relationship between poverty and educational attainment; for the vast complexities of social mobility were being battled out in a school which took fees above most family incomes. If we wanted to see educational inequality we only had to look around ourselves.
I digress… I do not wish to get into a large debate regarding the appropriateness of the setting or the sanctity of Public schools because, at the end of the day, I was grateful for Wellington College for hosting, plus there are far bigger things to focus on. For instance, the amazing efforts of Sutton Trust, Catch 22, Teach First and the work of every motivated and passionate teacher over the country. For these people embody all efforts to make the future greater, and I for one feel like I owe them so much. Now, without getting all heavy on you, it needs to be remembered that poor social mobility is not only morally repugnant but also economically disabling; if our educational system was better GDP would increase, it is as simple as that - we need, now more than ever, a generation of leaders and thinkers, a generation that shapes and moulds this world into a better place.
There was much debate over whether the education system was in crisis, and I must admit I had never thought about it fully, I thought I had, but the reality of it had never really touched home. I was incredibly lucky and went to a very good comprehensive school in the countryside, and for a long time I didn’t believe that educational inequality existed in the UK. The amazing and incredible work of some teachers and third sector organisations acted as a big learning curve. It took just one teacher to alight a love of English Literature in me; before her I studied the subject to please my parents and I could not wait to give it up. Now, I study it at University and adore it. The value of good teachers is immeasurable and I was definitely surrounded by them this weekend, in fact the amount of participants that were students seemed to be a mere handful. This is terribly sad, as what I saw and learnt will influence the amount of respect I have for the profession, the wealth of organisations and initiatives I know of, the graduate schemes I apply to, and most importantly the enormous challenges teachers face on a day-to-day basis with the ever growing animosity towards government ministers.
Now, whilst words such as ‘networking’ still generate genuine fear in me, it’s clear that at events like this it’s all a lot easier (in fact, it’s almost enjoyable). You have Google providing free cocktails and the odd amuse bouche, and at the end of the day you know that everyone has committed to be there because they are fiercely passionate about education; it is a level of devotion which made one of the audience members cry in anger whilst defending her school, and that sheer amount of dedication cannot but be respected. I have a massive fear over the stigma of teaching and the preconception of the role of teachers, because it seems to me to be one of the hardest, most important, challenging jobs out there. It is a profession that deserves a lot more respect than it seems to be given – these are not people who are colouring in with our children and basking in the long holidays, these are people who are teaching the next generation to read, to write, and to think. We’d all be lost without them.
Now, I must admit that this was a fairly unplanned post but I just hoped I could demonstrate that despite the word ‘conference’ seeming horribly grown up and dull, it really isn’t, (yet with all that in mind, I must admit I am still a fair way from getting a Linkedin Profile - thank God). I also wanted to give a little insight into the opportunities available if you get involved with societies, as that is exactly how I got my ticket. Either way, I do think education is pretty much the axis upon which our world turns, and so it whether you like it or not, education does affects you - it affects everyone by its sheer nature.
Now, with all that seriousness behind us, I promise my next entry will be more light-hearted - get your Sainsbury Bags for Life ready, as next weekend I am moving house.