Why would a 23-year-old graduate allow a cornucopia of camera-folk into the most challenging year of his career? Blind optimism, delusions of grandeur or the dream of becoming the umpteenth winner of Z-List Celebrity Big Brother were the chants from friends and foes alike. No, I didn't dream of living vicariously through Barbra Streisand's 'I'm the Greatest Star' as I strolled down the corridors clutching onto my whiteboard marker, I wanted to raise the profile of what I consider to be the greatest profession that exists.
Besides my incredibly inspirational parents and my intrinsic desire for success, I owe a great deal to my scary English and uber-passionate Business Studies teachers. Both are responsible for guiding me through my emotional roller-coaster that was secondary school to where I am now. Though I should have a jaded view of schooling as a result of my bullies, I am actually thankful for the lessons I learned from those who were ardent about my future and their respective subjects. If I could do them justice, to raise awareness of the countless hours of work and support that goes in to this job, then I'd happily let a team of 40-somethings follow me with their handycam.
The crucial risk for me when deciding to participate in the documentary or not was if I would triumph or catastrophically fail as a new teacher. The 6am rises, 1am bedtimes, inordinate amounts of marking and never-ending academic assignments could have caused meltdowns, general life-apathy and comical self-deprecation all for the big bad world to see. You did see momentary glimpses of overwhelming work pressures, but nothing too dramatic; no GCSE-marking-induced Haikus. And as for the kids, how would they react to an older man, too under-dressed to be a teaching assistant, sauntering around the classroom with a camera looking for sensational stories? How would they behave? Fortunately for me, my pupils seem to find my eccentricities, my love of Beyoncé, dislocated dance moves and failed attempts at South-East London humour quite affable. Or maybe they still haven't worked me out. Either way; neither issue warranted a 286 bus trip to Job Centre Plus out of Eltham.
I had a dream though. A dream that all my students would surpass their expectations of themselves; that they would feel confident about their abilities and set their sights higher than they had previously. I was naïve, perhaps, but spirited and aspirational more. I imagine I looked like a cross between the Duracell bunny, Kid President and the protagonists in Bring It On. But if you saw that on television, I'm happy. However, Britain needs to see more. We need to see more inspirational teachers harping on about raising aspirations and seeing no boundaries in kids' potential. After all, we should all have dreams - some of us might just not know what they are yet. This might sound like I'm plagiarising Journey's manifesto, but without pontificating about educational inequality, or prognosticating the future of education and potentially alarming our Education Secretary, I must emphasise that we need the best teachers in our schools who don't become apathetic and recycle lesson plans with lessons titled "What is the future of Enron?" We need more quality assurance in education - we need to make sure that kids keep being inspired and keep being pushed to achieve beyond their glass ceilings. We need to build resilience and character in our students because as Maggie proclaimed, "it becomes our destiny."
I'm glad I took part in the documentary. You can see that we are all committed to our students and that we want the best for them. And that's the icing on the cake for me; we all have the same message. My original naivety hasn't worn off, I still believe I can make a sustained difference to the students I teach. And I implore you to teach; the rewards are incomparable. Even more, if you happen to be brave enough to have your 6am-I-promise-I-didn't-drink-on-a-school-night face paraded on national television, do that too, because we need to see and hear more stories to create more dialogue about education. In order to move forward, we have to move together.
So, six episodes later, 16 months into teaching and although I'm still exhausted, I'm perpetually rewarded by the incredible students that I'm fortunate enough to teach and learn from. There are moments where students tell me to "go write a song about it in the bathroom", but on the whole, I'm happily rebranded as the Marilyn Gandhi-loving, red chino-donning, Inbetweener-impersonating, over-zealous, Scottish, eccentric teacher. Am I a tough young teacher? Perhaps, but in the effable words of Meat Loaf - two out of three ain't bad.
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