Imperialist or Maverick ....

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Teachers can be amusing creatures, especially those indoctrinated into the performance based culture.

Having become an educator by default, not electing or selecting my profession, more taking an opportunity. I discovered more by accident that I wasn’t too bad at the messing with collective minds of quite a diverse range of ages and abilities.

So, in some ways this makes me both an ardent critic and advocate of education, not having the induction of many of my peers but at the same time becoming an enthusiastic participant.

Now, with sixteen years experience and having spent quite some time messing with minds at a national and an occasional international level. You get to see, hear and observe by inference some interesting attitudes when it comes to performance.

You could almost classify them, if I were to name them, which I will, they would be ….
  • The imperialist
  • The maverick
  • The battle scarred
  • The shit scared
  • The cant be arsed

Of all, I dislike most is the imperialist, mainly as their brain has become the sole property of the education system. In some ways they allowed a personal lobotomy to take place, whilst engaging in what they class as good teaching.

You have to listen to them, they can talk the talk, live the vision and speak the way of the inner party. Yet, I wonder if they can actually connect ‘teaching’ what is needed, with teaching what is required. In a nation desperate for people with knowledge, skills, understanding and an ability to apply some independent thought, they seem in my mind to be none of the above always looking to get the educational brownie points never educating in a way that may actually be of some use to their students.

It is almost like they cannot see beyond their silos and do not have any comprehension of the longer-term futures of some of their students. Once they exit into the sixth form, Further Education College or onto university. They smugly bask in the view that they have done well and can carry on with the next set of young minds.

Yet having had to catch the output over many years, some of these ‘smug’ imperialists do not comprehend how little they equip their students for the rigors of the next stages or the commercial demands of the sectors they may be looking for employment within.

The imperialist, may chest thump, may smugly cite their personal or corporate accolades, but when you scratch at the surface and try to explore their understanding of the bigger picture, suddenly you can hear only the hollow report of their inter-aural vacuum.

One does like the maverick, maybe I am biased, or I could just be deluding myself into thinking that here is where I belong. I teetered precariously on the brink of becoming an imperialist on many occasions. Only luck or a subconscious revulsion saved me.

Here is someone you cannot define; mavericks create their own niche in the education system. If I can describe the one thing they all have in common is the innate desire to ensure that the student gets what the student needs, but not what the system says they need, what they really need in spite of the qualification or any system of measuring success.

Its hard work, hard to stay on top, even harder to avoid the shit that can fly; often from multiple directions. But when you see that the students are able to take what you show them to another level and start feeding it back to you then you know that you might be moving in the right direction. When you can see the students getting jobs in the sector or competing head to head against ‘supposed’ more able peers and winning through, you have to wonder, maybe you are doing the right thing.

But, with the omni-directional turd fest; you will encounter many that will add considerable resistance to what you are doing and have to work in a system that often does not fit with your supposed ideal.

The chances are that you become either hard-assed, succumb to the dark side (and become an imperialist) or lose the plot and join the many battle scarred.

To be honest, I still have to check which one I am (maybe all of them, that’s a scary thought).

Now for the battle scarred, here you have someone that either aspired to be an imperialist, insufficient in their lack of personality or more likely a potential maverick who could not maintain their focus.

I can’t be too disparaging of the scarred, as often they had the potential to do great things and maybe for a while they did. The issue for them is that the traction from the system, the imperialist, as well as contributions from the shit scared and cant be arsed eventually ground them into woeful submission.

Unless they can escape the environment that is dragging them down, then they will succumb, sad, but alas the truth in education as well as many other professions.

Where I can forgive the battle scarred, I lack any grace for the shit scared and their buddies the cant be arsed. They exist in all organisations, for education they are the ones that enable the imperialists to take our children away from the education they deserve.

Many years ago at a further education college in London, a discussion was being hijacked by a group of ‘shit scared’ who claimed that their senior leadership would not give them permission to ‘teach proper stuff’. It became an amusing debate, where another maverick and I spent around an hour winding them all up, basically telling them how we never sought permission nor wanted it.

You could almost see the sphincters flexing as they struggled to comprehend the novel concept that they could do as they saw appropriate, so long as it was great teaching.

If you lack the courage to teach what should be taught, in my view, get out, don’t bother our youth and make way for someone who will.

Then worse is the can’t be arsed, it is almost like they never bothered and won't ever. Often in my career, I have solved the problem by creating programmes that did not need their skills, whilst they should be sacked, this was sadly easier said than done, often having to deal with a management that lacked any testicular aptitude.

Sidelining them creates other issues, time again one has given them opportunities to ‘develop’, yet something deep inside them just has to ‘not bother’ or ‘pluck failure from the jaws of success’.

Somehow the resilience of the can’t be arsed affects the shit scared and presents more grief to the battle scarred whilst encouraging the imperialists. Is there much hope for the mavericks?

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