The Teacher becomes the Master(‘s student)

This is a guest post by Teela Clayton. Teela has been in public relations for a year and has come on a journey. Read on and let her know what you think @TeelaClayts

There’s always at least one kid at school who’s got her shit together enough to proclaim – even aged five – that she knows exactly what she wants to do when she’s older. She’s the kid with the amazing cache of stationery that she refuses to share. She’s the kid who hands things out and collects things in without being asked. She’s the kid that defaults to being in charge if the teacher pops to the loo* or issues an outside telling off. She’s the kid that asks for extra homework and stands at the front of the bus talking to the driver. She’s the kid that has a chalkboard or whiteboard – or both – at home and lines up her teddies; her captive audience. She’s the kid that’s watched To Sir with Love and The History Boys and Dead Poet’s Society and Teechers and Teachers. 

She’s the kid that dreams about nothing else but being a teacher when she grows up.

And I’m sorry to burst your bubble here, but that kid’s not me.

I think maybe that was the problem. I always described myself as a writer. I would scoff in the staffroom, be unaffected by criticism, because I was a creative, transcending this teacher life and pained by things these people didn’t understand. 

There are lots of jobs where people rage at you for calling it a job, rather than a career, a calling or god forbid, a lifestyle. Teaching’s one of them. Teachers are a different breed. They never take a day off. They never shrug off that teacher façade and enjoy the reckless abandon of rule breaking. In every interaction, in everything they do, they are a teacher.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to throw shade here. My mum is a retired teacher. My sister is an English teacher in a secondary after years of working in FE. My husband is a physics teacher. Many of my friends still work in the profession. There’s no denying that teachers are overworked and underpaid. They are legends, nay heroes. And they are a very special and particular type of person.

They have to be. Teaching isn’t the romanticised world shown on the telly. It isn’t all revelations about teacher affairs in assemblies (though there’s a fair bit of the affair stuff). Pupils don’t just wordlessly listen to you droning on. They don’t move through the corridors in silence. They don’t all put their hand up when they want to say something, or treat you with deference, or buy you apples. 

Pupils are sparky and sulky and sardonic. Pupils are withdrawn and witty and riotous. Pupils are individuals with nuances and complex needs and contexts. And understanding that – though I was pretty good at it – was just one of the 500 zillion things teachers have to do. 

And of the other things on the perpetual to do list, the things I enjoyed doing the most were things that you will probably recognise from your own list of jobs. Because comms and teaching are kissing cousins. And it was whilst I was liaising with stakeholders – or Parents’ Evening as teachers call it – delivering my witty yet authoritative spiel, that I realised I fancied t’other cousin. 

That year, as I bid farewell to my Year 11s, with a carefully prepared speech to make them laugh and then cry, it was especially poignant. Because this time, when I told them to live, love, laugh, to dance like no-one’s watching, to follow their dreams and all that other cheesy shite you see on inspirational Instagram, I knew I was saying it with authenticity.

Because it may have taken me 31 years longer, but this girl’s got her shit together. 

*like teacher’s pop out to the loo ha!

Key Learnings:

  • Some people are born for careers. Others grow to love them
  • Sometimes you fall out of love with a career. That’s OK. Skills are transferable
  • Communication is the lifeblood of every career
  • Teachers are ace man
  • If comms doesn’t work out, I might have a lucrative career as a fridge magnet maker