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The Weight of Paper

‘Maisey’ fell in love with teaching at 10 and nothing was going to stop her helping others. Nothing, until the paperwork and bureaucracy took over. She argues, ‘who is it all for?’

All I have ever wanted to be was a teacher. The greatest and most positive influences in my life have come from that profession including my parents and various family members.
I recall meeting the man who made the decision stick in my mind. A smiling, joyful gentlemen with seemingly endless patience, time and enthusiasm. He opened worlds for me. He changed my life, adding social facets and experiences I simply would not have engaged in had he not invested his goodness and talents into teaching.

I still believe that education is the key to the abolition of evil. Ignorance breeds fear which breeds anger which allows evil a vessel through which to travel. Address the ignorance and you may start to undermine the evil.

This is why I wanted to teach. Not because of holidays or pensions. At the age of 10 I had little understanding of the necessity of such things and was not that mercenary.

I saw the face of teaching that is shown to children. The mask of normality and calm that hides the ravages of the profession. These expert actors protected and shielded me from their hurt and frustration. And so they became my idols.

At GCSE’s I wanted to teach. Under pressure at A Level, I still wanted to teach. Whilst enjoying independence at University, I STILL wanted to teach. Upon graduating, I enrolled on a PGCE…
And discovered a small fraction of the nightmare that teaching can be.

As a bright, confident, motivated young lady I stepped into the classroom. I felt the pride and pure, unadulterated joy and having children connect with you, respond to you and learn with you. The JOB was amazing. Incredible. Rewarding in riches beyond any salary (I was PGCE Poor!).

Then like a flurry intensifying into a blizzard, the paper snow storm began. Swirling through my visions of innovation in education, blinding me from seeing the right course, preventing me from wading through and reaching my students.

What a bitter pill that was. What a nasty taste of disillusionment, disenchantment and utter disappointed clung to my mouth.

My dream job was a sham. A spin based, jargon filled hoax that hardly reflected the calm, awe inspiring teachers of my youth.

Typically I turned this inward. I had failed. This bright, confident, motivated, young lady had let herself and everyone else down. She was not good enough or strong enough to teach. All the passion in the world was not enough to convince me to try again.

I abandoned my shattered dream and accepted the hum drum, the mainstream, the desk job.

But the teacher within me persisted. I still found myself challenging others to improve, encouraging others to step from their comfort zones and eventually the echoes of “you should do this for a living!” reignited the spark enough for me to apply for a lecturing job. A shot in the dark as my CV still held the black spot of FAIL next to the teaching year. The interview was a joy. The connection was as I’d remembered, the wonder of being with young people ready to learn was invigorating and I hardly noticed the time passing as I taught.

To my delight and surprise I was given a chance. A years contract.

Oh what a year!!! I fell in love. Not with a partner…with a profession.

My creative cocoon cracked open to reveal the me that had been stuck behind a desk for 6 years emerging, transformed as a sparkly, quick witted, energy filled teacher.

I enjoyed an extended summer of love in this new phase and then… a word stamped out the fire one by one in my colleagues and I watched as these magnificent but fragile beings were broken over the back of the bully that is bureaucracy. I knew, as they fell and escaped in droves, that I would be next and I must face another decision: to abandon my students and find security for myself and my new found love of teaching. So I took a leap. I travelled to another place, with another system and again felt the sun on my face but this time it was the burning sun of Africa and a new classroom, new role. I loved each day, each experience, drawing on the country and wealth of enthusiasm from students and colleagues. I returned to the UK, decided. I would erase the fail. I would officially retrain.

Easier said than done.

Every avenue seemed blocked. I had effectively done the job for 3 years but no one was willing to let me a have a second chance. A choice made by a frightened 21 year old was making the progress of my 29 year old self impossible.

I begged, I pleaded, I wrote to MP’s and ministries. I sent CV’s into the ether.

And eventually someone sent an SOS. I trained in the year 2011 and survived the gauntlet that is GTP.

To do teacher training twice (three times if you include DTLLS) may seem masochistic to those who have experienced it but I knew vehemently that I wanted, NEEDED to teach.
So here I am, a teacher. In my 15th year. I still adore every second of contact with students. I love and respect my fabulous colleagues who work tirelessly alongside me. I still have moments of energy, motivation, innovation.

But the snow storm has returned and the bully is back. I fight fists of checklists and blows of standards whilst wading through quagmire and seas red tape to reach the islands of hope and change that are my students. The next generation. The new battalions. And I keep my face calm, I wear the mask and push myself further each day to only show them the potential, the astounding possibilities and the inspirational spark that captured the heart of the ten year old me and made me long to be a teacher.

This is my fight. Not third world. Not horrendous. I love the bones of my job. But my only question is this…

Ask yourself reader…

Is the paperwork for YOU? Do YOU benefit from it? If not… Then who does? Because my biggest frustration is the knowledge that very little of the struggle faced by UK teachers every day is actually for the benefit of the three main consumers in this business; CHILDREN, PARENTS, TEACHERS.

So who wants it?

Answers on a postcard to the Minster for Education – and I’m not joking. Do it.

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The author

Maisey has over 15 years experience teaching in a multitude of settings from HE/FE and inner city state maintained schools to small, rural primaries. She has also spent five years teaching on the international circuit. Before this she worked in international sales and marketing. Maisey now works in UK secondary and is an advocate of respectful, kind professional dialogue between educationalists. She is passionate about human rights, mental health and diversity and equality. Her interests include etymology, puns and spoonerisms. She also quite likes a gin and a good book!

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