My old maths teacher once told me that there are three kinds of people in the world:
- those who make things happen,
- those who let things happen
- and those who wonder what the hell has happened.
She was standing over me at the time as I whined pathetically about how no one could be expected to solve her impossible equations, so it was fairly obvious that I belonged securely in the third category.
Flash forward: the 21st century. A group of teachers are sitting around a staff-room table. Enter ‘Annoying Enthusiastic Teacher’ carrying a pile of handouts.
ANNOYING ENTHUSIASTIC TEACHER: Here you go guys, here’s a draft of the new look report we’ve redesigned for Yr10. Check it out and let us know what you think.
ME: (Picks up draft document and reads it). Seriously! What total moron designed this? Do they really expect us to know what curriculum level a student is working at? More ******* work! (Throws document on the table, spilling all the coffee cups).
Now I must admit that I had been given every opportunity to join the ‘Report Committee’ and could at any time have responded to the meeting minutes regularly posted on the school website. There was no reason to be suddenly surprised by the emergence of this new-look document. The truth was, this was just another example of me, sitting back, showing little interest in things happening around me and then complaining about it afterwards.
Instead of being a hapless victim, why not get involved? Why not join the committee and help make things happen? Well, the answer to that was obvious. Anyone who joins a committee is a dangerous sycophant whose only motivation is to slink up the greasy pole of management. I would never associate with such people. The funny thing was, I could simultaneously hold this thought whilst sitting through a staff P.D session wondering who had decided to serve up such pointless drivel. Something had to give. I decided, that I would no longer be that cynical voice in the staff-room. I would join a committee!
Now I had been warned, by a cynical earlier version of myself, that the only people who join committees are those who enjoy hearing the sound of their own voice as it reverberates between their buttocks. I was determined, however, to not let such ill-informed views dissuade me. I joined three committees and contributed to two others! Did I enjoy it? Yes. Was it worthwhile? Yes. I gained a much clearer whole school perspective and came to the realisation that anyone who claims that they genuinely care for the well-being and achievement of students needs to get involved.
As teachers in the 21st century, we educate students about the need to adapt to a constantly changing world. We explain the risks involved in sitting back and allowing change to happen without our knowledge. We explain how if we are going to be successful in the world we will need to become change agents ourselves. This, obviously, is a message not exclusively designed for students.
I am sure that if I had paid more attention to my maths teacher’s 20th century version of this message, l could have avoided many years standing on the sidelines.