Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Why do we have to wait till 21 to set our own questions?

You were a child once. (deny it all you want Trunchbull, but you were)

You were full of wonder and fear. The world was a strange place. You took awe inspiring beauty for granted and shrugged at sunsets and works of art, choosing instead to stare for hours at a tiny plastic toy from the pound shop, trying to work out what the shadow it cast looked like, talking to it or breaking it (taking it apart) to discover how it worked. You put batteries on your tongue to get that zap of electric current and if you were lucky, you got an old microscope from somewhere and magnified things until you learnt that most things look a bit like sludge. Insert any dross drawn from a meme or your own image of childhood curiosity here if you want this paragraph to be longer. It's nice to wallow in your own filth sometimes.

You asked questions, guessed answers and challenged rules, tested boundaries. So what. It was just a phase. You grew out of it. You got cynical and learnt to appreciate sunsets and Ikea prints and the way things are is the way things are. The facts of life sunshine.

You became a teacher.

It pays the bills. It's better than working for a living. Better than clinging desperately to your job, just working for the man. Making some one else rich. You're a little tiny bit like Bob Dylan aren't you? Just on the edge of things, making money but not sucking corporate teats for the milk of life. Well, you tell yourself that, but you know its a lie. At least you are inspiring minds eh?

How many times a day do you say - that's not the topic, that's not on the specification, we're not here to talk about that? How many times a day do you ask people to 'stop daydreaming' or 'look at me' or 'read the actual question?' or 'if you don't learn to sit still and listen, you won't get anywhere, I'm sorry, that the way it is' and so on and so on and so on.

When did you last actually just indulge the innate natural curiosity of children?

I know. You're not allowed. Neither am I - I'm not pretending that my lessons are free flowing workshops which swing between restringing a piano with various types of metal and making Skype contact with NASA. I've got a specification to follow and a performance management process to fulfil. That commodity fetish doesn't pay for itself. You can pretend if you like. You can pretend that your lesson is full of 'buzz' and 'sparkle' and 'discovery' and you probably do manage that from time to time and you feel it. Viscerally. It runs down your spine. This is IT. This is why you do it. You're probably a better teacher than many if you at least try to find the freedom between the lines and manage to see the world through the eyes of someone who isn't you and make it interesting for them. Keep doing it. Don't throw your career away on data analysis and marketing. Teach some kids well.

But it all makes you think a bit. Why do we have to wait till 21 to be allowed the treat of paying some elitist self selecting institution to give us the grand gift of asking our own (approved) questions?

Why does war happen? Why is the queen the queen? Why can't I fly? Is dreaming like being alive but in a different place? Can you build a ship out of that? What would win in a fight between a lion and a tiger? What happens when I die? Do people HAVE to have a job? Why do grown ups get sad when they can do whatever they want and stay up all night and have midnight feasts? Why doesn't cordial work in milk? What is a car horn anyway?

I heard recently that primary teachers rarely have the time to do extended story writing any more. It makes me wonder what the point is. Why don't we just switch off the internet and live forever in diluted weaker more miserable version of 1993?

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