Much like the nursery rhyme, tinker, tailor, soldier, tailor, I too have been given different labels:
Currently, I am not unemployed but, like so many other professionals, have been in-between jobs or have held short-term contracts within the field of education. It is not a pleasure to be in this situation, but it is fact that careers today are more fluid, temporary and possibly more dynamic than ever before. During the spells when I did not hold a full-time teaching position, I worked as a personal assistant – hired because of my organisational and communication skills. Another time, I worked with antiques – again, because of communication skills and my love of art and artifacts.
Do I regret those experiences? No, not at all. Yet I did miss classrooms – the joyous, unchartered creativity, the challenge of engaging others to broaden their minds, the smiles of triumph and satisfaction of accomplishment and success. Despite short breaks from classrooms, they are spaces where I have have spent most of my professional life.
Throughout my career I have taught different levels and subjects, designed courses and assessment, mentored teachers and carried out research; I have worked in my country of origin as well as abroad. Throughout the years I have worked with amazing educators who inspired me as much as they inspired and engaged their students. I have equally encountered individuals who, in the role of educators made unfounded, random decisions as to when to teach certain lexical items and yet not the plurals of those items; individuals who, in temporary moments of power, decide whether an educator is “professional” or not by how many coloured board-markers they use; individuals, who, for lack of perspective refuse to acknowledge other cultural values and only are satisfied imposing their own restricted set of values on other cultural systems. Nevertheless, these more unfortunate encounters have been a minority in my journey in education.
So why the need of occupying education if I am employed at the moment and so far away from the tumults that are happening elsewhere? I have witnessed and experienced budget cuts in education. l know what large classrooms are like and the lack of training teachers have to manage them well. I know how helpless it feels when learners come hungry to class – let alone being able to afford their own laptop or other technology other than a simple mobile. I know the frustration of educators when there are not enough books in a room serving as a library, the despair of only having chalk and not even a projector in the classroom. I know the cost of professional training, the lack of professional support of institutions where one works, the significance of not obtaining tenure in one’s career.
And I know well how the teaching profession feels in regard to their role in society – as well as how they are often perceived by other professions and society at large.
However, the image above reinforces (to me) how relevant education is. Whether one is facing dilemmas of how to adapt to the quick changes in educational literacies, whether one is struggling for tenure or even considering leaving the educational field, there is no doubt in my mind of the role of education and what vital contributions teachers make to their societies.
On a more upbeat note, Annie Condron presents 99 Reasons Why Teachers Rock – many which I am certain are shared by educators all around the world, thus reflecting that despite frustrations and worries in the field, educators do love their profession. Education remains, for the vast majority of individuals, the ticket to a better life, a better future and a more meaningful life. Teachers, educators, or whatever nomination they happen to go by, are the vessels of that process. Without educators, where would one find the doctors, engineers, designers and yes, even the bankers?
Yet, just as Audrey Watters, in The Blue Pill or the Red Pill raises issues of the present and future, I too question what future/s lie ahead for educational institutions and for educators. Who will be in control and what voice will be given to educators?