Tales from the 'local' teacher - the benefits and perils of living next to and teaching in the school you went to
I’m one of those sad creatures that doesn’t like moving out of their comfort zone much, to the extent that I bought my old family home and when a job came up at what was once my old school I went back there as well.
The three-minute drive to work is amazing (alright, I could walk it, but who wants to carry the marking?). But what happens when your past or even your present comes back to haunt you?
Sometimes being from and in the epicentre of the community in which you teach can be an absolute winner. On my very first day at school, I had an isolation duty. One of the students saw the fresh meat (me) as a chance to ‘push’ a little. Glancing at the surname, I calmly asked: ‘Is your dad called John?”
“No that’s my uncle.”
“Oh so your mum’s name’s Tina then – I was in your front room having coffee three days after you were born. My sister-in-law is one of her best mates….”
He fell silent. He completed his work.
Trust in familiarity
Another bonus for me is that I am trusted. Phone a parent with a misdemeanour and I’ve never been questioned. Giving a satisfactory on a report to a child of a notoriously difficult parent and I brace myself for the end of the day fall out. It never comes.
“Alright my love, what’s my little shit of a son been doing?”
It’s not the response we aim for, but it is better than being told I have fabricated the whole thing.
Out and about in the locality you see some interesting things. The Y11’s shopping in their pyjamas; students that meet you at the supermarket checkout and recite the entire content of your basket back to you.
Living this close to your students – not just close, among them - can create issues. Boundaries get blurred. Someone I went to school with turned up to my house at 7.30 one evening with their son to ask for help with his mocks. I was in my PJ’s thinking “What’s the nearest thing I can grab so they don’t notice I’m not wearing a bra?”
Some of you might be thinking I should have told them to leave, it crosses the line and at times when I get calls on my mobile I would agree with you. But this is my community and I take the good with the bad and know that, on the whole, I am in a better situation because I understand these kids and their background more than most. If that means they feel comfortable calling on me to better themselves, then I am always going to try and be here for them.
That does not mean I am always honest. Two years into the job and one of my new Year 7 class sits down. I look up and know that for the next five years I’m going to have to stop myself from saying “I snogged your dad”.
Elizabeth Hackling is assistant headteacher at Bridge Learning Campus. You can find her on twitter @ehackling135