Blurred vision

1st August 2014 at 01:00

"I'm having problems with my vision," our trainee told me. He's a Teach First student and often drops into my classroom for a chat.

"I have this educational vision for my class and things keep getting in the way of achieving it," he expanded. "What do you think I should do?" I stared at him blankly. Clearly suggesting a trip to Specsavers wasn't going to cut much ice.

To be honest, I thought it was a fairly impressive problem for one so new to the profession. Back when I completed my PGCE, educational visions were definitely an optional extra. My sole ambition was to make the pupils behave. If I had a vision, it was of me in a beer garden at the end of July minus a P45.

Clearly teacher training has moved on. I imagine you can't even join Teach First unless you quote Gandhi and sing Greatest Love of All at the interview. I have no idea what the organisation's motto is but I expect it's something like "Every trainee a visionary" (unless it's "Teach First: get a proper job second").

"So what's your vision?" I asked.

"It's to instil a lifelong love of learning in every child in my class," he told me earnestly. I hesitated. On the one hand, I had to admire his ambition. On the other, it did sound like he might be aiming a bit too high. (I've taught his class and with some of the children you would struggle to instil a lesson-long love of learning.) Besides, in these times of evidence-above-all-else, how could he ever achieve it? Surely he would be dead before he could tick it off his "requirements met" sheet?

I didn't want to crush him with cynicism, though. He's got the makings of a great teacher - he's hard-working, keen and good with the children. He can even use apostrophes. It won't be long before his career goes roaring past mine.

"I wouldn't worry," I said. "Why not just concentrate on the teaching and maybe work on your vision later?"

"But I wrote it down at the start of the year," he said anxiously. "I need to show progress towards it."

"You will be," I told him. "It's just that it might be difficult to put evidence on paper. There are great teachers out there who inspire children every day but it's not written down. It just happens."

He wasn't convinced. He's of the tweetingtextingsound bite generation that requires every action to be accompanied by a prettily worded raison d'tre, not finding out until later that a classroom papered in inspirational quotes won't protect you from a rowdy class on a wet Friday afternoon.

But I'm glad he's got a vision. It's good to know there are still keen young teachers out there, as yet uncrushed by spreadsheets and marking and fired up with a messianic zeal to impart knowledge. As Einstein said, "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." Then again, Pink Floyd said: "We don't need no education.Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone." The truth surely lies somewhere in between.

Jo Brighouse is a primary school teacher in the Midlands

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