'Dad, I want to be a teacher'

8th April 2005 at 01:00
They're the words Geoff Brookes never wants to hear. And that is a cause for sadness

I taught Angella more than 20 years ago. She turned up in school last week.

Now she is a university tutor, visiting students on their teaching placement. It was lovely to see her and we reminisced happily for a while.

Then she told me it was my fault she became an English teacher, and I felt guilty. Another life ruined, I thought.

She had been an exceptional student in a good class and she saw me having a good time, reading and talking about books, sharing ideas and knowledge.

She thought she'd like to be a part of it.

It is nice to know you have made a difference, introducing a young person to a world they knew nothing about. That is what the job is about. But when it comes to making a difference, I never expected that it would be a case of "share my pain".

When I consider my job now, all I can think of is the other stuff that surrounds it. The way that it twists your mind and your world view. The pain, the battles you can't win, the days when you feel totally deskilled.

To feel that I may have bequeathed this to Angella leaves me with a heavy responsibility.

Yes, I have established a continuity. The things that were made important to me at school through the work of the previous generation have now been passed on to the next. Onwards the good things should go, our heritage protected and shared. But the rest of the package, the edifice of nonsense that teaching supports, inevitably goes with it. My own kids haven't become teachers, and I am pleased. But then they have seen all the rest of it: the late nights and the draining emotional investment. Few of my current colleagues have children who want to teach. Do you want the children you love having to stand in front of a difficult Year 10 class? Or dealing with complaints from stroppy parents? No, I thought not. And doesn't this tell us something of what teachers feel about themselves? That they don't see it as a job for their own children. That it is not a desirable job. That those who can, certainly try to do something else.

We are the inspiration that should recruit the next generation. It shouldn't need brainless advertising campaigns. There should be no finer or more important duty than that of helping to shape and inform the minds of the future. It should be seen as a responsibility that requires imagination, wit and talent; all the things our best young people possess.

It should be an honour to embrace that responsibility. Except that teachers no longer think so. And until we have a profession that we can recommend to our own children, the future looks bleak.

Geoff Brookes is deputy head of Cefn Hengoed school, Swansea

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