From The Editor - In these dark times, there are some shining lights
"If we wish hard enough we can recreate a universe where the holidays are doubled. I call it the Cognitive Tinkerbell effect," tweeted our behaviour expert on the eve of returning to school this week. Failing that, he went on, "Drink everything in your house, including the Listerine."
Rarely at the beginning of a new school year can the auguries have been so inauspicious, the signs so baleful and the prospects so gloomy. The summer holidays are barely a hangover away and Christmas can't come soon enough. The Olympics have ended, the economy is lifeless and there are disturbing rumours that the BBC is to commission another series of Miranda. There is no good news. Anywhere.
School offers no refuge. Ofsted is gearing up to measure raised floor targets at terribly short notice. The two biggest teaching unions are displaying all the strategic nous of Mussolini. And then there's Ofqual. Christ, what on earth did the profession do to deserve Ofqual? It has one job: to regulate exams. It's so good at its one job that pupils received different grades for the same results in the same exam. Why? "Some pupils got lucky." Can we fix it? "Computer says no." There are strong suspicions that Ofqual doesn't reside in Coventry at all, but in a large, airtight call centre somewhere off-world.
But despite all the economic gloom, despite the spreading bog of educational policy crap, despite the Lord enriching people's lives with George Galloway, Ant and Dec and Cash in the Attic, often in the same afternoon, teachers are truly blessed. Honest. If that seems hardly credible, read Tom Bennett's article on the pupils who just, well, stick (pages 26-30).
Tom, when not advising teachers to connect with their inner Tinkerbell or advocating oblivion by mouthwash, teaches RE in London and is TES's behaviour expert. He is not a romantic. As he says, if teachers want to make a difference they must, paradoxically, learn not to care too much about pupils. Care, but in "a way that propels you to do your best for their best interests, not so that you rise and fall with their success and failures". The alternative is ruination; a future of bruised hearts and dashed expectations.
There will, however, always be kids who really get under the skin. And they, equally paradoxically, will remind teachers of why they put up with the Ofsteds and the Ofquals and the Ofcuts. And why the bleating of politicians, the braying of union officials or the blather of editors for that matter is so much fluff. These children are not necessarily the undiscovered scholars waiting to be sniffed out by sensitive pedagogues. They might be successes, but they are just as likely to be tragedies, or hooligans or the serially overlooked who somehow register enough to irritate an itch.
But you will never forget them. They will add worth to the bleakest term. And you need them as much as they need you. As our cynical, Listerine-swilling sage explains: "The ones who get you are the ones who surprise you by showing that you are needed. Who honour you by allowing you to help them. And who remind you that no one should be alone."