Get funky and get out

19th March 2004 at 00:00
I saw an amazing sight the last time we had a parents' evening. I looked across the hall and spotted at least three teachers who were younger than I was.

I will be 44 in May. Older than most of the teachers who seemed like old farts when I started in my early twenties, I nevertheless feel like one of the young ones. There have been too few real young ones over the past decade or so to make me feel any different. Every seven years or so, an early retirement deal too tempting for almost anyone over 50 to ignore gets plonked on the table.

As a result, there are not that many teachers significantly older than me at my place either, but I've spent too long being a young one to start feeling like an old one. Actually, we're all 44 or as near as damn it, and the chances of another package being served up in another seven years are about the same as my chances of getting a part in Coronation Street as Emily Bishop's toy boy.

I am a long way from being the first person to flag up the potential catastrophe facing teaching in a few years and I am aware that the number of college places for trainees is on the increase. How, though, do we get the right people into the job?

Every teacher who doesn't want to be propped up against the interactive whiteboard face until 65 has a vested interest in bolstering recruitment. I think we should do what the universities do to boost their numbers. Uni science departments will come out and give a funky presentation to your kids, stopping short only of subliminal messages to convince them that they'll enjoy astrophysics with rock music at the University of Auchtermuchty.

We should be out there doing funky presentations to final year students, convincing them that they will enjoy presenting Intermediate 2 physics (without rock music) to class 5B on a Thursday afternoon. Actually, I do enjoy presenting Intermediate 2 physics to class 5B on a Thursday afternoon. (Reader's voice: "Why are you buggering off to the advisory service for a year then?") Unfortunately, bad newspapers and increased workload have made expressing a liking for any part of teaching into the love that dare not speak its name.

Get caught enthusing about teaching and you'll be thrown out of the lodge.

And yet the young ones - the real young ones, not the delusionally young - are enthusiastic. This could be the chance they have been waiting for. Now, when overheard being upbeat and positive, they can always claim to be rehearsing a speech to ensnare the latest eager graduates so that the rest of us can quietly go to pasture while we still have our own teeth.

Gregor Steele likes teaching 5B on a Tuesday too.

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