If only teaching was like it is in the movies

12th January 2007 at 00:00
I could have made a film about it, starring I dunno who as me, and Robin Williams as my sharp but good-hearted mentor. There I was, walking up past the home economics corridor after a trying day where one class in particular had got me down. The delicious smell of scones filled the air. "Check out that aroma," said Williams, interrupting my prolonged moan about 3E.

"Now ask yourself this, Gregor. Do the teachers who work in this part of the building notice that heavenly smell, or do they get so used to it they only notice the bad smells, like when some kid lets one go or leaves the gas on?" He puts a fatherly hand on my shoulder. "C'mon, Gregor. You've been at this game so long, you've stopped noticing the smell of scones."

Suddenly, everything got better.

If only the sentimental mince you see in films about teaching actually worked. Bother with your second year? Whip out an electric guitar and show them how cool you are. Three minutes later and they'll be eating out of your hand, secretly planning to perform the symphony you wrote and forming a Dead Physicists Society.

All of this trivialises what was a genuinely bad time for me, but hey, it's what I do! Of course I've had troublesome pupils over the years, but I have not had a class of my own that I have felt is not largely under my direction and on my side for years. I'm not talking only about the two years when I buggered off on secondment but, when it happened on my return, I came round to the view that I had "lost it".

Past good relationships had been through fortuitous mixes of pupils rather than anything I had done myself. The kindly PT who told me, on teaching practice, that I would never be aggressive enough to be a teacher had been proved right after two decades. Detached, I watched a small figure who looked like me drive to work. I felt separated from him by a dark band I could not cross. Ideas I had about having developed enough to move into HMIE or teacher training seemed ludicrous.

In the end, it wasn't Robin Williams or an electric guitar that helped begin to turn things around. It was my colleagues. They listened. Discussed individual pupils. Targeted key players. Came in and observed my class. I would be foolish to pretend that everything is fixed, but I smell the scones again.

Happy New Year, I think.

Gregor Steele

quite likes Dead Poets Society

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now