One wish come true
When I get my first novel published, I will write and thank Ben Okri. Interviewed for My best teacher in Friday magazine (September 29), he said: "Three out of five people are not doing the things that they would really have loved to have done."
He was pointing out the inadequacies of an education system that plays a part in producing this statistic. As a teacher who always wanted to be a writer, I imagined myself alone in my dreams. The three out of five figure shocked, yet comforted, me. Suddenly I am aware of huge numbers of fellow tortured souls harbouring secret aspirations. By the same token there must be thousands of people in other jobs who long to be teachers. It seems crazy when you think about it in those terms. If only we could do a quick re-shuffle and slot into our natural places. What is it that holds so many of us back?
In my case it's fear of failure. I am scared that if I don't succeed, then I won't be able to handle it. By doing nothing I am removing any chance of failure but also any chance of success. That's the price you pay for not taking risks.
How many of us are there like this? Those who were born to be writers, artists, singers, musicians, actors and a myriad other careers? Every staffroom has at least one dreamer who has never given up hope. The one you catch with a faraway look in the middle of assembly. The one you see sighing just a little too deeply over the photocopier.
In every office, bank, shop and cafe there are unfulfilled souls, but it strikes me that there's probably a high percentage in teaching - attracted perhaps by the notion of doing something noble, something for the greater good. Tey hope to inject some creativity into the system, to make a difference.
many times I have decided to forget about writing and concentrate on my career. I've even gone through ambitious phases when I decided that I just needed to get promoted then everything would be OK. It nearly convinced me until I realised that no matter what dizzy heights I might reach, there would always be a voice in my head saying: "But what about your dream?" I am good at my job. Colleagues praise me for being organised and tell me I'm brilliant. My head sees me as a future senior manager. But this is not what I want. No matter how much I tell myself to accept it, the truth comes out every time. I love the children in my class, but I love them for their individuality. I refuse to put them in little boxes. These children are worth more than a statistic. I worry that within them are hidden talents that may easily get lost within the league tables.
I am told that my overall purpose as a teacher is raising standards. But "raising standards" sounds suspiciously like a government vote-winning strategy. Who are we raising standards for?
At one point I decided I would make it my mission to encourage my pupils to trust their instincts. I would tell them that they could do anything they wanted with their lives. I soon realised that my words would ring hollow. Who was I to preach when I couldn't do it myself?
Then it dawned on me. If I really want to inspire them, then I need to take my own advice. After years of merely wishing, I need to act. So I sat at my computer and began. What did I write? You've just read it.
The writer is a primary teacher in Yorkshire. She wants to remain anonymous