Our achievements are not obvious to outsiders, says Maria Corby

27th February 2004 at 00:00
What a great job we do. Yet, if Martians were to land on Earth and try to find out about our planet, they would assume, given the financial rewards and the attention paid to teachers, that we were not valued as highly as, say, footballers, film stars or models. I wonder if this is to do with the ephemeral nature of our work.

I see and read scholarly discussions about the opus of George Best, or the legacy of Twiggy on today's aspiring media types, and they have film and still pictures to back up their arguments and to illustrate their points.

With teaching, it's harder; picture the late-night discussion team in their black leather arm chairs and earnest expressions. "Yes, Mr Jones went through a bleak period in the 1970s when he relied heavily on a slide projector and Banda sheets, but you're as good as your last lesson, and his 'tectonic plates' of July 2003 was a masterpiece of polystyrene continents and bicarbonate of soda and vinegar earthquakes."

"He relied too much on special effects."

"I agree, but I'd like to speak for an NQT in a special school in the Midlands last wet playtime. He did a magnificent job, channelling dinner staff, securing exits, making a quick risk assessment of the dinner hall.

The triumph was getting out the parachute to play games and getting the school to sit down quietly and wait to be dismissed. They all walked quietly back to class. Not a run, not a shout. It was glorious."

Well, we can dream can't we? Another reason this sort of discussion doesn't happen publicly is that it's not clear what our end product should be. I'd like to think it was a generation of caring, curious and confident individuals, but the Government seems to think it's to do with numbers.

This can be particularly hard in a special school. The results of 16 years'

education by teachers and teaching assistants could be a young person who can work in a tea room, who can go shopping, who can make themselves lunch, who can let a carer know when they need the toilet, or who can read or paint or sing to fill the days once school is over. These can be real achievements for the staff, but the Martians wouldn't see much recognition of it.

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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