The subject of hostile attention

25th January 2008 at 00:00

Like every trainee teacher, I plan to change the world. When I first began to read about citizenship education during my postgraduate studies, I felt a genuine wave of excitement.

Finally, young people were going to have time allocated to teaching them about society, democracy and global issues that, in truth, will affect them more than us.

In a delirious and misguided state of optimism I envisaged sweeping into the classroom and, through my own enthusiasm for the subject, delivering life-changing citizenship lessons to the children and being welcomed with open arms by the staff.

When I entered my first school, I was brought down to earth with a demoralising and energy-sapping bump. It seems that many schools and fellow teachers do not share my enthusiasm. Indeed, when I am asked what subject I teach, the responses range from "Citizenship. What's that?" to "Why don't you teach a proper subject?"

I was expecting some opposition: it's a recent addition to the curriculum, so some people will question its presence. However, the opposition and hostility have been greater than I imagined.

I have learned during my first term that the secondary school teacher is, by and large, a territorial creature, fiercely protective of "their" subject. More worryingly, there is a breed of trainee teacher being encouraged by their university lecturers to "fight" for their specialism. Of course for every militant "subject specialist", there is a broad-minded teacher who possesses a holistic view of education and sees themselves as a teacher of young people, rather than the PR guy for their subject.

As time passes and citizenship education gains respect and credibility, as my supervisor ensures me it will, I wonder what will I be like in another 10 or 20 years?

I assume by then that some of my wet-behind-the-ears enthusiasm will have disappeared, but I hope that my view of myself as a teacher of young people persists and my focus doesn't narrow.

After all, it is the aim of the education system, as a whole, to produce well-educated, productive, helpful and socially astute members of society. People we might call "good citizens"

Adam Jozefczyk is a student teacher at Exeter University.

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