I was 14 when I attended my first protest march. I have hazy memories of tramping through dreich Edinburgh streets, surrounded by teachers and fellow pupils yelling “No ifs, no buts, stop the education cuts!” In truth, the volume of my own yells was less to do with my passion for local government funding strategies and more with the vain hope that I might lose my voice and be unable to do a German speaking test the following day. I don’t remember much Standard Grade German, but the camaraderie and satisfaction of that march has stayed with me.
Last year, I attended another demonstration. It doesn’t really matter what it was for – in these uncertain times, any city in the country will provide you with a range of protests to suit your political predilections. I was holding a handmade placard in glorious sunshine when it struck me: teachers are made for this. We’re highly trained in every skill necessary to mount an effective protest. And here’s why:
- We’re crafty. Spending a hefty chunk of our salary in Hobbycraft or Ryman each month means that we have a formidable arsenal of marker pens and paint at our disposal – and woe betide our political opponents if we get out that glue gun. Those killer wall displays that we sweat over are the perfect way to hone our puntastic placard-making skills.
- We can make ourselves heard. Shout? Never. But just occasionally we have to raise our voices over the melee. Our vocal control is second to none and we’re not afraid to use it. I beg your pardon, Holyrood and Westminster, I hope you weren’t talking over me…
- We’re used to repeating things. An instruction isn’t truly given until it’s been said 12 times and drawn on the board for the visual learners. Pithy slogans or a reminder to tuck your chair in as you leave: we chant things every day.
- We’re on our feet anyway. March? Well, we can’t be going further than the distance from the cloakroom to the whiteboard, repeated 50 times an hour.
- We’re experts in defusing tension. Anarchists, police officers or tearful young madams, we can spot trouble a mile off and know just the right words to calm the situation down.
- We’re comfortable with chaos. Nobody knows who’s in charge, or which way we’re supposed to be going? That’s just an average sports day for us – we’ll take it in our stride.
- We fight for lost causes and hopeless cases every day. That child who thinks they’ll never master something? The parent who tells you their lad won’t amount to anything? It’s all training us to take on the impossible and win.
So, teachers. Marker pens at the ready? Let’s change the world. Again.
Joanna Rose is a P6 teacher in Dundee