Today I was walking through the staffroom at school when a colleague I don’t see much said ‘So what’s it like being back in reality?’ It wasn’t said with malice, or sarcasm, it was meant to be a conversation starter about how I was finding life in the classroom.
Nonetheless – in the comment lies the gap. The us and them. The ‘real’ world of school teaching and the world of academia. I haven’t really felt the gap too much since I’ve been back at school, most people are interested in the fact that I’m working in both contexts, but no-one had outwardly suggested that one world is more ‘real’ than another.
The statement though speaks volumes to me of the problems that still exist in education – and at a time dominated by neo-liberalism teachers in schools and teacher educators need to work together to articulate a vision for education that recognises the valuable work that we do. We need to work together to prepare pre-service teachers for their future careers in education contexts and we need to think about the things that unite us, rather than the things that divide us. The us and them construction isn’t helpful – it doesn’t move us any further in our understandings and it only detracts from the bigger issues about how we might speak back to agendas that limit our work to a set of standardised numbers.
Perhaps it’s symptomatic of the fact that is difficult to understand another’s working life until you have lived it and walked in their shoes. Only yesterday a family member asked if I’d gone back to work yet (um, yes – on the 4th of Jan actually), showing surprise that I would be there as uni students were on holiday. The idea that one world of work is more ‘real’ than another might suggest a lack of understanding about the work of teacher educators and academics – and as anyone who works in academia knows, the pressures and tensions of academic life and teaching are many and varied. The interactions, problems and challenges of teaching at uni, while different, are as real as the interactions, problems and challenges of teaching at school. Sure I’d forgotten about some of the pressures of school life (and I’m quickly remembering what they’re like), but until I began working full-time in academia I didn’t truly appreciate the pressures that academic life presents.
When I was a year 12 English teacher I taught the context ‘Whose reality?’ as part of the Creating and Presenting unit – I’m hoping that we might be able to understand better each other’s realities and work to create an education system that brings the knowledge and expertise of teachers and teacher educators together.