Those who can, teach and translate

I do have some news this week, but first I have a question for you: teachers 5

Did you ever go to school?

As many of you know, I was a teacher for 33 years. I posted a lot about it when I started this blog, because I was still in harness. Then I retired and with gratitude in my heart for a fascinating career that at last I was leaving (when I started I only intended to stay a few years), I blogged a farewell.

Four years later, what a lot of crap we’ve seen, and even more this week. Nurses, porters, paramedics and hospital cleaners have been refused a pay rise. They’re supposed to live on clapping and rainbows, I suppose. Teachers did get one (from existing money, so something else will have to go), and immediately teachers are blamed for it. Why have they got a pay rise? They haven’t even been in school! Lazy, workshy – and so on.

Right then, today the class task is 5 minutes silent reading which you’ll find here. It’s a heartfelt plea from a practising English teacher. Authors who read this: we need English teachers. They read our books and teach the readers of tomorrow! So head over and read her POV, please, and I want to see you back in here as soon as you’ve finished.

Now spend 5 minutes writing your answer to Susan English. How are you going to help put things right for this teacher and her colleagues? (You at the back – if we don’t get this done today we’ll all be staying in until we do.)

Teachers 3
My goodness, look at the state of that exercise book!

This possible model answer is more or less what I commented on her blog:

I do so sympathise. I taught all age groups and some teacher training/school improvement. In my NQT year (then called “probation”) I went to a family party at my new partner’s home in a county where they love to tell you they’re “proud to call a spade a spade”.

“What do you do?” asked an aunt/cousin/bad-fairy-at-the-wedding.
“I’m a teacher,” I said.
“Teachers? I wouldn’t give you the time of day for ’em!” she retorted.
And so it went on… party after party, all my teaching life:

“What do you do?” / “I’m a teacher…”
“Teachers? Ever heard that saying: ‘those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’. Ha ha ha! Oh I remember Mr X/ Ms Y. We used to love winding him up! And we made her cry! Yes, she used to run out the room weeping! Those were the days!”

These otherwise pleasant people somehow became bigoted monsters the moment you said you were a teacher. I can only think each of them had been damaged at an early age by one of the very few colleagues who doesn’t have pupils’ welfare etched deeply in their hearts.

Nowadays I go to parties (currently only on Zoom, of course) and when people say “What do you do?” I say, “I’m a writer!”
“WOW!” they answer. “That’s so impressive! I could never do THAT! You must be so brainy, have such focus, work so hard, have such imagination and empathy…”
“Yup,” I say. “I developed all those when I was teaching, and I did my best to develop them in your children too.”
“You were a teacher? Oh we had this teacher and we used to make her cry…” etc.

When you leave, write a novel about it. Or start one now. Writing The Magic Carpet was as good as therapy and it really boosted my morale. Yes, I HAD done a good job, yes I HAD worked hard, and I know you do too. Even if no-one else does, I’m saying, “You’re a teacher? Well DONE!” 

(A* for the blog post too.)

MC Pb cover jpeg - Copy
My teacher-therapy novel, started while still teaching and published last year. More fun than this makes it sound!

What other news do I have? It’s BIG news, it deserves a post to itself and next time I’ll have one. The French version of The Infinity Pool was published this week. It’s called Infinitude. Are you French? Do you know French people? (Could be because a French teacher started you off…) Soon I’ll be interviewing Isabelle the hard working translator but for now here’s the book cover, the link’s above, and here’s some bon vin français to drink a toast. Now please find someone to buy it, and/or Der Infinity-Pool which is the German version because guess what? Teachers DO mostly earn more than authors or translators. Except in respect.

 

©Jessica Norrie 2020

 

54 thoughts on “Those who can, teach and translate

  1. Hello Jessica, I am so aware of the well-worn expression, ” those that can do, and those that can’t teach!” In recognising that you are / were a ‘real’ teacher, you may not treat my comments with too much weight (although my feeling is that you will be of a more generous nature than that). I find the expression, is a bland ‘cop out’ often spoken by people who are not always exactly well informed or truly opinionated. It’s a ‘trotted out’ witticism that was possibly originally borrowed from someone who actually had an opinion, whether correct or not. However, I wondered what your thoughts were on people like myself, of whom there are many in modern society. I have no teaching degrees, nor do I have any form of higher education background. I admire anyone who did dedicate themselves to achieving those things in early life. The timing for me was all wrong, “youth is wasted on the young”, comes to mind. I never really knew what I wanted to do and fell into the ‘pick a job’ careers office environment that existed when I left school, aged fifteen, in 1971. My years of employment began then and continue through to the present day (the ripe old age of 64) where I am so far away from what I began as, that I have no idea how I got here? My point is, across a succession of jobs throughout many fields over the years, I have always found myself teaching. Whether it be in a training capacity within the corporate world, or in a mentoring situation in the public domain. Over the last twenty years I have become a much more structured teacher, firstly in art and secondly in English to foreign language students. My question to you Jessica is this, do you accept that there is a worth to self trained, or non academically qualified teachers? Without wishing to flavour your response (optimistically assuming you may provide one) I have often encountered a snobbery from trained, qualified teachers, when they hear of my journey, which is almost an extension of the cynical, inverted remark where this message began. Yet, whilst hugely qualified, I have sometimes wondered if those very same people actually understand the art of tuition and that of relating to the students? To me, teaching is a huge responsibility and the efforts in allowing the student to be the best they can possibly be, should transcend which university / college you attended, or which degrees you have gained. Any thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Graham,
      “Those who can do, those who can’t, teach,” is adapted from a quote by George Bernard Shaw. I disagree with it, but I believe it was originally intended to show that people who were really, really good in their field could earn a living from it while those who were competent but not outstanding often had to fall back on teaching. Throughout my career I met colleagues with wonderful subject knowledge and terrible teaching techniques so they couldn’t communicate their expertise at all, and I also met people who could have taught absolutely anything, given a few minutes to gen up on the essentials first. When I started there was a shortage of Design Technology teachers and the school I worked in employed retired builders instead. Their rapport with the pupils was fantastic and many of them were natural teachers, who had also honed their techniques by running apprenticeship schemes in their trades. So I think most people can teach… You need patience, humour and the ability to work out where a student is in their learning and how to move them on. Sometimes you increase your own subject knowledge through teaching it too. I certainly think by the age of 64 the university you did or didn’t go to is irrelevant. I also hugely value the thousands of classroom assistants who are often less academically qualified but work just as hard and can sometimes get results where a professional teacher can’t. Hope that answers your question and thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for taking the time to reply Jessica. I agree with all of your comments. In particular, I feel an affinity to your point about increasing our own knowledge through teaching. This has certainly been my experience.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. From me congratulations on the French version of the book, Jessica! I also fully agree to Carols comment.
    Its a shame what governments are doing these days. Here in Bavaria we are in need of over 4000 teachers. For 15 years, the digitization of schools has been delayed, but politicians themselves regularly increase their salaries. Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A few years ago I thought we had one of the best school organizations, here in Germany. But I was disappointed. As here in Bavaria, those responsible (Head of the Ministry of Education) are now former professors who were not wanted at the university.

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  3. Congrats on the French version of your book… I have never figured out why teachers never seem to get the respect they deserve maybe they will after parents have had to home school… I hope so as our grandaughter is in her final year at Uni training to be a teacher… I do think it varies as to how teaching is percieved depending where in the world you are… 😀 X

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    1. Merci! It certainly does vary around the world, and seems to march in line either with countries that value intellectualism (eg France) or that value high scholastic achievement as well as success in business terms (Japan, say – that may be controversial). Elsewhere in the comments I’ve reassured Mary Smith whose son is also a new teacher, that I’m not as negative as I may sound here. There are some wonderful aspects and many experiences that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I wish your granddaughter good luck and a long career!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Jessica I was going to buy her Pete’s book “They call me mum “…I didn’t think you were negative I just thought you showed frustration at how people don’t realise the value of a good teacher after all you are helping to mould future generations 🙂 x

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      2. Thank you! While you’re here I can’t resist saying teacher trainer friends think “The Magic Carpet” ought to be on their reading lists for students, so if she fancies reading about the children’s backgrounds and the sheer variety you get in any one classroom, it’s recommended by more than just the author! But whether or not she takes a look I really do wish her well, the profession needs new blood all the time. The only thing to be wary of is that during the pandemic it’s not always possible to ensure proper teaching practice placements and if that happens to her she must make sure she has access to good alternative or postponed validation or it creates a problem getting jobs later on. I understand schools atm battening down the hatches and using only experienced staff while dealing with the unprecedented conditions, but it does make life harder for those who are trying to start out.

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      1. Great article! Children who are read to by parents and are encouraged to read everyday before school age have a large advantage, and it’s not a hard thing to do – just read.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. When school is in session, children often spend more time with their teachers. I think many parents because of this crisis gained a newfound respect for the profession.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Totally pisses me off how people disrespect teachers. I couldn’t be a teacher – I haven’t the patience for it. But I admire teachers, and I think they should be paid as much as doctors (and more than lawyers) because they SAVE the LIVES of our CHILDREN! They do. That’s what I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Davida. We could say the same about junior doctors and nurses too, and they didn’t even get a pay rise! Oh dear, blood boiling again – when it stops raining I must go for a nice long walk. Have good weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You and I are at a similar point in our lives, Jessica. I taught thirty-one years and retired four years ago. I still volunteer in school a few times a year. I started a Facebook Group after I retired called Supporters of Teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you! I’ll come over and join that please! I’m still very much in touch and miss it – but by the time I left I was pretty burnt out. It’s an amazing, fascinating, varied profession and I have every respect and good wish for young teachers trying to get started now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a private group. I didn’t intend to do that, but I didn’t know what I was doing when I set it up. The only way I can seem to figure to add people is through my regular Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/peter.springer.5876 If you’re not interested in doing that, no worries.

        By the way, I followed your suggestion and wrote a book about it when I left teaching. It isn’t a novel as much as I would describe as a combination memoir/advice book for future elementary teachers. (I taught grades 2-6.) https://www.amazon.com/They-Call-Mom-Difference-Elementary/dp/1977200052
        I just picked up The Magic Carpet and look forward to reading it. Always happy to meet a fellow educator.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you very much indeed! I’ll take a look inside on Amazon. Don’t teachers and ex-teachers just love giving advice to new teachers? And yet I took years to get it right, and as soon as I did, I think I started getting it wrong again. Never mind, it was all interesting and I got a book out of it! See you on FB…

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  6. I just read Susan English’s blog post, and I’m sitting here incredulous. Teachers have been providing online instruction with no preparation and no additional resources and people really think they haven’t been WORKING?! Really?! Unbelievable.

    On a happier note, congratulations on your French release!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Liz. Yes, that was why the post got such a strong response from me. I’m thinking also of teacher friends who spent lockdown shielding themselves or other family members, and still worked as senior management/classroom teachers full time from their laptops at home and really agonized over how best to support the vulnerable children and the ones who’d become incommunicado. Meanwhile I owe the translator a better post and will do that next – merci!

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  7. My son was half way through his probationary teaching year when lockdown started, now he doesn’t know if he will have a job in August. Glasgow Council (he was teaching in a different council) has decided to retain all their probationers so there are no vacancies there; he has applied for every job advertised and had one interview for a part time job which he didn’t get and was told it was between him and another candidate and they felt as he was a young man he’d prefer a full time job. Of course he would but there doesn’t seem to be any jobs going in Scotland for biology teachers. He’d love to be able to tell people at parties he is a teacher, regardless of how they may look down on him! Maybe when coffee shops open again he can go back to his student job of barista.
    Congratulation on the publication of your French edition. Looking forward to the interview with your translator.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mary. I commiserate with your son and he isn’t by any means the only person I’ve come across in that situation. Schools are in tricky position and battening down the hatches with their known and experienced staff, but that senior management dilemma is no help to him I know. Is the training institute able to help in any way; this year is obviously unprecedented and there may be ideas arising all the time as this affects a large group of students? My own son has work for Sept as an LSA – less money, less prestige but fascinating and invaluable experience and could be a route for your son – supply agencies deal with support roles as well as teaching posts. I do realise this post sounds negative and if you look at my “Farewell2 post you’ll see a much more rounded view of my teaching career, this was just a response to a particular post I saw. But its a wonderful profession and if he can get something he’ll have colleagues, experiences and most importantly pupils to treasure. I wish him luck!

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      1. He has friends in the same boat and now they are competing for the few jobs that come up. He was so happy teaching and sure he’d found what he really wanted to do. I’ll mention LSA to him. Thanks, Jessica.

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      2. LSA is Learning Support Assistant, usually to just one child with SEN – any age group. TA is Teaching Assistant (HLTA Higher Level TA) which could include whole class teaching and supervision. Primary schools especially are usually v keen to get male TAs/LSAs as boys need role models/mentors. Not exactly secondary Biology I know but it’s still teaching, could involve promotion while in post, and is a fantastic foundation for any teaching anywhere later on. He probably knows all this though so I’ll leave it there. Also – but friend has told me there’s a big recruitment drive for trainee probation officers with good ts and cs – linked skills but poss too far outside the box?

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  8. Definitely a discussion starter Jessica.. and in response here is the link to the tribute I paid to my primary school teachers in a posts from 2017.. I hope that following the home schooling over the last few months that parents at least will have a better appreciation of the work involved, not to mention that teachers have still been in school for children of essential workers and to prepare for the safe return of all students as soon as possible. I have pressed for Monday

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    1. Thank you so much Sally. I bet you always did your homework! My homework for this weekend is to read the new Lockdown anthology you’ve contributed to on my kindle. It looks so varied and such a positive response from everyone, I’m proud to have got to know you all.

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  9. Loved your story Jessica. Although, it was disheartening to learn that people gave no kudos for being a teacher. That says a lot about their moral characters. And congrats on the French version of your book!!! ❤

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  10. As soon as my grand-daughter told me of her programme of tasks for home schooling and the feedback she received from her teacher I appreciated how hard it must have been, differentiating the work for a class of 6 year olds and giving them positive responses. I remember about 12 years ago organising our school Learning Platform so that all the teachers could provide work during our snow days. We seemed to be glued to our computers and that was only for a week. I am really glad I am retired now!

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    1. I guess pre-empting the grumpiness is one way round it. I also never made the English teachers cry but I think wasn’t too kind to the Chemistry staff. Then later on I met them as colleagues…My complaint is less about the pupils, it’s the way it seems to be repeated in adults who should have got over teacher baiting. I wish your husband a good holiday!

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    1. I know I do come across as a bit grumbly don’t I? Much of it was joyful and it was always interesting, but it was a bit headbanging taking on the media enmity all the time and every party dialogue I’ve quoted was true!

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