I’ve taken my bows
And my curtain calls.
You brought me fame and fortune, and everything that goes with it.
I thank you all.
But it’s been no bed of roses,
No pleasure cruise.
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race,
And I ain’t gonna lose.
We Are The Champions – Queen
Yesterday I was privileged to spend the day at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle upon Tyne, as a guest of the Great North Children’s Hospital. For the past few years they have put on a teacher education day for educators who support children in their settings undergoing cancer treatment.
The day started with one of the RVI’s oncology consultants talking about the work of the GNCH and the area they cover. Approximately a catchment of 3 million people, stretching from Whitehaven on the west coast to Whitley Bay on the East and from Berwick to North Yorkshire. A stark reminder of the cost to some families, in time alone, of seeking specialist treatment in their darkest hours.
Speaking with professionals, from all walks of life, always perks up my interest and hearing the passion and determination from oncologists, hematologists, occupational therapists, social workers, physiotherapists, nurses and others today really brought home the perspective that education sometimes has on the outside world.
You see I met a teacher today whose job description goes beyond anything I could possibly imagine in my classroom.
Jamie works for the Bridges School in Newcastle. They are like no other school I have ever heard of. They are no free school, no #noexcuses school or anything like that. They simply provide education for children who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend a mainstream school. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. Children who are unable to attend a mainstream school.
Jamie is a teacher in the hospital team. Every day Jamie goes to work he has no idea what will face him apart from children at the lowest point of their short lives. Jamie and the team deliver 1-1 lessons, normally about an hour in length, to children undergoing cancer treatment. Some of these children have little hope of surviving their ordeal but the team remain cheerful throughout, often providing the one constant thing in the lives of the children they teach. It’s an amazing service that made me proud to be a teacher.
I first came across Jamie’s work earlier in the year. We have a child in school under the care of the GNCH and Jamie rang me to speak about the child. He spoke about progress but in a holistic way; concerned about the wellbeing of the child rather than the academic grade. He joked that he never wanted to see the child again and I understood what he meant instantly. The team make incredible bonds with these children in very testing circumstances. It truly is an incredible operation they are running.
Let’s contrast this with the rest of edu-twitter for a moment. It seems that some have jumped the shark this week. Professional discourse has turned into bullying. He who shouts loudest seems to get the final word as rival factions war over seemingly irrelevant conversations. It seems we have lost all sense of proportionality in our efforts to be right at all costs. I’ve come close to locking myself away from Twitter and going on a block/mute spree when I return.
Then I saw this from the incredible Pran Patel:
Could you give me some examples of when Twitter has been a force for good?
Personal and professionally. pic.twitter.com/k75nUFHcoE
— Pran Patel (@MrPatelsAwesome) November 7, 2018
The replies make me think that I can be part of an edu-twitter world that remembers why it got into teaching to start with. To make a difference.
You see Jamie makes a difference to every child he teaches, every day. His work reminds me that this is what we should all be striving to do. It’s not about exams (well maybe a little), it’s not about silent corridors or knowledge organisers but simply about basic human relationships. Because if we want to make any jot of difference in our little fiefdoms then this is the basic building block that we need to remember.
So people, let us go back to a time where disagreeing with someone could be done with respect. Let’s go back to a time where it was ok to hold a contrary opinion and to express it in a meaningful way, to engage in debate, to play the ball – not the player.
Edu-twitter has the power to be a force for good again. It saved my career when I was training and this is the place I want again for all educators. We broke it though so it is down to us to fix it.
Which leaves a challenge to us all. Let’s all post one positive thing about our week in school this afternoon after school closes for the week. Let’s flood edu-twitter with a positivity that we haven’t seen for years. Tag in someone who follows you that you know is an ITT student. Show them that, despite all the nonsense currently going on, there is goodness happening in the edu world, driven by people who have children at the heart of all they do. Remove the ego, take off the mask of indignation and let us celebrate the good our profession does.
And if you meet a “Jamie” give them a hug – they need it…