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Primary Education News
News Gove should teach: why I want the education secretary to walk in my shoes
Teacher Maria Rudden is calling for Michael Gove to spend a term in the classroom. She knows he will never do it, but hopes to bring the profession together to fight for the job that they love
I can just imagine it now... After renegotiating his lesson plan with his colleagues, Mr Gove adds a picture onto his PowerPoint and now feels confident he is going to engage and entice his year 9s as soon as they arrive for their lesson. They are dying to see who their new teacher is and to get a good look at him.
The bells ring, they arrive, bustling through the door, bouncy and energetic. Katie wonders who the fat man in a wig is on the board and challenges the new teacher as to how this man could possibly bear any relevance to her life. James is quietly anxious, lurking by the door wondering if Mr Gove has remembered he needs to sit close to the front because he is visually impaired. Imran hopes Mr Gove knows he's an auditory learner while Rita is calming down after an altercation on the stairs about her new bag. "Good Morning year 9, my name is Mr Gove and today we will be learning about Clive of India."
The idea to petition Gove to teach popped into my head during my morning stint at the photocopier. The standard juggling of organising resources, being reminded about year 12 tracking and having a conversation with another teacher about Gove's attack on teaching hours – all while precariously balancing a set of coursework drafts on a spare finger. A conversation about Gove for me always includes an ache behind my eyeballs. The headache represents how I feel when I look to the future of my teaching career. A mixture of desperation and sadness. The desperation that I so badly want to continue in this job and the sadness that someone who has no understanding of what I do is going to take it away from me.
My colleague used the familiar phrase "but what can we do?" Like so many teachers, she represents the feeling of disengagement and disempowerment that is rife in our profession, symptomatic of a leadership that is not listening to us. I decided for my own sanity, I couldn't continue to ignore it. Why should I let Michael Gove decide my fate? Maybe he should walk in my shoes?
The campaign was born on Thursday evening, while my boyfriend (also a teacher) and I were doing our nightly hour of downtime between lesson planning and bed. I shared it on Facebook and Twitter and within a few minutes, people started signing. When I woke up, this number had risen to 18 and by the end of the school day we had 25. The feeling of solidarity and supportive messages from colleagues and friends were beginning to numb the aforementioned Gove-ache. As I write, we are approaching 7,000 signatures. They span across the profession from PGCE students to members of SLT, from parents and grandparents, from Sheffield to Brighton and from Australia to Canada. One thing we all have in common is that we are all tired of being ignored and we want to be listened to.
Do we think Gove should teach? If his manner has taught me anything, it's that it's unlikely, regardless of my qualifications or experience, that my opinion will be important. But I reckon he believes he would do a cracking job in the classroom and I imagine there would probably be little point in trying to convince him otherwise. The short sightedness of his ideas demonstrates just how little Gove knows about education and also how much belief he has in the weight of his own opinion. But as my colleagues and I know, he would sink.
Gove isn't going to teach but this petition is giving the teaching community a platform to share their views in a culture where so many teachers feel ignored. This petition alone will not convince Gove to reconsider the direction and pace of his vision for education. However, it will contribute to an ever growing atmosphere of protest. In the words of one of our supporters, Kieran Moyles, "education is too important to all of us to allow careerist politicians to interfere for the sake of supportive column inches in the Daily Mail".
My imagining of Gove's first five minutes will ring true with many teachers (minus Clive of India) as we battle to do the best job for the students to whom we are dedicated. If Gove walked in my shoes, even just for one week, he would begin to recognise the complex demands of this incredible job and the expertise, talent and compassion required. One thing I have learned from this experience is that regardless of the countless and ongoing attacks on educators, there will always be thousands of teachers ready to stand up and fight to protect the profession that they love.
Maria Rudden is a teacher of Media Studies and English at a comprehensive school in Doncaster. She tweets as @ellaswift84.