School’s Out

Disclaimer: this post was originally published on a now defunct blog on 10th July 2015, the last day of term.

The (super sensible) lecturing staff from the Media department post Oscars 2015

Another academic year has come to a close, which means another batch of students have made it to the end of their journey through the classrooms and corridors of Exeter College. Arriving as fresh-faced 16-year-olds, over two — or, for some, three — years they have been shaped and educated into independent young adults. And for a smattering of these Exeter College alumni I’ve played a role in their further education journey as both their lecturer and their tutor.

I can’t deny that at this point in the year I’m ready for some time out from teaching and teenagers, but it’s also a reflective time bidding adieu to students who have been the focus of much of my time and headspace for the past ten months.

I can’t deny that at this point in the year I’m ready for some time out from teaching and teenagers, but it’s also a reflective time bidding adieu to students who have been the focus of much of my time and headspace for the past ten months. But as quickly as they arrive they’re gone, and now I’m just left with a handful of thank you cards, box files chock-full of assessed work to archive and the less-than-appealing realisation of having to start afresh with planning and preparing for the next cohort of students that will arrive through the doors in September.

I’m not the first, and I most definitely won’t be the last person who works in education, to say that teaching is both demanding and rewarding; based on my own experience it can seep into every part of your life, no matter how high and tough you build your barriers, yet there are snippets of sheer pleasure that can make even the toughest teaching day that little bit more bearable. Like many teachers, the aspect that I love most about my teaching role — and the reason why I stepped into the world of further education (on a part-time basis) after a decade-long career in journalism and magazine publishing — is to teach a subject that I’m insatiably passionate about: Print-Based Media (read: journalism, photography and graphic design all wrapped up in one two-year vocational qualification). But looking back on my three years of teaching it’s increasingly becoming the case that “teaching” is the thing that I do the least in my part-time role — as with most jobs these days, especially those in the public sector, bureaucracy is the time-sapping and stress-inducing beast that maims many teachers.

But looking back on my three years of teaching it’s increasingly becoming the case that “teaching” is the thing that I do the least in my part-time role… bureaucracy is the time-sapping and stress-inducing beast that maims many teachers

But as I start my annual summer break — and the few weeks a year when I don’t have a mountain of marking heckling me every day and I don’t lie in bed at night worrying about any number of tutee issues — it’s the Proud Teacher persona I want to focus on today. Year on year, as part of their Final Major Project, I witness incredibly talented students design and produce their own magazines; the end products make my heart thump loudly with pride. It’s very easy, as any teacher or parent of a teen will know, to think that everything you say to a teenager goes in one ear and out the other with limited pause for contemplation in-between. I’ve spent many hours in the classroom assuring learners, in my well-practiced mantra, that print is not dead. And if this year’s Oscars — Exeter College’s end-of-year event that showcases the best work from each subject area in the Media department — are anything to go by, this crop of students have not only listened to me, but they have made me immensely proud with their original, creative and professional magazines covering a wide range of topics, from a gay lifestyle magazine to a stylish psychology magazine aimed at students.

Year on year, as part of their Final Major Project, I witness incredibly talented students design and produce their own magazines; the end products make my heart thump loudly with pride.

As I now take a breather from teaching over summer to focus my full attention on my own freelance writing and photography work (my “other job”), this year’s alumni will be waiting for their A-Level results and enjoying their enviably long summer holiday. Their destinations vary: some will be off to university in September to study Journalism or related subjects; some have already decided to take a gap year and a much-needed break from education; some are heading straight into the industry through apprenticeships or, rather wonderfully, planning to start their own magazine, as one of last year’s alumni is commendably doing (keep an eye out for the first issue of bedboat magazine this autumn); and some, like me at their age, are a bit unsure of the route they’ll take now that they’ve finished further education.

N.B: And now the countdown to the new academic year (for FE teachers) is mere days away and the teaching cycle is set to begin again imminently. Summer’s Out…