I have been meaning to write this ever since I joined Twitter and Michael Tidd asked the excellent question: where are all the Primary bloggers? here I have had this post rattling around in the back of my mind all that time, and, following an interesting Twitter debate about why so few women teachers present their ideas at TeachMeets, courtesy of @ChocoTzarand @betsysalt I thought it was about time I put my fingers to the keyboard and set about trying to answer the question.
The title says it all, really. I don’t consider myself particularly unusual as a primary school teacher. My workplace is dominated by women not so dissimilar to me. More and more of us are carrying on with our jobs (I hesitate to classify mine as a ‘career’) after marriage and kids. More and more of us, thanks to the bonkers UK property market, have no choice in the matter.
And the title of Working Mother, especially Working Teacher-Mother, makes us, perhaps, amongst the busiest people on the planet. For a start, the job of primary school teacher, or of teacher of any kind, is an intense one. Once the children arrive in the building, there isn’t a moment when your feet touch the ground until they go home. And then there are all the other things that need to be done, so that you can be ready for their return in the morning. Tidying, cutting out, sticking, photocopying, marking – all these things as well as the thinking, planning and preparation that goes into coming up with valuable lessons that will engage children, make them learn stuff and keep the inspectors happy (no easy task, I can assure you).
Since starting on my blogging journey I have noticed that many of the edu-blogs are written, not only by secondary teachers (it makes for interesting debates, as the differences in our understandings of what it means to be a teacher come to the fore), but also by those in more senior positions than me (not difficult). I wouldn’t be so crass as to suggest that those in management positions in schools have less to do; what perhaps they do have, as opposed to those of us who are more at minion level, is time to reflect upon issues wider than what has been going on in our classrooms that day.
Now I am lucky. My present job is geared in such a way that I can keep work at work, so that when I get home, I can concentrate (sort of) on all the things I have to do when I am here. This last month, for instance, has been dominated by birthdays. I have made four birthday cakes. I have sourced candles and invitations, ferried children about to various party venues as well as come up with, bought and wrapped presents; next week we shall start on the thank you letters. The thing about birthdays, though, is that they come on top of all the other things one has to do in the home – and all these things need to keep on being done or nobody has any clean clothes to wear on Monday morning, and there is nothing to eat for breakfast, lunch or tea.
I’m not going to labour the point. Primary teaching is dominated by women. Virginia Woolf had it right when she declared that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction, or in this case, blogs. She needs access to a computer, and, more than a room perhaps, she needs time. Time and space within which to be creative, to create. Which, when you have a busy job filled with children, and a home life filled with similar beings, is a rare and precious thing indeed.
And it’s not just that children have a tendency to suck all the energy out of a person. They are also pretty good at reducing your confidence in your abilities. Take giving birth. It’s all supposed to be so natural, yet how come it goes so spectacularly wrong? Our bodies fail us, right when they are supposed to be doing what they are ‘designed’ to do. Same goes for abnormalities. Same goes for breast feeding. I liked looking after baby; I settled into it and enjoyed myself hugely, but I know that I am not necessarily typical. Many of us are shocked by how hard it is, how far it is from the ideals we are sold in all the books and magazines. And I have a theory about toddlers. As their ability to say, ‘No’ increases, your confidence in yourself as a capable human being goes in the opposite direction. It doesn’t surprise me that many women feel that, post partum, they lack confidence in the workplace. They probably lack confidence all over the place.
I would love to attend a TeachMeet. I’ve been truly inspired by all teachery types twittering away. I’d love to go along, and I don’t have a problem in standing up in front of other people. (It has been said that I love the limelight perhaps a little too much.) I don’t, because I have to accept (and this is my personal view, I can’t speak for anyone else here) that right now, right at this moment, it is not my time. Right now, I am in the middle of the maelstrom that is parenting, mothering three smallish children and running the household we live in. Their needs, and the needs of my family as a distinct unit, are such that my wider ones are on hold for a moment.
In the mean time, I must hope that my chances to make a wider contribution don’t pass me by. I need to hold on to the certainty that what I do now matters. That even though I am no big shot, no public speaker or goer on book tours, meeter or greeter of the great and good, I still have something of worth to say. For now, this blog will have to do.
“I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young—alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross–roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to–night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh.
…if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting–room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality… then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. … I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own