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Archive for April, 2014

Letter to Michael Gove

This was posted on Facebook:

 

29th April 2014

Dear Mr Gove,

I am writing to inform you of the death of Mr Gareth Utting, a teacher of English at a secondary school in Shropshire.

Gareth died at the age of 37 of a massive heart attack. There were a few contributory factors to his death, but looming large was the word ‘stress’. He leaves me a widow with three children, aged fourteen, four and one.

This is not the angry rant of a bereaved person. I haven’t got anywhere near angry yet. I am still reeling with shock and wondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent my husband’s death. When these thoughts beset me, I keep coming back to the fact that I should have done more to help him get out of teaching. And how can that be right, to think that? I love teaching. In the few weeks since Gareth died, I have heard and read so many tributes from his students that attest to the positive impact that a good teacher can make. I should be proud that my husband was a teacher. But right at this moment, I’m not. I’m sorry that he was. Because if he had a different job, he might still be with us.

I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the changes that have hit teachers in the last few years. I qualified as a teacher myself but have been at home raising our young children, so have not been directly involved. But I can tell you what I see around me.

Teachers like Gareth have changed.

Their hopes for the young people in their care have not changed. Neither has their willingness to go the extra mile to help those young people to succeed. But the work-load that they struggle under and the pressures that are applied to them from above have greatly increased. If this led to better education for our children, then I would be supporting these changes. But I don’t see better education. I see good teachers breaking under the load. I see good teachers embittered and weary. I see good teachers leaving the profession. I see good teachers never even entering the profession, for fear of what lies ahead. I see pupils indoctrinated with achievement targets, who are afraid to veer from the curriculum in case it affects their next assessment; pupils for whom ‘knowledge’ is defined by a pass mark and their position within a cohort.

Within this atmosphere, my husband struggled to help his pupils in every way he could. The comments that they have left on social media reflect a teacher-pupil relationship that was honest, helpful and mutually respectful. He taught them English, and they did well at it. But he also taught them about life, and love, and self-esteem. But he did this in spite of, not because of, the current state of the education system.

Gareth is at peace now. But I have some difficult choices to make.

Do I return to a profession that takes so high a toll? When my four-year-old son says he wants to be a teacher, do I smile or try to talk him out of it? When I see Gareth’s colleagues, do I congratulate them for being so amazing, or encourage them to explore other career options?

Mr Gove, I don’t envy you your job. I don’t know the best way to achieve a high standard of education for all pupils, everywhere. But I do know this: People don’t become teachers to be slackers, for the pension or for the name badge.

Here’s an interesting theory of mine that I was discussing recently with my husband. If you took away all external inspection and supervision, all targets and reviews, if teachers were left to themselves to teach what they wanted to teach, the way they wanted to teach it, what do you think would happen?

This is what I think: Every teacher that I know cares deeply about their subject and their students. They would teach marvellously. They would share knowledge and encourage each other. They would deal with problems (including less-than-perfect pupils and teachers) with the professionalism that they possess in spades.

Of course we cannot remove all monitoring of teachers and schools. But it seems to me that you have forgotten this basic fact: Teachers love to teach, and they want to do it well.

I don’t know what I want to ask of you. All I know is that the situation as it stands is wrong. On behalf of all the teachers and pupils out there, I beg you to go back to the drawing-board. Learn from your mistakes. Gain knowledge.

And please don’t send me your condolences.

Yours,
Alison Utting.

PLEASE LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU LOVE A TEACHER. Maybe we can get them to listen.

Categories: education, Michael Gove

CW: A post I saw about suicide

I saw this post by a young woman on Facebook. Its brave honesty and blistering emotion had me reeling. I knew people who took their lives and am no stranger to suicidal ideation. Names redacted but otherwise left as written (the writer is dyslexic).

 

I have or had a best friend he was everything to me and I felt so loved by him yes we had a long relationship and all that. Any ways he was everything to me we supported each other though everything. I loved him so much and he loved me. He use to make very spilt judgments on stuff I remember holding him back from running in front of cars once. Then one morning a normal morning I had only spoke to him the day before saying how lucky he was. My friend pulled me aside and said “I’m just going to say it because I don’t know what else to say but [—–] is dead he died yesterday, he got hit by a train.” In that moment I didn’t start crying I just felt my heart jump to my mouth I was breathless I was shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t believe it, I just hugged my friend I didn’t know what to do in that moment. What are you meant to do? Then their where teachers saying to all the people in my year that there is to be a meeting after form. Everyone thought it was about litter. I knew the truth. I walked silently to form someone asked me how I was I just said fine. Sitting in form was horrible I remember sitting there in silence shaking my legs, staring blankly at the door. Then we all headed down to the meeting. That’s when it hit me as the silence fell upon my whole year. I started to shake and then slowly began to cry. Then there was a whisper in the room “hey someone’s crying?!” Then the head teacher said ” Last year we had a student [—–] as most of you know him, sadly [—–] passed away yesterday, he was hit by a train. We will keep you updated.”
Walking out of that room was weird suddenly everyone knew my secret. I didn’t go to my first lessons how could I? I just sat on a table and cried. People would sit with me hug me whatever and tell me their favourite moment with [—–] I sat there crying but I had a smile on my face, I remember asking my friend [—–] to call my mum, that must have been shit. For most of the day people would just walk around silent I had teachers saying sorry for your loss to me. I decided in the afternoon to go to lesson. I knew the teachers and classmates where all seeing if I could cope with a lesson, it was fucking hard but I did it. After school me and loads of [—–] friends gathered around his tree and sang songs wrote notes to him all this stuff. People cared they care so much yet I know [—–] didn’t think people would. There was about 400 people turned up to his funeral and a few people couldn’t make it, so many people cared for him and so many people care for you. [—–] was the bestest best friend I could have he would cycle to my house just to cheer me up. The pain he left is huge but he thought no one would care or feel if he committed suicide. So many people did. I still haven’t got over [—–] every day, it fucking kills me to wake up because the person who made me feel special killed himself every fucking day the amount of hurt I have grows. I’ve never wanted him back as much as I do now. So if your thinking about committing suicide don’t, call someone write it down talk to me I don’t tucking care just DONT DO IT. There is always someone who will care and that will cause ripple affects to others and before you know it loads of people are hurting. If you did commit suicide could you image a year from now someone finding it unbearable to wake up because your not there any more. Please just think or talk to someone please, even me I may not be great but I don’t care I am not having someone else I love commit suicide and guess what I fucking love you all. Thanks

 

There is help out there. At the worst times when I’ve felt unable to even go to those closest to me I’ve used Samaritans or dragged myself to the emergency unit or Mental Health Team.

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/getting-help/