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The Secret Teacher
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a teacher

James FitzGerald

…according to The Secret Teacher.

Robots will never replace teachers

‘Teaching is a 3,000-year-old profession that has basically not changed a lot. As the world gets more digitised and artificial intelligence swallows up jobs, it’s so important to have a real human at the front of the classroom, telling kids what life is all about – telling them there’s more to it than logic and finding a job. Having that kind of impact makes all the exams, targets and constant box-ticking feel worth it.’

There are some weird but effective ways to control a classroom

‘An old teachers’ saying goes “Don’t even smile till the end of your first year” – because the kids will see it as a weakness. But really we all play good cop/bad cop at different times. For me, the promise of sweets is usually enough to maintain order. Or I’ll threaten to play a specific music video from the 1980s; that freaks the hell out of them.’

The staff room can be a battleground

‘Sometimes, there’s a fantastic atmosphere in there. It’s like being in the trenches: there’s lots of bleak humour, and preparing for some lessons feels like going “over the top”. But sometimes it’s hostile. You end up getting into disputes about chairs. Teachers can be incredibly territorial.’

Teachers do have a social life

‘The idea that we go home at 4pm and have months of holiday is a myth. We’ve got too much marking and planning to do. But you have to make sure to unwind somehow. For me, getting to the pub on a Friday night with the other teachers is a big part of school culture, but we’ve all got different ways of switching off. One teacher I know just stares at a blank wall for a bit.’

The Secret Teacher: Dispatches from the Classroom’ is published by Guardian Faber.

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