Paddy Storrie, a deputy head in a state school in Hertfordshire
I found myself immersed in Alfred the Great, the Black Death, and Peterloo: and got a genuine love for History instead of just an interest in it.
I blundered into applying to Exeter, probably largely to try to match my over-achiever big brother who went to Pembroke College ahead of me. Like many others, I expect, I never felt I fitted in that well, but it always felt such a privilege to be in such surroundings: walking down Brasenose Lane to the Radcliffe Camera was genuinely special for a small-town boy from Devon.
Back in the day, Oxford History involved studying essentially the entirety of English history, so I found myself immersed in Alfred the Great, the Black Death, and Peterloo: and got a genuine love for History instead of just an interest in it. So, PGCE, off to teaching, and thus far 32 years in state schools, the last twenty years of it as a Deputy Head. It seemed everyone else went off to be a rich accountant/banker/the “beast” on ITV’s The Chase, but I wouldn’t have swapped for anything.
Day one was a 16-hour day. Most days still are. And it never got better in between. But what a blast! Age 22 and you are autonomous, creative, constantly on the spot, performing, sympathising, cajoling, learning whatever arcane stuff the government and exam boards have shovelled into their specifications so you can then teach it. Age 54 and your day is about finding out who called who a “slag”, staking out a house to see if applicants to the school really live where they claim to, coaching 50 x 13-year-old girls lacrosse in the January dark with an LED ball and blasting trance music, drug searching, scouring the social media platforms on a student phone for cyberbullying, reviewing CCTV to prove a theft, and doing a restorative justice meeting to resolve a punch up in a school rugby game. That’s literally just the last couple of days. I have not been bored for even half a day in 32 years, and am surrounded every day by smiling, cheerful, witty, sarcastic, thoughtful, infuriating and inspiring young people. Banter with the kids at break, surrounded by happy faces in the canteen on the rare occasions I get lunch: then do a chapel address to 350 kids on Holocaust Memorial Day, then back to deal with the lawsuit against the school, the nitty gritty of how much exam dispensation a partially sighted child should get, and the complaint about our running an LGBT group.
I wonder how many of my peers love every exhausting day they work, and dread having to retire because the roller coaster comes to an end. You admittedly have to suck up the daily media savaging of the profession; the government (of all shades) lying brazenly, pay cuts, class size increases, curriculum overload, and nonsense DfE adverts promising how great your life will be as a teacher. And you need a good supply of poor quality Dad jokes. There is, however, nothing quite like teaching. But then make sure you marry rich.