Jess Kempner trained to be a teacher for the same reason as most. To educate young people so they’d have the best chance of navigating this world. Successfully.
Jess is committed to the cause. She’s even trying to complete a PhD in Education in her spare time. She, of course, has very little.
I met Jess via a mutual contact 6 months ago, and we hit it off as educators straight away. Over a decade ago, I had attempted the same feat as Jess. Trying to remain an active practitioner whilst writing up my doctoral thesis. It’s up there with childbirth on the pain scale!
I recognised the young, untarnished me in Jess. Still of the belief she can beat the system and deliver an education her Camden students require. I’m hoping she’ll remain untarnished for many more years to come as she’s too good for the profession to lose.
Today we met, as we do now monthly. In the small, functional staffroom of the imposing Hampstead School. As planned, I shared with Jess some new prototype features of the Web for Classrooms. Features she, with other teachers I work with, had helped to co-create. But as usual, and due to my inability to stay on track, we started discussing another topic. This time, our conversation choreographed itself to how teachers were managing the new GCSE standard – due for first examination this month. And all the uncertainty and additional workload teaching new curricula caused.
Jess began to tell me how she and her colleagues were creating professional-led closed communities on Facebook. Sharing resources and providing peer support. Now, teacher online forums are nothing new. But what Jess was describing was different. For its reason alone.
Facebook is common ground for most, so teachers using it as an additional ‘community’ to support their work life is of little surprise. But the reason behind Jess’s migration, for me, was. Jess and some of her colleagues, were tired of communities that hosted paid teacher resources. For them, as a group of equals, they felt that they should support each other’s endeavours to improve classroom practice, without making from one another. Jess and seemingly similar thinking practitioners wish to separate themselves from this behaviour.
Now don’t get me wrong. Teachers are professionals. They are the craft persons of education. And for this reason, their work, and the resources they produce should be highly valued. No problem there. But when every resource produced by a teacher becomes potentially of monetary value, some of the profession starts to make ‘icky’ sounds. At this point, I’d like you to picture the green emoji on the verge of being sick. You see, if teachers wanted to be rich they wouldn’t have joined this profession in the first place. It’s not their driver. Any teachers making a few pounds here and there selling worksheets isn’t going to add much to their final pension pay out. In a profession, constantly challenged by change, working together is the only way to survive. If teachers stopped sharing resources between one another, for free, we would even worse trouble. The profession thrives on its selfless ability to share good practice and associated resources between peers.
So here is what I learnt today. Teachers take instruction and support, best, from each other. They are a global team. They are in it together. In sickness and in health. But like any relationship. Bring money into it, the lines begin to grey. Distrust grows and lines of equality are erased.
Thank you Jess. I look forward to another lesson next month. Oh and some prototyping, if we have time!
Leila Khouja Walker