I spend my entire day dealing with the future. I deal in the business of preparation for an unknown tomorrow. Of getting children prepped for tests and screening, exams and assessments, of helping them to become the most successful that they can be. But I’m worried that I am promoting a measure of success that I don’t really want to venerate.
Parents want the absolute best of the best for their children and they will not accept anything less. We are going to get them into the right groups, to push them hardest, make them fastest, smash the boundaries, win the scholarship, gain the places, max out on A*s (9s in new money) and go on to take 4 ‘A’ Levels to open the door to a Russell Group place and what lies beyond.
But, what does lie beyond? A really fantastic job. Hopefully that’s what. A great job with good pay. And good pay leads to what? A cool house? A cool house that costs loads to fill and loads to run. So you have to work hard and long at your great job to stay in it. And working hard and long probably means that you are going to be away from any family you might create.
My problem with my own job at the moment is that, however much I adore the good moments with the brilliant kids, I know that I am part of the machinery pushing them onwards in one direction only. And it’s this ‘top’ direction. And, it keeps me from my own children – no school runs, no after school park times, no free weekday evening to focus wholly on them. Which makes me feel guilty and sad and like I’m going to miss important parts of their ever diminishing childhood as it slips past.
What if the children I teach decided that their greatest ambition is to be a father? a mother? a waiter? a painter and decorator? a teaching assistant? a nurse? a bus driver? job aside, what if you grew up with the ambition to have a family, love a family, live in a green place, share things, be happy? work enough but not too much? is that not OK? It’s definitely not the sort of thing I could talk openly at school. I am not wanting to promote a lazy attitude or wanting to advocate a life in poverty; I have seen my own mother surviving on a pitiful carer’s allowance, but as we all know, the stories of our dear friends and relatives who die too early are the stories of people leaving us the same message, that every moment with our families is precious. Live life for now. Enjoy childhood. Enjoy parenting. Step back slightly if you can. You don’t actually need a huge house, a powerful new vehicle or designer clothes. I don’t wish these pressures for my own children, or anyone else’s. The jumble sale woman in the flat with the old banger has everything that you have. You have no more that you can take to the next place than her, or even the poorest child in the most ravaged village under this sun. There is nothing more than experience.
I feel more and more aware of a clanging bell warning me that all is not right. To be pushing an ideal and ethos of future ambition at the expense of present experiences is something that I don’t fully subscribe to. It’s like the childhood book I remember where the boy’s mother refused to acknowledge there was a dragon in the house, causing it to grow until it created chaos and was ultimately recognised and controlled.
My dragon is getting bigger.