..as the sparks fly upwards


Today was a little strange: walking among the other teachers with a feeling of being an imposter, a dead man walking. I hated going to school. It took a bite out of me, but TO HELL WITH THAT. I have classes and students.

The students, the classes, that is what turned my day around. It started with the the first class. The highly pubescent and distracted third form. We do not always see eye to eye, but today they were fresh and friendly and the material worked in our favour: mechanically understandable, short explain, lots of assisted practice. We drilled into it and emerged victorious. We worked together.

I had been  expecting to spend the day as a floating skull of unhappiness and my classes saved me. They were hopeful and cheerful when I was short of those qualities. They demanded teacheriness of me, they demanded my commitment and I could only respond and, in responding, rejoice. They woke me up from the small cramped space of unhappiness and failure. They reminded me that...





I love teaching. I truly do. It hits me in the heart and I will never stop doing it. No matter what.


On the nature of falling


I ride a monowheel. i.e. a single-wheeled, electrically driven, self-balancing unicycle. It is a strange device and it took a great deal of practice to learn, but these days I can glide around on it pretty successfully.  Learning to ride it involved a great deal of falling. Lots. I fell off it, stumbled, tripped, wiped out and generally made a complete ass of myself: often in full view of people who were undoubtedly wondering why I would put myself through those changes.

Learning to ride that crazy little wheel involved a whole bunch of new reflexes and very importantly the willingness to be vulnerable, to be prepared to learn and fail publicly.

By now you may have an inkling that I am not just talking about self-balancing unicycles. Teaching is just the same: it is a whole new world of things to learn and mistakes to make. It is has been an opportunity to grow, to exceed my own expectations and also to fail.

So there we are. I had my evaluation and I am not renewed. I shall not be continuing in my present school. It is very upsetting, but not unfair or arbitrary. My current school is one of the best and most demanding in the Netherlands. It has the pick of teachers and they took a flyer on my untried and untrained self. I have learned a stupendous amount, but the standard will be more easily met by someone with more experience, someone fully qualified.

I hate feeling rejected. I hate being judged and found insufficient. It is particularly rough when you actually give a damn, when you have fully committed everything you have. That sucks, but the meeting was kind, professional and as positive as such a thing can be. I understand the decision, but I am very desolate right now.

Nevertheless, the monowheel is still there and still humming, so I shall pick myself up, recover my balance and keep learning. There will be falls and the occasional scrape and bruise, but the skills will accumulate and my courage will be sufficient. For that it is the nature of learning: retaining the courage and will to keep on wiping out, keep on skinning your knees until the (for the onlooker) effortless gliding is achieved.


Wish me luck.




Tales from Teaching

Well is has been most of a school year. I am gradually getting used to being Mr.Noyce the maths teacher, still overjoyed with the differences I make and sometimes desolate from my failures. There have been ups and downs, moments of sadness and moments of pure, scintillating joy. It has been a huge challenge and the greatest and most profound change I have ever undergone next to fatherhood.

When I look at that paragraph I realise that it reads like a goodbye and perhaps it is. I am still in love with teaching and expect to remain so. I still love the school and the children I teach. I am however under review.

That is perfectly normal. The school I teach at is one of the best in the Netherlands. They can attract and retain very skilled teachers, the current staff are are hugely professional and put a great deal of effort into providing a very, high quality of education. The standards are very, very high and I am a new and still very inexperienced teacher. I have good intentions, some useful previous experience, a passion for mathematics and a deep respect and liking for my students. But the school may well be able to find that kind of person with ten years of solid background. The school fortunately has a policy of taking on people with potential and developing them, but I am sharply aware that the very skilled student teacher who I have been working alongside is already fully qualified and would like to stay on at the school.

I think my chances are reasonable. I got a decent mark from the student survey with strong and weak points, my colleagues in the maths section were cautiously positive and the classroom visits went quite well. There are whole bunches of things I could do better and am working to improve, but that is true of any new teacher.

I hope I get to stay on at this school. If I do not, I shall certainly stay in teaching. It is where I belong. If I do not make the cut I shall be very sad, but I shall not, not ever, give up. That is what a calling means.


Dennis and the bomb


Dennis is rigid. Dennis is difficult. Dennis lashes out and cannot handle change. Many of the other teachers see Dennis as nothing but trouble and he gets sent out of class a lot.

But I recognise so much.