I'm a Teacher Get Me Out of Here by Francis Gilbert (Short Books)
Reviewed By Cathy Walker
As I am about to change career to become a primary school teacher, I picked up
I'm A Teacher Get Me Out Of Here with a little trepidation. I'd heard that it presents the reality of working in a 'tough school', of what a hard and challenging job being a teacher truly is. I can't wait to become a teacher and I didn't want reading this book to lead to a dampening of my enthusiasm!
I also hoped that the book, which is a memoir of Francis Gilbert's first years as
an English teacher in a London secondary, wouldn't tarnish the reputation of
teaching and schools further than is already the case.
Problems with our schools are never out of the national and local press.
As I write, the issue of school discipline is in the news headlines as it was throughout
the election period.
There are also stories about teachers leaving the profession following incidents
of violence in schools.
Locally we know all too well about how schools can be labelled failing and in
Hull's case a whole education authority has been tarnished with this label.
More negative adverts for teaching are not needed!
Certainly Gilbert does not present teaching as an easy task.
He struggles to engage his students, many for whom English was a second language.
There are no quick fix solutions in teaching but he gradually chips away at his
pupils and develops as a teacher.
School hierarchies are also laid bare, particularly in the context of the staff room.
Tales of unsuspecting new teachers being lambasted for sitting in experienced
teacher's seats in the staff room are almost a cliché in teaching,
but Gilbert effectively shows how such hierarchies emerge.
This is an honest portrait of life in inner city secondary schools, but it is
one filled with humour (as Gilbert reminds us, teaching is
the only job where you can be told to f*** off, Sir).
Despite the challenges, Gilbert battles on as a teacher.
At the end of the book he does escape, finding a job a less problem-strewn school
in a leafy London suburb.
It is a key to the success of the book that Gilbert doesn't truly escape teaching (and is still teaching ten years on); the message is that teaching is tough but not so horrific as to run away as fast as you can to another career, maybe just to another school…
Whether this is a positive advert for teaching or not is open to interpretation.
It should certainly dispel any romantic perceptions that any new teachers have of
the job (and rightly so). It is hard work, draining and progress is often slow.
Hopefully it might also help others realise how difficult teaching can be, helping to restore respect for the job.
It also shows some of the rewards of teaching. The book is often very funny and shows what individual and engaging characters students can be. The recounting of the school field trip to Wales is particular poignant as Gilbert's importance to his pupils is made clear to him.
This book is recommended to all prospective teachers and to all those who don't want to
rely on the media to give them a sense of the reality in our schools.
I'm A Teacher Get Me Out Of Here does show the downsides of teaching, but unlike many news stories this is a balanced and reflective account of them.
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