When does education become something more?
Getting into teaching was a leap of faith for me. I have always been enthusiastic about sharing my skill set to empower those around me – whether it be teaching the mother in law how to use facebook; and believe me, that’s an uphill struggle. Running the gauntlet of privacy settings and how to post on someones wall, not just a HAPPY BIRTHDAY posted once a week on the bloody woman’s news feed. I figured, if I can teach my dear Valerie how to be safe online and enjoy to rewards of a digital world then I can teach just about anyone.
Those who know me, know that I fell in love with social media back in it’s true infancy, and I’m not talking about the by gone times of MySpace, but for those of you old enough to remember – Myspace was actually my first step into html and css coding, because of course, who didn’t want pink and black skull and cross bones raining on their page as Avril Lavigne Skater Boi blasted out across the hefty desktop speakers in the school IT suite – and by IT suite, we are talking desktops that could crush the very children that used them.
IT in school for me was basic Microsoft applications, create a CV on word, build a spreadsheet and use basic formulas in excel. When really, the most exciting thing to happen in the digital world back in my day, was MSN messenger. The original world of emojis and “Fran is listening to” because the only way to exert your individuality was to show your friends and randoms on MSN you had absolute class and style by way of song choice.
So its safe to say, that in 2020, you wouldn’t catch me dead dancing on TikTok and smashing out a challenge or two. I may have moved with the times, but there are some things that even this digital tutor won’t bite.
Once upon a time, it was baking bread and sharing that knowledge that set my world alight, there is something intrinsically magical about taking utter basics such as flour, salt, water and turning them into beautiful things – and don’t get me wrong, sometimes absolutely hideous but delicious things! I’ve seen some shockers in my time. Soda breads that could be confiscated as offensive weapons – but you get my point.
Teaching, or sharing, knowledge, time, experience. It is pure joy.
To know that you can give something, in a way that inspires, or sparks vision and ambition – it’s the best job in the world.
To teach digital, despite being, to all intents and purposes, a bit of a dinosaur comparative to my digital natives of students, is incredible.
Always at the forefront of technology, breathing in the latest developments which in turn allows for such a fresh approach to teaching, knowing there is always relevant, exciting, tangible content ready to roll out each week. Not stagnant, uninspiring books and reports that get churned out year after year, cohort after cohort. To write lesson plans that change every time their taught because something new and exciting has happened.
To thread in British Values with no pause for “how on earth will I do this?” because conversation and debate and passion are natural. That the laisse-faire approach, and the onus and ownership placed on my students, that you “use it or lose it” really takes hold and allows them to be their own critic, their own mirror and teaches them to accept responsibility in all its forms. Not just in the classroom, but holding them accountable to every day choices and challenges.
My students are my ultimate pride. Old, new. Past, present, and an exciting thing to comprehend who is next to walk into my classroom
I wax lyrical both inside the office and out, because I genuinely feel inspired by what these guys are doing, both what I teach them and what they teach me.
Yes. Let it be known. I Francesca Barker-Mills now know, what peng is, and what it is to be a snack, and that if you’re referenced as a full meal, you’re having a very very good hair day. I now know that there are musicians with names, that even I struggle to understand – Little Uzi Vert anyone? OK, anyone over 30? I didn’t think so.
It is truly a sad day, when playing an ice-breaker game of GUESS WHO, upon using my old favourite and all time love – Kylie Minogue, that if I dare write “Kylie” on my piece of paper, my students, every single one to date, has suggested, the cheek, the audacity, the lack of taste, that “Kylie” is in fact “Kylie Jenner”
There are some things I just cannot teach these people. Honestly.
I have a room full of people. Different ages. Backgrounds. Religions. Family Lives. On different days of the week. And I’m never bored. I’m always fascinated. Who they are now, who they will be tomorrow, the day after and in ten years time.
And they know me, lovely little old me and we engage on a level that is as old as time – you respect me and I will respect you. But more than that, they listen. They really listen. To everything I have to say. Whether it’s digital wonder and going off on a tangent about variants of code that they don’t actually need to know but I felt compelled to share, or giving them a history lesson alongside a digital lesson because context is everything and just because I’m a bit of a geek truth be told.
And they make real change.
The BeeHydrated vision was something that truly took me aback as an educator. That a group of students could have such forsight and empathy and understanding of the world around them, to take that to the next level and know their power. Know their voice. Know their capability.
That together or alone, they would challenge adversity and empower diversity.
To create something in a classroom, born from their education, and driven by their desire to
make the world a better place, some would say is naïve and idealistic – not this lot. With the power of their imagination and their digital acumen, creative eye, powerful politics and lets not forget, the force of their educators – The Growth Company supporting them every step of the way. It’s safe to say, education is power, and the old saying, knowledge is power has never been more true.
So it would appear I have not just been teaching digital. I’ve been teaching dignity and kindness.
Who knew. Me!
It is natural in life to self reflect, to wonder if you made the right choices, took the right turns and evaluate your own state of happiness.
I didn’t expect to be here, but I wouldn’t change a single second of this journey for the world. If I get to live each day, making a difference to these guys, as they make a difference to me and to the world around them. I’d say I have the best job in the world. Wouldn’t you?