Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday March 06 2009

At the end of July of last year, I rather abruptly ceased being an education blogger.  I’ll maybe (but I promise nothing) tell the story of why it ceased some other time.  Meanwhile, ever since, and given that the circumstances that had provoked the interruption have since abated somewhat, I have fretted about whether to resume.  But, I kept deciding not to.  After all, I can resume education blogging at any moment, but if I were to resume but then to discontinue, again, that would be rather undignified.  So, I let it slide.

I am now thinking that this slide really ought to be, if not permanent, then at least indefinite.  The daily grind of doing a daily libertarian take on education “policy” never really appealed.  The idea was that I would myself become a teacher, and write about that.  Well, I am becoming a teacher.  But the process is very small and slow and fragile, and could end at any moment.

Today, however, another thought about my teaching, and about how it might indeed suddenly end, clicked quietly into place.  Which is this.  I have to be willing to give up teaching in order to do the teaching I want to do properly. The idea is similar to (i.e. similar in logical structure but less dramatic than) the idea I blogged about at Samizdata the other day, that a warrior, to increase his chances of being a successful warrior, needs to be willing to die.

My teaching, if it is to work, has to involve the threat, if threat it be, to stop teaching.

I try to make the education I do fun for my few (very few as of now) pupils.  But it must also be fun for me, especially given that I am not being paid to do it in any coinage other than respect.  And that means they must play by my rules, even as I try (this being one of my rules) to work within the confines of theirs.  (I have rules.  We all do.  If you think you don’t have rules, you are kidding yourself.)

It now turns out that one of my rules is that Smart Boy must cease entirely from having his “hood” up, for the duration of his attendance at Kings Cross Supplementary.  I have already told him that I would like him to stop this.  At the end of last week’s proceedings, it went a bit further.  The senior Real Teacher present said to me that as far as she was concerned, the hood-up look should be completely banned.  Fair enough.  I don’t want my pupils causing easily avoidable unease to the Real Teachers.  So, next Tuesday night, the no-hood-up rule will be presented to Smart Boy.  No negotiation.  No hood-up.  I will happily explain the decision, but I will not alter it.  Either his hood-up habit ceases entirely for the duration of his attendance at Kings Cross Supplementary, or Smart Boy’s attendance there also ceases.  Not fair?  Not nice?  Welcome to the world kid.

But for me to be able to make this rule stick, I have to be able to look Smart Boy in the eye next Tuesday evening and say that I would rather not teach at all than tolerate his hoodedness for one minute longer.  I only have two pupils, Smart Boy and Clever Girl, and if Smart Boy goes, my teaching career, already hanging by a thread, will be that much closer to snapping into oblivion entirely.  Smart Boy is smart and knows this.  If I don’t come here any more, that means you’ll have failed, Sir, Mr Brian.  Right?  Right indeed.

But, so be it.  If me ceasing altogether from being a teacher, even though I do love to do it, is what it takes to convince Smart Boy that hoodedness pisses off the adults upon whom he depends for the educational topping-up which he says he wants from us, and in particular from me, and will consequently not be tolerated, well, that’s a swap I am willing to accept.

But now, the trouble with me maintaining a specifically educational blog based on my ongoing experiences as a teacher is that this makes me dependent upon my teaching continuing.  That would remove from my hand my most important - actually, given my other rules, my only - source of control over my pupils, namely my unwillingness to be their slave.  I will not be their drill-sergeant.  I will not torture them.  I will not bully them.  But nor will I allow them to bully me, by refusing to accept non-burdensome but (to me) important rules that I find I want to insist upon.  If they cannot accept that, then: no deal.

And what is more, I can’t see any of this changing very much in the near future.  If my teaching career suddenly explodes, and I become able to write my own ticket with each pupil in a way that in no way threatens the entire operation, then maybe I will resume education blogging.  But frankly, I don’t see that happening any time soon.  Ergo, no Brian Micklethwait’s Education Blog.  Not now, and probably not ever again.

Any education blogging I now feel like doing, and I have rather missed it (because I was saving it up for if I resumed it at BM’sEB), will instead be done here, as much of it or as little of it as I feel inclined to do.