Babies and bath water

#womened

When I was a Physical Education teacher I had a title that told people what I did. Tracksuit and trainers and working in a school were big clues as well.

When I stepped out of a school and stopped teaching children, I moved one step away from ‘Teacher’. It became less obvious what I did. My title was Advisory Teacher for PE and School Sport, but often, when I arrived at a school, the secretary would announce me as ‘The dance lady’ or 'The gymnastics woman’.

My younger son was 7 when I took up this post, and he told his friends ‘My mum teaches teachers.’ I suppose that’s exactly what I did - out of the mouth of babes...

The further I got from teaching children, the more I tried to disassociate myself from the term ‘teacher’. My next job was full of initials. I was a PDM (Partnership Development Manager), still working with teachers and sport, but managing budgets, resources, projects, initiatives, furiously collecting data and measuring impact. I felt lost in a land of spreadsheets and screens, doing everything I wasn’t good at, wasn’t born for, didn't really enjoy.

And would have continued doing if the funding hadn’t come to an end.

So in 2011 I changed my job title again. I became ‘Facilitator’, worked sometimes with teachers, but mostly with school leaders. I wasn’t a teacher any more. I’d got so far from the chalk face or the sports hall, I didn’t see myself as a teacher. I was a businesswoman, with my own company, an international presence, a writer of books; surely I was more than a teacher?

Since then I’ve struggled with the ‘title’ on my LinkedIn profile. My head is often turned by the flashy, catchy, trendy labels other people use. I have no title on my business cards because I don’t really know how to describe succinctly what I do.

Until today. 

Yesterday I was on a storytelling course. At one point a picture of baby in a bath, was shown. It was introduced as ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.’ Our task was to talk about ‘What stories should we not let go of?’

As I talked I mentioned the tale of my son telling his friends what I did when I was the Advisory Teacher for PE.

‘What do you think your son would say you do now?’ my partner in this exercise asked.

Without thinking I said, ‘He’d say I’m a teacher teaching teachers who teach teachers.’

The penny dropped - that’s exactly what I do.

The bath water might have changed frequently, but my ‘baby’, has always remained the same. I might have tried desperately to dress it up as something else, something more, or distance myself from it, but I know now I don't want to suffocate or deny my passion.

Today I realise ‘teacher’ says it all, is enough; what I do is enough, I’m enough.

I’m Joyce and I feel proud and entitled to say, I’m a teacher, still teaching.

Author Profile

Joyce MATTHEWS

Joyce MATTHEWS

Ex-PE teacher facilitating leadership development all around the world.

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