Saturday, 14 January 2017

Switching Off

I read two blog posts today which really resonated with me. They were from two educators  I admire because of their philosophy of and dedication to education. You can read @smithsmm here and @johntomsett here. I can't write as eloquently as these guys but they've inspired me to write something about the theme I connected with in both blogs; the investment of time we make as educators in our work and the impact that it has on our family and especially our children. 

I first started working in secondary education in 2005. Since then I have fulfilled the roles of teaching assistant, learning mentor, trainee teacher, history teacher, head of year and head of department  Since becoming a father five years ago I've become acutely aware of how  much I work and also the impact it can have on the people closest to me, especially my children. Although they are only 3 and 5 years old I think they can see that I spend far too much time and energy working and not enough fulfilling my dutiful role as a dad. The other day, for example, this conversation occurred between me and my eldest, Nye:

Nye: Dad, do you want to come outside and play football?

Me: Yes, mate. Just give me 5 mins to finish this chapter.

Nye: Dad, do you want to marry a book?

Now, as ridiculous as this question may seem there's a real depth of awareness in its observation. Nye sees me reading all the time. It's a huge part of my job, I guess. But he also sees this as something that I enjoy doing more than building Lego or kicking a ball in the garden. And to some degree he's right. That said, it really saddens me to know that he thinks like this and I need to do more to remedy it. 

In the short time that I've been a dad I feel as though I've already missed out on so much of their lives because of work; mainly through the demands of teaching but also because I decided to do an MA, part-time, over the past three years (the length of time my youngest, Osh, has been on this planet). There have been many occasions over the past three years where I have missed family events, days out and socialising with friends and their children. None of this would have been possible without the support of my family for which I am eternally grateful. 

I thought this obsession with work might've changed once I left teaching but I've just replaced the demands of school with those of doing a PhD. I still miss time with the kids because I have work that I 'need' to do. Thing is, if you've never experienced a child's face after telling them you can't spend the day with them because you've 'got to work' then I admire and envy you in equal measure. 

There's also been a number of occasions where Nye has said 'dad, put your phone away'. Although I'm not playing Candy Crush, he's got a point. That Tweet, blog or email can wait. Our relationship can't. I guess that's one of the unfortunate trappings of 21st Century living; it's difficult to switch off unless we really completely switch off. For someone who has dedicated most of their adult life to helping children I worry that in the process I'm neglecting the relationships with my own. I waited until the boys had gone to sleep to write this blog which  I guess is a step in the right direction. So, in the words of Guy Garvey, it's time I really started......

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