|This for a pension?|
I’m a late thirty-something, I am a self-employed teacher, writer, lecturer. My working life is made up of temporary and short-term contracts, and most of the work that I do is self-generated. It relies me to be creative, flexible, endlessly innovative, patient and (an introvert’s nightmare) collaborative. We’ve not met, so before you paint a picture for yourself of me as a cross between Andy Warhol and Benjamin Franklin (just imagine the hair), I can also point out that working this way requires me to be happy to make mistakes (a lot, and I’m not usually happy about it), reflective (hello crushing self-doubt) and the rest.
This is becoming increasingly normal for fellow thirty-somethings who might find that description of working routines a familiar one. It is, however, a regime that probably horrifies traditionally-minded, nine to fivers. My mother, for example, probably does not think that the freedom to work in a cafe or in my pyjamas at home is enough of a trade-off for a proper pension.
I’m sorry if you feel you’re trapped on the bus next to the guy telling you his life-story. The point is that a younger me - a child, a teenager, a graduate - could never have imagined that this is what a working life would have looked like. Working alone on self-generated projects, I have a lot of time to think, pose questions, try to answer them. Yes, it's driving my wife a bit mad. Aside from ‘time for coffee?’, the key questions that come to me are these: How much did my education prepare me for this life? Did I learn the skills to work this way happen because of what I learned at school or in spite of it? As an educator, this question becomes ‘how am I enabling learners to accept or adapt to this?’
I have spent the Covid lockdown accidently in Bangkok (long story) and it has given me much time to think and reflect on these questions. If children are learning, but not in school, then what does that mean for how we educate our children? Does it mean the end for traditional instruct-learn-test? If teachers are educating remotely, either digitally or by setting work, what does that now mean for the work teachers will be expected to do?
And then the big one: how could we ever go back to what we had before willingly? We are being asked to embrace the new normal, but was it even normal to begin with?