On the final day for graduating BEd and PGCE students, Eylan Ezekiel joined our final conference to talk careers, and the future.
In 1994 Eylan started his career in teaching, so often seen as a secure, straightforward path. However, his ‘career; has panned out into a wide diversity of roles, from a head chef, to working in publishing, to starting his own business…. to collecting slugs. Somewhere in there is the formal career, but there are many things that are informal and ‘off piste’. In every one of them he learned something about teaching and learning.
He saw an advert from a publisher in the TES looking for opinions of teachers. He called them up and ‘ranted’ for some time, to be told he had ‘got the job’. He had thought that people outside of education didn’t care about children like teachers did, but what he found was a world with a huge amount of people trying to do good for young people in different ways. He had thought that teachers were the pure ones in the world of education, with the businesses around them as the salty, contaminating force. This, he said, is not the case.
There is a whole world of education outside of the classroom, and he urged the graduating teachers to keep this in mind. Education, he said, costs money. Teachers cost money, resources in schools cost money. He urged these teachers not to be scared of that, to engage with it as part of what makes education work.
Eylan began his career in a tough school in inner city London. The head teacher fell asleep half way through the interview, but he wanted a job in this place so he went for it. Three weeks before Ofsted come to see if they could move them on from ‘serious weaknesses’, they went on a school trip. He saw this head not follow the procedure for walking children safely across the road. When Ofsted asked if he had any comments about the leadership, he was faced with a dilemma. He asked the graduating teachers to consider what they would do…
He moved on to what is happening in education in the UK at the moment, citing the grumbles in the media of how terrible things are… The reality, he said; it is always like that. There is always change, and every education secretary for decades has been subject to harsh criticism by some sections of the profession.
The temptation is to hide yourself away in a school. However, he said currently Gove is right to challenge the profession, and they need to rise to that. That doesn’t have to mean doing what he says, but it does mean making a strong case for what you believe to be the right way to do things and the impact it will have. Teachers, he said, need to swim with the tides.
Eylan saw an opportunity in one tide; the free schools movement. His local areas was hugely influenced by academy chains and secondary schools he didn’t feel were right for hid children and the children he knew. Through his varied career he had made contacts across the world of education, so he spent two years trying to bring them together to open a free school that was based on the values, ethics and rigour he believed in.
The powers that be said no, twice. It was, he said, a fight worth fighting. He urged the new teachers to do those things, whatever they are, that matter to them, that align with their values and create the best for the children.
However, they don’t have to do it alone. He spoke to the importance of working with others, building relationships, even though this can sometimes be difficult. This includes building relationships with managers, and he shared Jack Welch’s Four types of managers. There are, he said, managers you don’t want to work for. If you find yourself working with one, be professional, but quit. Find an environment in which you can be the best you can be.
He recommended that teachers seek out people to challenge them as well as support them. He advised them to engage with people with different politics in their school, to follow people like Andrew Old on twitter as a counter to their ideas. However, he said you might need criticism, but you should avoid ‘sourpusses’, people who oppose new ideas just because they are new.
“Avoid what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own”
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