“Would you like some of my home-made salad, sir?” says Magnus, a behaviourally challenging student by Scandinavian standards, who occasionally forgets to save enough pocket money for his Greenpeace membership fee. “I grew the butternut squash myself in the school allotment”.
Meanwhile, in the UK: “%*?$ off, you ~*@#” responds James when I ask him if he has a pen with him today. I’ll probably get a phone call from his mum later demanding I explain why I can’t cut him some more slack.
It’s not just the four-hour working days, two-hour lunch breaks, class sizes of twelve, six-figure salary and resident school masseuse I miss, having recently moved from Abroad back to the UK to teach. More than all of that, it’s the sheer perfection of all children who live in places that aren’t England. In these Other Places, children are hungry for knowledge and for meaningful learning experiences. So hungry, in fact, that ‘spending more time passively and quietly absorbing knowledge from your teachers’ is on the lunch menu at the Progressive School of Communal Happiness and Contentment, Svalbard.
Then there’s the fundamentally correct way in which other European cultures function. Did you know, for example, that the most common reason for being signed off sick from work in Norway is extreme-work-related-happiness, a condition that can result in near-fatal endorphin overload? It could just be that this I where our educational system is missing a trick, but we simply won’t get on the bandwagon without a fundamental change in educational culture of the UK. I’m fairly sure it’s Gove’s fault, but it could be the new one. Either way, it’s time to ditch learning objectives and progress-measuring and only teach the arts all of the time.
To summarise: you’re probably going to die of work-related stress unless you take a job Abroad in the next three days. If that isn’t practical, try reading loads more articles exactly like this one and complaining about the Whole Situation a lot in the staffroom.