Since graduating from college (back in the dark ages) I’ve always taught as my in-between job aka the job that pays the bills. I was lucky enough to have secured a teaching job the moment I graduated at a new drama college, and even more fortunate to have been employed by my alma mater literally as soon as I finished studying there. Now I should quickly add in hindsight I think that both of those jobs were given to me far too quickly – as back then I was qualified for neither. However, with inexperience comes a belief that you’re invincible and all-knowing so I took the positions and learned how to be an effective teacher as I went along.
Over the years I’ve taught primarily in Higher Education and quite specifically within the vocational training sector. At one point I even had a little foray into Further Education – when I ended up running the music component on a BTEC course and teaching A Level drama amongst other things. Indeed it was with 20 years of teaching behind me that I decided to open my own college. For me, it’s always been the perfect “other” career. I love working with young professionals, I’m a firm believer that as a teacher you can learn so much from your students, and I think that it’s a great way to hone your own craft.
Throw in The MTA and in total I’ve taught for 33 years. However, now that The MTA is no more I’ve come to the rather sad realisation that my vocational teaching days are now over for good. It’s hard to feel bitter when you’ve been lucky enough to teach so many great students over the years, and I consider myself particularly lucky to be in touch with so many of them. That said – it’s surely going to leave a huge void in my life going forward.
I’ve never really enjoyed teaching 1:1 classes – a fact that I’d regularly share with my MTA lot when they’d occasionally ask for a singing lesson with me. Whilst I love seeing the changes in people and of course, building up a large practice is particularly lucrative, what I really enjoy is working with groups of individuals and I guess taking them on a journey of self-discovery – and the only place to do that sort of work is at a drama college. Therein lies the issue – who the hell would employ me now, and who the hell would I even want to work for?
Prior to opening The MTA, I ran a couple of departments in other colleges, indeed it was those roles that led me to the decision to open my own college because I just didn’t like the way that some colleges operated. Like lots of jobbing guest tutors, I’d get overly involved and want to change things about the college to make it better (IMHO)- but of course, you can’t really do that. . . unless it’s your own college. At other institutions, you have to toe the line – nobody likes the guest tutor that keeps making suggestions or the one that’s prepared to listen to the students and then nag for things to change. If there’s one thing that infuriates me – it’s pointless red tape. Jumping through hoop after hoop in order to make the smallest of changes that could make the most extraordinary difference.
I consciously opened a college that put the student voice at the heart of what it did. I ran a college where the staff would happily disagree with me and make suggestions to make things better, and 9 times out of 10, if we could afford it, I would attempt to implement the changes because I trusted my staff. I ran a college that I wanted to work at.
So here’s the dilemma that I now have – could I really just go into a college and do a bit of sessional work, after much soul-searching, the answer is a resounding no. I spent 14 years running my own college. I attempted (and it’s for others to say whether I was successful) to run a college which didn’t have the niggles that I encountered as a staff member. I tried to treat my staff fairly, to listen to them and to pay them on receipt of invoice. I guaranteed my students a faculty of top industry professionals thereby ensuring that we all sang from the same industry hymn sheet. My students and staff had instant access to additional support. I ran a college that truly attempted to understand and implement good mental health practices. My staff hung around for years, and my students mostly went on to have successful (aka happy) lives.
How could I teach at a college that had loads of students, when I’d just spent years insisting that student numbers were important? How would I react now when chasing my own invoices? How would I manage the conflict when I could see that a student needed additional support whilst knowing that the college would have a “system” in place to help the student, but no clinician on staff to give instant support?
Quite simply. . . I couldn’t. . . and that’s even assuming that another college would even offer me a job, which is highly unlikely when I’ve spent over a decade shouting about the decline in vocational training standards etc.
So the harsh reality that I’m now facing is that my “pay the bills job” has actually dumped me.
So what next? I’ve literally only ever taught as my in-between job so I’m now in unchartered territory. I’m under no apprehension that I’ll get enough MD jobs or commissions to keep me financially afloat, so it’s time for a rethink.
So I guess that this blog is my teaching obituary. I’ve loved being an educator and it’s an ironic by-product of The MTA that it killed a part of my working life that I truly enjoyed.