In the 1970’s, Hartley’s Jam ran a TV advert, the punch line of which was watching a stream of whole fruits pour into an open jam jar with the words: “we put a pound and a half of fruit into each pound jar” and this is sealed when the lid of the jar crams it all in with a door-slam which makes the whole image shake: KCTHUUUM!!! Jam – almost onomatopoeically – contains fruit which cannot be wholly recognised because it is mashed and pulped – pips and peel give clues that this was once fruit. Jam is OK, but it is, after all, a way of preserving fruit; fruit is far more nutritious when fresh and replenish-able.
There are plenty of fine and correct educational ideas which are poured into education: from government to management to teachers. They make sense, they are creative and colourful, and yet they end up in about 500,000 little receptacles, already nearly full with teaching. And then comes the lid – KCTHUUUM!!! – shaking of careers and lives. The lid is ‘professionalism’, and it is screwed tight: accountability, league tables, residuals, performance, ‘long holidays’. Inside each ‘jar’ is much pressure, little room for manoeuvre and only occasional pieces of fruit: some jars are conserve, some contain just jelly; all of them are sweet, because they are jam: teaching. But they are not fruit.
I feel I do a job-and-a-half in one job when I have to incorporate additional fine and good ideas into my single job of teaching. What are the solutions?
• make the jar stronger so that it can withstand the increased pressure? If you pay me more, then I have to take on more responsibility and ensure even more that it all works, and not just in my classroom. And I would still have a full timetable. The pressure would be even greater but I would still be paid to take it, and my jam will be even more pulped.
• make the jar bigger so that it can fit more in? If you increase my hours you would have to pay for them, and why pay for them when you get those extra hours for free anyway? And I would still have a full timetable, therefore no more would get done: a 2lb jar, 1lb of jam, for twice the price!
• take the lid off? You will not be able to rationalise teaching, some of the fruit would pour in, the rest would fall outside the jar, rolling all over the table and probably onto the floor. You would pay me my fabulous wage and no control over my delivery…
But if you halve my teaching I’ll give you a bowl of fruit year after year. It would be more expensive but it would be sweet in all sorts of different ways – and, in the long run, healthier.