Monday, 30 May 2016

The Teacher With A Thousand Faces

"Heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us."
 Joseph Campbell - The Power of Myth

"I mistrust all systematizers and I avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity." 
Friedrich Nietzsche - Twilight of the Idols

I - The Beginning

In the beginning was the word, and the word needed teaching, and the teacher was made flesh. In the beginning the classroom was empty and bounteous, like a secret garden. The word adorned the wall displays. The cupboards were stocked. All things obeyed a natural order and ever would. In the beginning the world was flat, and East was East. In the beginning, there was time, too. Kronos reigned, and the titanic ringing of the bell had not yet been heard. In the beginning Zarathustra stood before the sun to address it. The teacher rehearsed her plan, in her element.

II - The Call to Adventure

In that wait so like every other wait, a shadow is cast. A serpent enters. A message is received. Perhaps she sees an unknown face walking purposefully up the corridor, and presupposes an unannounced inspection, or an intruder. Perhaps a child walks in, in excitement, in tears, in silence. Perhaps a colleague walks by and smiles incongruously, or fails to conspicuously. The computer crashes or the projector is extinguished. She realises an error or an omission and falters. Her plan, juncture of past and future, seems now as if written by the rules of another language, a foreign philosophy.

III - Crossing the Threshhold

The last minute before the bell stretches indefinitely towards an uncertain fate. The teacher stands on the threshold but daren't enter. She can only dwell. For a moment, she is Edith, looking back upon the wreckage of the past. For another Orpheus, looking for some certainty about the future. But her destiny is neither to become a pillar of salt, nor a lyre-player to an indifferent world. The world teems with giants upon whose shoulders to stand, and the word must be taught.

IV - The Supreme Ordeal

In that interminable minute, she must reclaim her power, her place, her present. In every corner of the room stand ghosts: the observer, the inspector, the mentor, the parent, the colleague, the trainee, the journalist, the Secretary of State herself. Each inspires fear, but the time of her navel-gazing is over. She is Appollo, entering the temple of the oracle to slay Pytho, coiled upon the omphalos. She is The Boy Who Lived plotting the death of Nagini. She crushes the serpent's head, and the serpent bruises her heel. As the spectres fade, she learns that she has no worse critic than herself.

V - The Road Back

The ticking of the clock urges her on now. Twenty seconds are left, or twenty years. After blinding the Cyclops, Odysseus sets sail. She adapts her plan, checks, changes course and returns in ever-decreasing circles, pushed on by the winds of East, North and South. She ties herself to the mast to resist the siren songs. Nothing will tempt her from her path. No alien pedagogies will alter her practice. No management culture will undermine her professionalism.

VI - The Transformation

And so, by way of the West she returns from the East. The world is no longer flat, and her time is now hers. A thousand faces she has worn on her journey to find herself, to discover that she is no hero. A thousand more will she wear to help her students on their separate paths. She lives no longer in myth. Myth lives in her, and each child will find their struggle reflected in her eyes.

VII - The (Eternal) Return

The bell rings. She opens the door to her class of heroes - each, like her, on their way to learning and re-learning their humanity. It is circle time.


  1. Brilliant for one of my student teachers struggling with her process of becoming.

    1. That makes me very proud. We are all, always, just becoming. :)


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