Those Who Can, Teach What It Takes To Make the Next Generation£11.89*
- A powerful book sharing the stories of many pupils and the challenges they face each day growing up.
- The book highlights the pastoral role each one of us ultimately has in modern-day teaching.
- Some stories shared make for uncomfortable reading, but show a realism into the challenges faced and how a good, kind and caring teacher can play a positive impact.
- This is a book about the compassion we can show, as professionals, to young people who are trying to find their place in the world.
- This book is suited for any teacher with a heart, teaching at any level, teaching any subject, teaching in any town or city.
To many of the winners, being awarded the $1m Global Teacher Prize comes as a great surprise. They are honoured to have been nominated for the award, to make the trip to Dubai to be part of the award ceremony, and to impress the event on their CV that will surely help their career. The $1m prize is just icing on the cake – a dream out of reach for most of us.
This was the case for Andria Zafirakou – the London-based secondary art teacher who won the accolade in 2018. To Andria, she was just being a teacher, serving multi-cultural communities in London, bringing her subject to life, and making a positive impact on the lives of her pupils where she could. To the reader of her new autobiographical account of her professional life, it is clear that Andria is someone who goes well far and above what is expected of teachers at any level with the passion and commitment for her students shining through. In fact, the book is not necessarily an autobiographical account of her professional life, but an account of the struggles of some of the pupils she supports within a deprived area of multi-cultural Britain.
Teachers based within the England educational system are given a huge treat early in the book as Andria recounts the meeting she had with Nick Gibb MP, who was trying to offer a formal position within Theresa May’s government. Whether jet-lagged, tired or overwhelmed with only just receiving the Global Teacher Prize, the earful that Andria gave accountant Gibb made it quite clear that she was appalled by government moves to make the arts less prominent in schools and the emphasis on results results results actually helps many children disassociate with their formal education. She didn’t take the role!
What follows is a heartwarming, heartbreaking and heartfelt account of how the students within her school community have affirmed the compassionate character Andria clearly is. We are told about how elective-mute Alvaro had been written off with a special needs statement, but through a love of Art became one of the most chatty, characterful individuals you could wish to meet. To any teacher who loves the job for the right reasons, the story of Alvaro will bring a tear to your eye – it certainly did for me.
Plenty more stories are shared of some of the inspiring, challenging and creative individuals that have crossed Andria’s path through the years, but it is the words of wisdom that are scattered through the book that makes you stop and absorb the strong messages being portrayed. As an example, Andria reminds us to be kind to all our pupils each day, as we never know what a child has been through to get themselves to school in the morning. Or, if you can find a way to connect with your pupils, that’s when the real teaching begins. Or even, what we teach is not always about developing pupils in our particular subject area, it’s also about equipping them with skills that can help them in so many other areas of their lives. There are many more reality checks like this that will resonate with teachers in all communities, teaching children of all ages, and they will make you stop and think.
But, this is a book about the pupils – many of which can be related to others in different schools across the world. OK, so Andria did dash to the shops to buy a student some clothes that would make him look smart, stop receiving punishment for untidy clothes that he had little control over, and turn him around into a pupil who could enjoy education. And yes, Andria would visit the families of students to see for herself the challenging lives they were living, especially those who had come to the UK for ‘a better life’. But this is a book about the compassion we can show, as professionals, to young people who are trying to find their place in the world. Be assured, the stories shared can make for uncomfortable reading and cultural values clash, and the safety of some pupils are compromised, but what Andria tells us throughout this book is that we can actually learn so much from our pupils if we listen, find time for them, and pick up on the clues given throughout the school day when some are struggling.
In the concluding epilogue, Andria impresses the lives and experiences of her students who have formed the teacher she has become. Alex, Amvaro, Fatima, Akila and the countless other pupils within her school community – they are the inspiration – they are the focus. So, this is a book not only about being a good teacher but fundamentally, it is a book about being a good, kind and caring person.