Working in Education

Being a teacher has never been a skill I’ve sought to learn; not to be a full-time teacher, anyway. I wouldn’t object to being a peripatetic teacher, moving around and sharing knowledge in specific areas; language, writing, fun facts about history, and so on. I don’t think there would much demand for a teacher with those specific and rather narrow interests, so it’s a dream that will undoubtedly remain unfulfilled.

But I have worked in education, nonetheless. I spent just shy of two years working for a further education college in Thanet called – unimaginatively, I would argue – Thanet College. As I reached the end of my time with the public library service – and was sad to leave a group of people who were rather lovely – I was attracted to staying within libraries because it had the potential of being both familiar and, because it was an academic library, different.

I was surprised to discover that all was not well in the library; the manager and deputy manager disliked each other – they made it pretty obvious – and decision-making atrophied because they were at loggerheads or worried about impacting the other one’s sphere of influence. The four library assistants – me included – were all an eccentric bunch, but not bad by any stretch of the imagination. We just didn’t gel as a team in the same way as I had gelled with colleagues in the public sector, although there were individuals I liked – especially Barrie, who just didn’t care what anyone thought of her, and Gemma, who started at the same time as me and shared an “outsider’s” view of all the drama. It was sad that we couldn’t be more of a coherent group.

A few months in, I decided that enough was enough; this wasn’t working, as I wanted to work in a team that actually supported each other. I was fed up working in dysfunction; I couldn’t change the culture of the team I was in, so I had to take responsibility and make a change.

I spoke to the college personnel officer, who couldn’t have been more understanding. I wish I had stayed in touch with her afterwards; I liked her style, and I respected her empathy and directness. That meeting changed the path of my career; it goes to show that the people who influence your life don’t have to be in it forever. They just have to be kind.

Someone was leaving the Purchasing Department to become a full-time musician – not a career trajectory you hear very often – and the college was looking for someone to succeed him. Thankfully, that person was me, and I think that requires a post all of its own.

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