I've had a lot of kids ask me this recently. Year 10s mostly, but some year 9 too, who seem to be searching for some direction. In response, I've told them all the same story...
I didn't know what I wanted to be... As a young kid, a T-rex, but my arm:height ratio was all wrong. As an 11-year-old kid, a footballer, but I wasn't good enough. At the age of 16 I sat my GCSEs. I didn't do overly well - 2 As, 3 Bs and 5 Cs - in comparison to a lot of people I know, but I didn't go to a great school and I wasn't at all pushed (or something like that!). During my English exam I finished early - with a LONG time to spare - and I was sat at the front row in the exam hall. All I could see was the stage and the corners of the room and I turned back to my paper. In it, there was a pamphlet on teaching, and so I read it... and again... and again... and again... That was me sold, so I went straight to see my maths teacher at the time and took my journey from there. College (ICT and maths), University (maths) and PGCE later, there I was.
"Do you like your job, Sir?"
I love it. I complain about it... a lot. But the fact remains, I love it. I've been namecalled, teased, ignored, insulted, sworn at, threatened and punched, but those kids and those incidents aren't what I think of when I consider my last five years of teaching. I don't care about those incidents. I focus on the best that kids can give me.
I think back to T, who made me feel so appreciated in my PGCE year.
I think back to N, who changed my mind about how kids learn by making 2 levels of progress in a year and showing me that just because you're quiet doesn't mean you're not learning. I think about J, who is basically the same kid, who scored 99/100 on an assessment this year despite not being the most active learner.
I think back to I, who showed me that being cast aside due to language issues is incredibly wrong and proved it by going from an F to a C in a year.
I think back to a group of about 20 kids who tried to stop me from leaving my old school on my last day by physically blocking the doors.
I think back to A, who on my first day at my current job asked me if I knew her friend from my old job and said "She says you're ace."
I think back to S, who put a free kick from the half way line straight in the top corner for the school football team.
I think back to E, who on his teacher report said that I was the best teacher he'd had in 5 years, despite me only being there for one.
I think back to H, who was told that she stood a better chance at winning the National Lottery than getting a C, but got a tutor, came to every revision session and at breaks and lunches and got what she deserved.
I think about J, who scored 59/60 on her end of year assessment and was disappointed because she dropped a mark.
I think about D, who ran herself into an asthma attack at sports day in the 1500m because she "didn't want to let me down".
There are a lot of special kids in every school. You just have to speak to them, find out about them and seek out the good in them. This year's year 11 left, officially, last week. They're the worst year group to have gone through the school in quite some time. But there was an outstanding atmosphere of achievement and appreciation at their leavers assembly and their leaver's ball was great.
S came in to my group for the last few months to keep her from arguing with her teacher. She came in on an E and she left feeling confident of a C. After the assembly she ran over, stopped herself, said "Thank you for helping me in maths" before hugging me and running off to her friends.
G grabbed me as I passed him and told me that it was "great being in your lessons, Sir", even after he spent the last two years taking grief from me and starting every sentence with "Just you wait until I leave, I'm gonna...".
R, a kid who was excluded for the way he responded to me after a football match, came over, shook my hand and thanked me for taking him after school.
B, a pupil who is now a mother, brought me a box of chocolates and wrote a wonderful card to thank me for helping her to organise herself with her exams and for the support in the situation she found herself in.
That was a great hour!
It's not finished, yet, though.
K, a pupil I was told was petrified of me by the SENCO, wrote me a letter saying that I'm her favourite teacher and that I always make her smile.
K, M, O, J, C and J, six wonderful Y8 kids, are mentoring year 7s so that they're doing something useful with their lunchtimes.
When I had a slight meltdown, 10 Y8 girls sat with me. Just for a chat.
M, a year 9 pupil whose target is an F this year is working close to a grade B.
K, a year 10 set 2 pupil, was getting A*s on past papers prior to U2 at the end of this year and was praised by "The Big O" for her involvement in maths in year 7 tutor groups.
O, a year 10 kid, who every time I see him says "One day..." in reference to his hope that one day he'll be smarter than me.
There are countless other kids that make my days seem shorter and fill them with positivity. Every morning, kids who greet you with a smile and hold the door before saying "Thank you" when I say "After you...". My form who enter the room with a huge smile, long before they're due to arrive. The kids who turn up at your door and say "Can we come in yet?". The kids who you no longer teach any more, but come and ask "Could you stay after school to help me with...?".
My job's tough and I'm not paid overly well.
It's only getting more tough and pay and conditions are only getting worse.
The thing is, though, I don't want to be anywhere else.