Teaching. It's one of the hardest and noblest professions you can enter, but then I suppose I would say that, being one myself. It's physically and mentally draining, a constant battle against a thirty-body deep army of hormones, defiance and mood swings, and that's before the shitstorm that constantly beats down on us from above, from parents, from Ofsted and from the general public's attitude of "YOU FINISH WORK AT 3 AND GET 13 WEEKS PAID HOLIDAY EVERY YEAR, I PAY YOUR WAGES SO I OWN YOU AND YOU ARE ALL A BUNCH OF TRADE UNIONIST SCUM!"
So yes, it's a career which in the current climate does not get anywhere near the amount of respect that it deserves. Nobody leaves university and follows a path of educating the minds of tomorrow, despite the promises of tax free bursaries of sixty bazillion pounds and pensions dipped in molten platinum. But, to be honest, we don't do much to change this public perception and lack of recognition in one particular and very easily visible aspect: the cars in which we turn up to work.
I firmly believe that a big part of why students of today (and people in general) show so little regard for teachers, is the piles of complete and utter rusty buckets of shit that litter the staff car park of every primary, comprehensive, academy and grammar. I'm going to use myself as an example. I drive a blue Vauxhall Astra VXR that is not dissimilar to this beauty:
Not bad, right? Not a supercar by any stretch and, when all is said and done, still a Vauxhall Astra. It's the sort of car that would look right at home on the car park of the office of a reasonably well-performing corporation, mixed in with the Jaguars, BMWs and Mercedes of the more senior managers and the like. However, when I arrive at work in my VXR, by the reactions of the pupils and staff, you would think I was the Sultan of fucking Brunei! Literally everybody knows that "that's Mr B's VXR outside" and there's at least three daily impromptu outbursts of "Oh my God, sir, I love your car" whilst I'm attempting to explain the intricacies of quadratic equations.
The reason? Despite me being just a normal teacher of maths with a small junior managerial responsibility tagged on for a couple of extra quid in my pay packet, I have by far the most interesting car in the entire staffroom, including that of the headteacher (who owns a silver Jeep Cherokee). Why is that? Why does the six-figure-earning boss not come rolling in behind the wheel of an S-Class coupe? Why does the deputy not do donuts outside the school gates in her BMW M4? Why does my head of department think a ten-year-old Mazda MX5 is more appropriate for his status than an Audi RS5? Why do all teachers in my school (apart from me apparently) not give two shits about what everyone sees them driving?! I mean, Jesus, get some self respect! The spectrum of specimens of shitmobiles they rock up in range from boring to just plain shocking. I'm talking first-generation Honda Jazzes, battered base model Ford Focuses, the usual congregation of 57-plate Korean abominations, and even a 20-year-old Mk4 Fiesta whose back window has been covered in brown parcel tape for the entirety of the time I have worked there.
I wouldn't mind so much if it was only confined to my own school, but this goes on all over the UK and indeed the world, to the point where it has become a stereotype and the butt of every (admittedly hilarious) joke. The Simpsons, for example, puts Principal Skinner in a car which can't climb hills and, in another genius moment of observation, when the school bullies think that they can become teachers, it promptes Dolph to proclaim "Boo-yah! I'm gonna buy me a Hyundai Elantra!" Then there was the little red joke of a hatchback that Cameron Diaz was forced to buy when her rich husband left her in Bad Teacher. And who could forget the battered old Triumph Acclaim in which Greg Davies potters about in Man Down?
So yes, over the years, we have become a stereotype. But my God we don't half deserve it! So, if you are a teacher, please heed my advice. If you are tired of being seen as having chosen a career from the bottom of the proverbial barrel, next time you go car shopping (which on another point happens far too infrequently), show your driveway some love. Get something you'd be proud to show up in for a college reunion. There's even a website which gives teacher discounts on a cars such as AMG Mercedes and Audi R8s. Or failing that, a nice Golf GTI.
We put up with a lot. Let's reward ourselves with something to enjoy the drive home. Which has never once occurred at 3pm, so wind your necks in.