My short-lived teaching career and Kelvin MacKenzie’s explosive speech

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Wednesday 12th October 2011

My teenage son’s trying to decide which universities to apply to. The only trouble is that after poring over countless websites, they’re all starting to blur into one. Neither of us can remember which university boasts 22 Nobel Prize winners or which has a library with four million books.

But one thing I know for sure is that my university ambitions are over. I learned my lesson the hard way a few years back when I was mad enough to sign up for a teaching course. I can’t for the life of me think why, but on the spur of the moment I foolishly decided to ditch the day job and retrain as a college lecturer.

Within days of registering it was obvious I’d made a terrible mistake. After years of working as a solitary freelance I loved being with other students all day but I couldn’t stand the endless paperwork. We all had to practise teaching our fellow students, which seemed perfectly reasonable. But then we had to fill in reams and reams of forms – everything from what teaching principles our lessons demonstrated (I mostly didn’t have a clue) to whether the class seating plan was up to scratch.

Because we were teaching over 16s, we had to explain what we’d do if students texted, swigged alcohol, spat, swore, took drugs or even pulled a knife in our lessons. Eeek! They wouldn’t do anything like that, would they?

I lasted precisely six months before I threw in the towel. And no, I’m glad to say I never taught anyone who carried a weapon or a flask of whisky in their back pocket. But the experience wasn’t entirely wasted. I don’t get fazed at speaking in public any more, I can do a PowerPoint presentation and my admiration for teachers knows no bounds. Trust me, it’s an awful lot harder than it looks.

PS: Newspapers are in the news again after an explosive speech from Kelvin MacKenzie this afternoon. The ex-editor of The Sun never minces his words (that’s putting it mildly) and sure enough, during his appearance at the Leveson inquiry he turned on everyone from David Cameron to former News International boss Rebekah Brooks. Years ago I was on the receiving end of Kelvin’s straight-talking style after I was offered a job at The Sun. I’d just joined a Sunday paper and when I pitched up at Wapping to meet Kelvin (no one ever calls him Mr MacKenzie) his first words were “you haven’t had much in the paper yet, have you?” I couldn’t argue. He was dead right.

PPS: I’m not usually a fan of herbal teas but I’ve just discovered Summerdown’s delicious peppermint tea (above). I’m so hooked that I’m on my third cup of the day.

4 comments so far

  • Emma, I am always grateful that you did try teaching, as that’s where we met! And you made me mildly famous in education circles, by putting my name in the paper (3 times!). Your questioning on self reflection remains with me to this day xx

  • As an ex-secondary schoolteacher, I recognised much of what you wrote.

    Happily, though, it’s wine o’clock now and I can swiftly blur the memories that threaten to return.

    Liz X

  • I agree, Linsey. How many times have you helped me with interviews and suggested books? I’m so grateful, but still reckon I’m not a good teacher.

  • Thanks so much for commenting, Liz. I really think teaching is one of the toughest jobs there is!

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