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Ed Baillie: Primary Trainee - Harris Primary Academy Beckenham

Cohort 2021-22

October 2021

Ed baillie“Why did you start your teacher training journey?”

Sitting beneath the branches of a twisted tree, atop a south London hill, I took a moment to reflect on the spires of glass and steel before me. Irregular yet regulated, the city had been my working home for more than a decade. On this occasion its distance was palpable. 

Lockdown had been a revelation. 

I confess, it was manic trying to hold down a job from a small bedroom, working through an even smaller screen, whilst attempting to home school two primary age children. My wife and I did what we could to cover all bases: daily reading, some maths, art of course, park-time, and a little more TV than we might have preferred. We both wanted to do more, but reality sadly had other ideas.  

Regardless of these imperfections, the opportunity to place ourselves at the centre of our children’s education was an undeniable privilege. I went about the task with a sense of austere obligation at first. Responsible first to my children and secondly to our State, overloaded as it was with the challenges of the day. This was to be my contribution to the wider societal effort to manage the pandemic. It was a small contribution, I admit, vanishingly small in comparison to those bound by their duty to work with the sick, to support the vulnerable, to keep the city moving, the schools open and the shelves stocked. Nevertheless, it was mine to give, and it was given freely! 

I have no doubt that this time has changed many people’s lives. Listening to the news, hearing the unfolding of personal tragedy and public drama alike, my thoughts returned again and again to the questions of purpose and service. Historically I have worked to provide, spending much of my days without meaning or vocation; my time deferred on the promise of some future reward. However, having witnessed the mobilisation of society in response to the unprecedented challenges presented by Covid, I could not ignore the fact that my contribution had been, in my estimations at least, insubstantial. My contribution was at best one of absence. I was helping only by staying out of the way. 

As my children returned to their school and I was excused the distraction, I should have been grateful for the reprieve. I wasn’t! Something had changed. 

Sitting under that tree, no doubt encouraged by its steady persistence, I penned a simple list: I noted those things that I like and those that I do not; the things that engender meaning and those that take it away; my reasons for getting up each morning, contrary to the common causes of lethargy that incline a tired mind toward the snooze button. We all make decisions in our day to day, I thought. I have made many. Choices, real choices, choices that herald change are however far less common. With list in hand, I resolved that a change was to be my only choice that day.  

Looking up from the page, a small troop of primary school children filed over the brow of the hill and took up their places on the grass not far from me. I watched for a moment or two. There was a buzz of excitement as they each explored, pencil and paper in-hand, the skyline before them. I became fascinated by the deliberate effort required to conceive of a scene that for so long I had regarded with little more than an idle simplicity. It was in that moment that I resolved to become a teacher, working with others to trace the outline of the horizons laid out before them.