It sounds like a plot from a Hollywood movie. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it ends up as one!
His Royal Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, has sponsored an international quest to find the Best Teacher in the World. When this mythical creature is found, from a long list of hundreds of thousands, to a shortlist of only 15, he/she will be awarded a prize of $1,000,000.
Yes, you read that correctly; I did just say 1 million dollars!!!
Now, if this were really a film script, a young, beautiful idealistic girl from a rough neighbourhood would be shortlisted. She’d have a quasi tragic backstory, coming perhaps from a broken home where education wasn’t valued, or a war-torn country where access to education for all was a pipe dream. But her determination to make a difference in the lives of her pupils and her colleagues would lead to her nomination for the Global Teacher Prize and after a lengthy montage of questionnaires and interviews and testimonials from those whose lives she touched the most, she’d find herself suddenly transported to the awards ceremony in Dubai. There she would fall truly madly deeply in love with one of His Royal Highnesses’ 9 sons; she’d go to the ball, win the award; and then face the traumatic decision of whether to return to her classroom, where her students eagerly awaited her, or re-locate to be with the man she loved, there to continue the career that defined – and changed – her life forever!
I quite like my movie. It’s a little clichéd, sure, but heartwarming nonetheless and with enough potential sting in the tail to keep us engaged up to the final moments…
Reading about the prize this week brought me right back to 2012 and the day I got the phone call to say I’d won Secondary School Teacher of the Year. The months leading up to that phone call had been pretty bleak, not in my classroom, but in austerity Ireland. Nothing truly devastating had occurred; no-one I loved had died, my daughter and husband were hale and healthy and despite the thousand little anxieties that crowd the mind of every teacher in the run up to exams season, I was happy – as I had always been – in my job.
The black cloud that hung over me was the prospect of someone else being parachuted into my position, a situation that had recently become possible with the advent of redeployment. It was the realisation that being good at your job; working really hard at it and giving your all for your students to the point where you, at times, made yourself ill with fatigue – the thought that this meant nothing at all, certainly to the faceless politicians making cutbacks, that made me so angry and so full of despair. That and the prospect of having to emigrate…
So I wrote my acceptance speech and stuck it up on youtube, where it exists to this day for the world to applaud or mock as the mood takes them.
I remember worrying back then that I was just going to make a complete ass out of myself. I’m still not entirely sure that I didn’t. Yet without wanting to sound too melodramatic, winning that award did change my life. Suddenly I had a voice beyond the classroom that I’d never really had before and it was a privilege and a scary scary responsibility and a joy all at once. I also learnt that while teachers can change students’ lives, students can also change our lives too, so genuine thanks to Cathy, Maeve, Cait, Catherine, Nicole, Lorraine, Laura, Grainne and Gavin for changing mine!.
The reason I’m writing this post is because I’m certain to the very core of my being that there are scores of incredible teachers out there who’ve never experienced that affirmation, that recognition, that acknowledgement of the difference they make in a thousand tiny ways every day to those whom they teach. I know they exist because I teach with them; I meet them at conferences; I chat to them on twitter and I read their blogs, gaining the most amazing insight into classrooms globally in the process.
If you can think of such a person, could you take a little time to nominate them for all that they are and all that they do? And as they probably won’t win, don’t forget to tell them what you did, even if it makes you blush a little. It’ll make their day, their week, their year and possibly even remind them why teaching is the career – the truly wonderful career – they chose to make their life’s work!
Now get to it! Here’s the link: www.globalteacherprize.org