Welcome to their field of dreams. A responsibility and a privilege


Are you a Hammer or a Nail?

My open letter to the B Ed Primary Students & Trainee Teachers beginning their course in Plymouth this week:

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Some of you are here straight from school, some of you have changed careers or raised families. Congratulations on earning the privilege of writing a new chapter of your life story.

Today is the first day that you shoulder the dreams of others. In the first 10 years of your career you will hold in your hands the futures of 300 tiny lives. With each of those tiny lives comes the dreams of their parents and grandparents – you hold them all , 1000 of them, in your hands, right now.

Today and every day for the next three years, every decision you make about your studies and training has an impact on all those people.

Today and every day, there are more than 1000 people relying on you. That means , that more than 175000 people are relying on those of you in this room. They are relying on you, they need you to step up and make a decision.

Today you commit to being an educator. More than 1000 people need you to be:

  • Full of empathy and love; committed to nurturing them
  • Driven to meet their needs
  • Aware of your well being
  • Full of knowledge about stuff
  • Embracing change
  • A master of your subject & discipline
  • Delighted by your own learning
  • A research informed professional
  • Able to separate the business of learning from the ‘busyness’ of school

Today is the first day that you remind yourself that:

  • It’s not about me
  • It’s a classroom for them to learn in, not yours to teach in
  • You have a DUTY of care
  • They are somebody else’s children
  • 1000 people’s dreams are in your hands
  • It matters that you are good at maths;
  • It matters that you are good at science;
  • It matters that you know where the apostrophe goes.
  • It matters that you ACT
  • It matters that you deliver

Today matters – it matters to them – it has to matter to you.

In three years time, your family will be joining you to celebrate your graduation in the tent on the Hoe. You sit here today privileged by the sacrifices they have made to get you here. When you joined the University, you assumed responsibility for your destiny. You have to step up and ACT, there is no one to do it for you any more. Your families have done their bit. Now its your turn.


1) At university, the lectures and seminars are simply the launch pad. The real work happens in the library, where you have to teach yourself. Thats why they call it reading for a degree.

A Graduate = Self Teaching Agent of Change

2) Decisions aren’t easy, decisions are acts of will. Expect to have to force yourself to have to do things. “Don’t grow a wish bone where you should have a back bone”

3) Learning is a dirty unpleasant business.

This is Paul Thorne – who asked Roberto Duran why he became a boxer:

“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail”

Was the response






Today you commit to developing a habit. Your habit as a student.

9 thoughts on “Welcome to their field of dreams. A responsibility and a privilege

  1. I wish someone had said this to me when I started. I knew that teaching was important, but this makes it very clear. It is a bloody hard job, for many, many reasons. The media seem to hate teachers. The government seem to hate teachers. But you know what? You ARE going to make a difference to children’s lives. It’s worth the hassle to know that you are doing something worthy and it feels damn good too.

    I started teaching 9 years ago and have had a variety of classes, schools, challenges, opportunities and experiences. I still learn every day and I still want to be better. You are all enthusiastic and eager right now, never let that leave you. Even when you feel worn down, remember why you are doing it.

    Enjoy every second of the experience.
    Keep asking questions.
    Challenge answers.
    Reflect on what went wrong…how could you do it better?
    But importantly, reflect on what went right…why? How can you keep improving?

    This course is the first step on a long, hard road. Keep going, keep working, keep learning and you might be an amazing teacher one day.

    Have fun 🙂

  2. All the very best on the start of your amazing journey.

    I’d like to add-

    Learn from your mistakes-all the best teachers do.

    From now on-It’s all about relationships and how you communicate. From kids to caretakers-you’re learning to be a professional be sensitive to all needs and make friends with all the school community.

    Finally-get yourselves on Twitter-connect with global educators and Learn from the practice of others.

    Have a great time and enjoy yourselves!

    Julian S Wood

  3. Welcome to teaching 🙂 The best job in the world.

    I’ve been teaching for 16 years and have worked in some of the most socially deprived schools in the capital. It’s a tough job but with amazing rewards.

    Pete is right to say you are all working with dreams. Despite current trends, the classroom is a still a place of experimentation and creativity. Embrace the challenge, let you imagination, and the children’s be the only limits on your teaching.

    Oh and don’t be put off by paperwork or jargon, that’s not what it is all about.

    Most of all have fun, relax, get to know the young people you are working with, they are what is important, not data.

    Jane @HeyMissSmith

  4. Enjoy the next three years and ensure that, at all times, you are aware why you are joining the profession and what a privilege it is.
    My over riding regret when I trained was spending three months failing to take on every utterance from Aidan Chambers and not find myself reading everything that he ever wrote to inform my practice twenty years after leaving university.
    – At university, read everything that you can and not just what your lecturers advise. Read around the subject and most importantly read the blogs and books of people with whom you disagree. You need to understand all viewpoints of education because during your career you will be led by Ministers representing most of them.
    – Challenge your lecturers from an informed point of view. You need to enter the profession ready to challenge yourself and those around you to always make things better for the children in your school. This is the breeding ground of those conversations.
    In school you will meet all types of people when you go on teaching practice – the nurturer, the cynic, the tired, the ill, the over-enthusiastic, the giddy. Take something from each of them but hesitate in finding a font of all knowledge from whom you adopt an ethos.

    At all times challenge yourself to find a new skill or ways of improving yourself. Even at my old age this is something I ensure I do every year – it is hard but worth it.

    Finally, love the job you do. There will be days when you question why you do it but at least that means that it matters.

  5. I started my Secondary History PGCE in September 1997 at the Institute of Education in London. In our opening lecture we were told that every child gets one go at each day of their school career and that if we did not ensure that we were prepared, organised and focussed in every single lesson them we were failing our students. We can have another go at the lesson, the children cannot. Being complacent, lazy, disorganised or in any way lacking commitment to the role of teacher means stealing learning from children.

    I have had that statement stuck in my head every day for 16 years. I am now a headteacher and responsible for 1400 students very day and it defines what I expect of myself am all of my staff every day. It is a basic truth of teaching that never ever changes throughout your career.

    Remember that teaching children is a privilege that you should wear as a badge of honour. If you don’t like the burden then you are doing the wrong thing. Teaching is not a job; it is a vocation that defines your life.

  6. “If you are not making mistakes then you are playing safe and not testing the limits of your teaching ability”

  7. Great advice as you join the profession.
    Fail = First attempt in Learning – failure is good it makes us better we learn from our mistakes – I still make mistakes, learn from them and move on.
    Ask questions – one of my teachers once said to me a long time ago – ‘It’s better to look ignorant for 3 seconds then it is for the rest of your life”
    Enjoy – it is hard work but the rewards are vast.
    Reflect – not only on what went wrong but what went right
    Relationships – build on a professional basis .
    Connect – you have a global audience/mentors/future friends and advice at your fingertips thanks to social media – use it.

  8. Just re-read this after two years. Can’t believe I first read this before I started my degree. I can remember the anticipation and excitement it instilled in me. Today, days away from embarking on my third and final year, it feels the same. Thanks Pete 🙂

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