25 Mar

After 19 years of teaching, Mark Enser is stepping away from the classroom -We can't let teacher voices be drowned out. This is me paying my respects in a way that I hope Mark will appreciate, and mumble something like "Get the beers in you soft git...". I nearly started writing this blog with "Way back before I started teaching..." but I realised that Mark has been writing for the TES for longer than I have been in the classroom, so:

I started engaging with edutwitter as an undergraduate, and Mark Enser was one of my "recommended follows". My initial thoughts were that as a geographer there might be some crossover in his posts with biology. I soon discovered that his tweets were pragmatic and that he really understood teaching and learning. I can remember screenshotting the "Mark Enser follows you" notification, and sending it to my wife. She was decidedly underwhelmed, but entertained my nerdery.

It wasn't long before Mark and I were interacting regularly on twitter. I was learning lots, supporting my development as a Teach First participant (what us trainees were called back in 2017), and putting things into practice. In 2019 I drove the school minibus down from Mansfield to ResearchEd National. I remember circling Mark's name in the programme first, and finding a spot, on the floor to hear him speak. A booming giant of a man was stood commanding the attention of his audience. He poured out his wisdom and I furiously made notes - little did I know this talk and the notes would be important during a CPD session in 2022! I didn't have the courage to approach Mark after the event. I was just an RQT, and felt like a Hobbit in awe of Gandalf's greatness - he'd not be interested in me fanboying over him asking for him to sign "Teach Like Nobody's Watching"; Jesus, Clive. Get a grip! Thankfully, this isn't me outing myself to Mark, because I've had the ribbing this deserved in person.

The Chartered College of Teaching Council elections came up in 2020, and I was asked to think about putting myself forward for a position. It was Mark that proposed me for Council. I can remember approaching him on Twitter, expecting much booming laughter, followed by a "Sorry, Clive. You've been teaching five-minutes, I'm not putting my name to you as a candidate.", but it never came. Mark encouraged me to go for it, saying that teacher's voices needed to be heard more. I took the plunge, and got nowhere. This didn't stop him proposing me a second time, with success.

Since then, Mark has done what this article says. This isn't a swan-song to make a statement, he really has stood by these convictions for as long as I have been able to call him a friend. He encouraged me to blog, proof-reading some of my early pieces so that I could post with confidence. Told me to approach TES and write for them, turned our dungeons and dragons group chats into TES article and rebuttal, and even pushed me to pitch a book idea to a publisher. Heck, I'd not have even considered putting myself forward to speak at ResearchED events when I saw him speak three years ago, now I've been in the same programmes as him. This is all down to his "teachers voices need to be heard" ethos -a banner I hope I can carry as I move through my own life as a teacher.

When I've lost self-belief, he's picked me up with a message or a chat. The piece of advice that I will carry with me will always be "You've taken a different journey into teaching. Don't let others now dictate the path you take with your career." Mark has a way of being both pragmatic with his advice, but also pushing you on to do big things. I was taught that part of leadership is about elevating others, and seeing them succeed. Mark really is one of the best leaders I've come across - he hasn't sought out headship in his nineteen years in the classroom; he carved his own path. Like any late-entry commissioned officer from the ranks, the respect has been earned on the battlefield with the troops - Mark's a grizzled veteran for sure.

So, I am in a privileged position. After only five-years in the classroom, I have somehow wound up good friends with an columnist, author, conference speaker, and now HMI. You'll be publicly missed, Mark. However, if The Lord of the Rings has taught me one thing, it is that even as great wizards die, they come back more powerful and knowledgeable later on in the story. Thanks for everything you've done for teachers, Mark. Enjoy your adventure with Ofsted. I'll share the advice a old Hobbit once gave as you career-change - “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Roll initiative! 

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