Friday, 9 February 2007

Batteries not included

by Unknown

Teachers, I find, are a lot like cockroaches.

Pernicious and dominant in society as a result of their early influence upon developing minds, the average teacher is no more suitable to the art of sculpting a young intelligence than they are to carrying out the real world version of the abstraction they teach.

None the less, they are everywhere. It is only when you shine the light onto them that they scatter for the dark shadows of the TUC and rallying cries of “blame Thatcher” or “blame the parents” are heard.

Thatcher’s woefully misconstrued, and often misquoted, quote “there is no such thing as society” has never been truer than now when those of us brought up in the “nothing is your fault, you are the victim of society” culture of the early eighties are becoming the victims of bullying in school and attacks by rampant ‘hoodies’. Everyone blames everyone else. The enable- their- minds ethic, which denied authoritarian announcements of ‘this is how it is’ in favour of providing the mechanisms of discovery appears to have simply provided a disrespect for authority that has ‘enabled’ the young to ‘discover’ how to be thoroughly disenfranchised and indolent.

Conversely, the anti-libertarian teaching movement have been voraciously dismissive of the so-called anarchist education where school structure often represents a libertarian ideal of non-hierarchical structure, democratic management and informal relationships between the giver of knowledge and the receiver. The problem with any assessment of this mode of teaching is that it bogs down in the debate of the inevitably anti- military, religion and self sub-texts in any libertarian teaching environment.

If you have a few minutes type “teacher” and “bully” into any old search engine.

This is the World that the current ‘victims’ created back in 1985. (Remember those school strikes, great huh?).

I will be producing a few pieces expanding the ideas begun here as a kind of exploration of alternative teaching methods (after all group-rote learning has been going for about 65,000 years now, lets move on).

I would appreciate input here. (PRODUCTIVE input people; if you’re an upset teacher I simply can’t express how little I care).

Please comment. I await.


Charles Pooter said...

This an area I am very interested in. My gut feeling is that we have "teaching" and "education" all wrong -- not the minutiae, but the whole kit and kaboodle. I'm not completely convinced by those libertarians who claim that children aren't a special class of human (google "taking children seriously"), but I do think this whole factory schooling approach may be wrong in exactly the same way that many think factory farming is wrong. Can't we be "taught" by our family and our community? Is it "natural" for a chid's peer group to be a thousand other children? Is it really wrong for a child to start working earlier than 16 if they really want to? Too many questions, too many inverted commas, but there you go: just thinking aloud.

Chris said...

Well I am a teacher (possibly an upset one after this 'pigeon hole all teachers in the same category article). I have to conceed that the current model of teaching and learning fails many more students than it aids.

Policies involving telling kids that they can be anything they want to be without restraint have led to a generation that just want to be famous. They dont even want to be famous for a talent for fear of being bullied.

Talking of bullying, schools no longer have any power to discipline; the school loses money if it expels students that disrupte others students learning, money that it doesnt have enough of in the first place. The worst punishment on affer is to 'tell the parents' which has one of two consequencies, the child is fearful/respectful of their parents and pulls their socks up for a while or the parent accuses the school of picking on their child.

2 recent experiences that I have had of school discipline.

1 - A knowledgable child that is engaging and respectful (not only raised his hand to ask a question but stood up to ask, for which the class laughed at him) recently moved to england from India. He commited the crimes of caring about his education, doing his homework on time and engaging in classroom activities without arguing about his right to chew gum, or sit where he likes, or finish his conversation before letting the teacher speak. His punishment - to be cut from just under the ear down to his chin by a piece of glass. The result of all of this is that the student that did the cutting got to spend 2 days out of class in the quietroom, he has behaviour problems (anger management apparently). Now he is back in class. The supposed victim is sent home to get medical treatment whilst the aggresser is given all sorts of 'help'.

2 - I was preparing a lesson during break when I was hit in the side of the head by a projectile. Shocked I went into the corridor to talk to the students that were running up the corridor giggling. The first student that I approach and ask 'what was that all about?' launches himself centimetres from my face shouting profanities and threating me. This is witnessed by another teacher and several students, the CCTV records me stepping back under this verbal onslaught. Obviously parents are informed. Their response - to file a complaint that I have harrassed their son and to appeal his 2 day suspension.

I suppose I am now venting but I cant stress enough how many teachers hate the current working conditions. Inclusion does not work. A single curriculum for all does not work. Exams every year does not work.

In the 30 odd class hours that I 'teach' a week i am lucky if I actually get to teach for 1 hour, the rest of the time i feel like a glorified babysitter/prison warden and I'm at a good school.

If you have any suggestions in order for me to improve the quality of my teaching (im not talking exam grades here, they can go to hell so long as my pupils learn something that the find useful/interesting/fulfilling)


Charles Pooter said...


Get out and get another job whilst you sill can. You are obviously a good person, why help to prop up a failed system that does more harm than good?

Chris said...

who else is going to do it? Current predictions say that by 2010 50% of teachers will be foreign nationals.

At the moment we have a disproportinate ratio of female to male teachers, this leads to some pupils seeing teaching as a womans job. Does wonders to help equality.

In general the problem is with respect. So many different media out lets are informing pupils of their rights but very few tal about responsibilities, this has led to a generation that is total self obsessed. Most pupils dont care whose rights are violated just so long as they keep their own.


Daniel Martin said...

In the interests of balance (I'm de-lurking)

I am 31 years old, left school post-sixth form - in 1994. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

I started my secondary schooling in 1989 and by some mad quirk of fate so quite a number of NQT's started the same year.

They were intelligent and not just in the academic sense, thoughtful, compassionate, emotionally literate, passionate, bright, enthusiastic, willing to give and willing to take.

I had a wonderful education and have many many great experiences to look back on. Discoveries about the world and about me. When I reflect now, it's not just what they directly 'taught' me that counts - but the skills they imparted that I didn't even realise were (italics) being imparted at the time.

Yes, I had a thirst, and yes, I was keen - but without the guidance and their watchful eyes it wouldn't have amounted to a hill of beans.

I noted Chris' comments and there is one word I feel most sad about "cctv". CCTV is schools!! What the heck has happened to this society? It comes to something when we have to protect people in this way, in an environment supposedly about fostering understanding not just of ourselves but of each other and the world around us all.

I like to think I'm a libertarian (in the very best sense of the word) - but rights should be very much tempered by reponsibilities. Parents should realise this is the chance. The (mostly) one shot to get it right, to take a gamble and step forward to something better, something bigger, something more worthwhile than flipping beef or chicken for some faceless conglomerate. The route to have options in later life.

I don't agree with CP that the whole "...kit and kaboodle..." is off kilter, but I do (vehemently) think that we should let Teachers teach. Cut the crap and the red tape and let's give them the opportunity to do what they trained for.

To this day I can explain to you how to integrate trigonometric equations, calcuate specific heat capacities, recite Chaucer and Alan Bennett, explain why cyanide poisons certain organisms, describe a clause and subclause, explain the formation of an oxbow lake, ask the way to the police station in German, converse on The Weimar Republic or why Rosa Parkes is so important in the modern history of the USA. Most of this stuff I've never used since, but it's all there - all thanks to the brilliance of those committed men and women.

Why don't we as a society place teaching on the same footing as Artists, footballers, musicians or pop singers? We ought to you know. We really flipping ought to.

Daniel Martin said...

Sorry, I should also have said, I went to a comprehensive school in a very deprived area in South Yorkshire, to give some context.

Cheers, Dan

Pritchard Buckminster said...

Dan and Chris,

I must apologise to you both for the deliberately inflammatory phrasing of my opener. You have both brought useful and insightful comments to a number of my unfocussed but insistent ideas concerning teaching practices in the modern day.

Point of interest – has anyone considered two levels of management in school where child managers (handlers?) bring children to class where teachers purely teach?