The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Monday, January 10, 2005

In a particularly arid English examination on the use of persuasive language, fifteen year old Kimberley suddenly discovers her metier:
"For too long, students have been left, and their opinions gone unheard. Why should we have to put up with purile* conditions whilst teachers laugh it up in their fancy staff rooms? Students use the same halls for eating and doing exams while the teachers get their cafeteria that has all the food us students could only wish of buying in the halls.

How can we concentrate on out work in class when we've got holes hanging over our heads? Work that the builders started but didn't finish, the jobs that didn't quite go right. The drab paint on the walls almost making you nauseus* by the end of the day. Walking down the dreerily* beige painted corridors and walking past the heads of years offices, and the head mistress' office that stand out with nice carpet and decent wall coverings.

The conference room with it's nice comfy chairs and almost gleaming new tables.

So many pictures and displays in the offices, photos of trips the years before. Why does only our work go on the walls in classes? Haven't we seen it enough? Why can't we have photos or pictures and posters?

The curtains look like they have been attacked, a bit missing here, a bit ripped there! Curtains should block out the light not make spotlights all over the room through holes that have even started to take the shape of a pattern.

The hours seem to drag on when the clock has stopped, sometimes you'll sit there and think 'Finally only 5 minutes to go' but the pips still haven't gone 15 minutes later. You ask for the time and realise the clock is fast.

The teacher hands out paper, and tells you what to write. You're not sure where to start your line because some of the paper doesn't even have margins, but that is merely picking at little things.

Why should students have to sit in such depressing conditions? In cramped classes? In a building with the worst colour co-ordination no-one could match? It is our future, our education. We deserve more. We need more stimulation whether this be in the class or not, the drizzly school conditions do not help. We need better conditions and we need them now!"

[* sic]
I can't express surprise at the force of her well-deserved ire. State school buildings tend unerringly to fit the hideous behemoth end of the spectrum; her current school is worse than most, already earmarked for destruction, in twenty years' time 'just as soon as funding comes in' for the rebuild...

I always find it both fascinating and a source of nostalgia to see what the pivotal topic is; the impetus for that moment when a once bland writer suddenly finds his or her fire and spirit, when a once passive student begins to wake up to the world and cast about a more critical eye.