The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

My previous school spent part of their annual budget on daily security guards to patrol the perimeter fences of school at the close of the school day.

As the roughest school in the district, this was wise: students from rival schools would turn up in gangs, or with weapons, looking for individuals on whom to mete some misguided tribal sense of justice.

Despite the clear value and function of such a visible authority figure, I was never totally sure whether, in the end, these neon jacketed men were keeping children out, or keeping us in.

All London schools ask their deupty head teachers to patrol the gates at the close of day. Not merely the school exits, but the local train station, the sweetshop down the road, and the traffic lights half a mile away. It's a fast way of diffusing the fights and turbulence that erupt after a day cooped up doing things these children don't want to do, in places these children don't always want to be.

During lessons, a staff member is deputised at all times to run a 'sin bin' for holding recalctrant students who cannot be contained in the classroom. Heads of department are charged with executing a corridor duty at the beginning and end of lessons, leaving their own classes to wait. A deputy head is also always on duty during classtime, to collect students from teachers who have telephoned to alert them that a child is beyond control.
They don't always arrive. One person is not always enough.

I sit here, in a better-than-rough London school, writing sixty five-hundred-word student reports that no-one will ever read (I'm not allowed to write anything honest or negative, so the document becomes a worthless fiction, which ensures, in turn, that it will not be read), listening to the thrash and churning of lesson changeover.

A supply teacher opposite who possesses an unfortunate, sarcastic turn of phrase, has held some students back. There's a screaming, banging, ruckus outside as a young voice screams as if being stabbed. "I don't like you! I'm going to kill you! I don't like the way you talk to me!"
Another voice, a teacher, calmly repeating to her to calm down, not scream, tell her what has happened.
The screaming continues.

A male voice interjects, loudly, disgusted, combative.
Responded to by a shouted retort. Then more voices as other children join in the belligerent, aggressively yelled replies.

I wonder if security presence would dampen this chaos that falls between the cracks of home and school and lessons, or if it would antagonise.

I'm not sure.

Correspondingly, I'm not in any real hurry to walk outside this room.