The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

At graduation evening, I bump into my students' retired pastoral manager, three years on from his dignified exit.

He's working with the school again - for the past year, he's taken "on-site pastoral responsibility" for "students on vocational programmes".
Or, in plain English: "the kids we bump off down the building site because they're not bright enough to do GCSEs" get a "supportive ear" from him when they're "caught shoplifting".

It suits him. It suits his caring, rigorous style. He looks good on it.

Actually, he looks about ten years younger.

"Christ," he says, "a lot of people have said that. Makes me wonder just how bloody knackered I used to look."

Chatting about the change, he says the real difference is no longer having to feel as if Everything is Your Fault.
If a child is wayward, if a child underachieves - sure, you play a part in the process, but without the dragon stench of government targets breathing down your collar, you don't go home feeling you've let the world down, that the child's poor track record translates as yours.

To some minds that makes a bad teacher.

To my mind, if a teacher is no longer crippled by the Orwellian notion of 'vocation' that allows government mandarins to load curriculum change after curriculum change, directive after strategy after role adaptation after target after inspection after charter after rebranding on the profession - if a teacher is allowed to simply use their years of experience and get on with the job of teaching and do some damn good in the world ... they generally do.