The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Monday, June 27, 2005

Excuse the short break in postings there - I was - the whole school was - forced to abandon teaching for two days to complete compulsory professional training.

This consisted largely of sorting pieces of paper about the movement of objects in a science experiment around into a diamond shape.

Followed by a discussion about using drugs, where I and three senior managers had to place our opinions on an imaginary line which stretched from 'agree' to 'disagree'.

After this, I had to formulate three arguments on the concept of national service. The three arguments had to fit the categories of, firstly, 'plus' (hold on, it gets even more thrillingly specific in a moment), 'minus', and ... wait for it ... 'interesting'.

These techniques are part of a squillion pound national strategy intended to train me to raise students' achievement from level 3a (can indentify what a text is about) to a level 4c (can identify what a text is about, and point to it).
I'm summarising rather ruthlessly, of course.

I see no reason why the post should take up two days, simply because the ruddy training did.
It seems to have passed the bureaucracy boys by that the 200 strong staff of my school have postgraduate qualifications from respectable universities, professional diplomas, and years of experience in the roughest schools around. They don't think merely handing us a sheet of A5 explaining these painfully moronic activities is sufficient.

No no no.

The only way we professionally qualified, over educated, experienced morons can understand a simple task, evidently, is to do it ourselves.

For two days.

Meanwhile, all our level 3a students get two days off to run, skip, jump, sleep in, shoot up, drop out, and use a magnifying glass to explode a snail into black gunge.

And the social services unit down the road, cannot fund mentors who can help homeless teenagers coming out of juvenile detention centres and into hostels. These are people at high risk of reoffending, and who will be placed in care homes if they do so.
A word about the children I've taught who live in care. Their lives are feral to a degree the moral panic majority could not imagine. If they fight, it's with knives. If they own something, they have to carry it with them, or one walk to the shops means they don't own it any more. Care is something *all* teenagers need to avoid.

Ex-offenders on their first release tend to be over-optimistic about how easily they will handle life outside, without any family to protect or shelter them. A mentor is a lifeline for these kids.

But no money. According to government, there *is* no money.
Meanwhile, down the road at my school, an outside speaker from central government is paid over £80 an hour to ask 200 fully paid adults to shuffle bits of paper. Tell each other where on the opinion line we stand over trivialised, dissociated issues of abuse or of power or of forces beyond our control.
We get croissants for breakfast, a slap up lunch, and we watch a powerpoint display of naughty boys with their hands eagerly waving, answers aloft in a well scrubbed classroom optimistically labelled 'Hackney'.
Bollocks. That's what teacher training days are. Pure and simple.