The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Nicked from a letter to a friend and ex-colleague, one of several who's this term given up a career in inner city teaching:

Do I miss teaching? Yes, of course. There were moral certainties involved in a job like that (which appeal to someone lazy like myself, because then I don't have to sit around and invent my own moral certainties). But all I have to do is think about either the workload, or the dull thudding frustration of being part of a system that was basically wasting kids, processing them into drug dealing, building, teen motherhood or petty thieving by the truckload, and paying a lot of gaseous lip service to the idea of opportunity, but never actually doing anything to change kid's life chances - it doesn't take much to remind yourself why you left, and why you should stay away.
How many musicians and poets did I teach? How many politicians or philosphoers? How many lower echelon bank tellers, ex-cons, and checkout operators?
Exactly. The stated aims, and the real aims of the british education system are constellations apart. The real aims? To shut people up, look busy, and get the current administration re-elected.
Everything else is a game. The kids aren't even the counters.

A year out of it is not long enough. Not by half. I met a teacher from Whitechapel in the Andaman islands, who temps three or four day s a week for six months of the year, then spends the rest of the year in Asia. It seemed the only acceptable approach if one no longer respects what the job stands for. Be cycnical, do it for cash.
She said that every morning in England was a flat choice: go to work, or sit in the park? It struck me that that sentence is always true. As it happens.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hmm. No posts for ages. Chalk shortage.

In lieu of which, I shall boldly, wilfully, and without the authors' authority reprint a few things people who work in british schools - schools in cities, schools in the countryside, internationals schools - have emailed me through this last term:

1. This term has been a bit insane - the kids are vile, the staff are worse.
Discipline non existent and senior management team off sick, skiving, certainly not there when you need them (Ryan, put the table DOWN!).

We have a fire "test" every week - each and EVERY week, every friday when the little darlings clearly don't like whatever lesson it is that they have on friday and the firemen come out and we all stand in the rain again. This week at least we had a real fire to show for it - sweeties had set fire to the playing field (hard to do in the countryside, what with all the RAIN. Shows ingenuity and forethought to come equipped with petrol).

If this had been my first post i would have quit by now. I wouldn't send my dog to that school (a good thing to say to the headmaster in an exit interview? Nah, I still want a reference)

My teaching has, as a consequence gone downhill like a Norwegian Olympian. All efforts are directed towards trying to establish and maintain some form of control. Have failed to maintain and am still on the establish stage.

I have no job. There are no jobs.
2. Needless to say, the chaos and stress at school is propelling me ever closer towards the front gates. I am oscillating between insanity, depression, occasional good days at work and trying to keep focused and practical about travel. Key is to detach myself emotionally - not something i find easy, but am making plans.

Last term a deaf student threatened to jump off the roof ( I have now changed rooms to the ground floor); recently an intruder with a knife came into the school; mass flouting of 'rules' and open defiance - obvious truanting of lessons by many just wandering corridors, or perhaps teachers like me have just said no more to some students.

3. The boss is a nutter. It is her school and we have to do everything her way. In different circumstances I wouldn't work there. It would annoy and infuriate me. But those were the old days, the days when I lived to work. Now I work to live. Now I just want a job that doesn't keep me away from my home life, a job that pays me a decent wage and a job I can do without any stress or strain. This job offers all that. Because the woman is a nutter, she takes all the pressure off - her desires are so pedantically written down I know exactly what is needed in the job. Their idea of lesson plans and long term planning isn't a problem. And I have to do no thinking about what is needed long term because she does it all.

Random selection.
As I said, these are private emails, and it is bad form to reprint in such a way, I utterly acknowledge that. None of these correspondents dreamt their opinions would be made public, or reflect the image they would wish to present of their schools.

That said, I think a theme is apparent. One that if there were any justice, should upset a few apple carts, wake the dusty palaces of the department for education up. Uncensored reports from the horror that is spring term in teaching.