Friday, April 26, 2013

Can I help you?

I run a helpline for stressed teachers. When I tell people this they frequently say “you must get a lot of calls” and add “it must be a real strain for them dealing with the little b******s”.
The second part is wrong. Curiously it is the big b******s who cause the most headaches for my callers. It is true that there are people who have been driven out of teaching by the behaviour of some pupils. The teacher is the first person who has ever said “no” to some pupils and the pupils do not like it. The potential for disruption in a school is considerable. One teacher quit in her first year because the classroom displays she lavished time and love on were continually vandalised. You realise this could have been the work of just one pupil.
However, teachers expect and can cope with most of the “challenging behaviour” of pupils. There is always the support and above all the knowledge of other teachers to fall back on. Other teachers will have knowledge of dealing with pupils and knowledge about the particular “challenging” individual in question.
No. The calls I get are about the overgrown playground bullies who have positions of power in education. Bullies in chief are Michael Gove and his henchman Michael Wilshaw. Wilshaw's first piece of advice to heads was “if morale is at an all-time low, you will know you are doing something right.” What a charmer.
If teachers are having problems (and that would be all of us at one time or another) then the Wilshaw style head does not offer support and advice. They just tell you what you already know. “Your results are not good enough.” Teach for a few years and you will realise that nothing is good enough for people like them.
I have even had one head who wants the staff to wear uniform. He will be getting them to salute him next. Since this was a unilateral change of contract we were able to dispute it. I had one caller who had been given a target of “driving” not the school bus as you might think but the English department. This is in Sussex and “we won't be druv!” is the county motto.
Over the last sixteen years I have had an insight into the dark side of education. People do not ring me up to say they are having a good time. I have also seen how the union can help people who are having problems and occasionally cut some of the worst heads and line managers down to size.
Excuse me, that's the phone.

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