As the authority of teachers is continually undermined in schools, a new type of teacher is coming to the fore. This type of teacher is less preoccupied with rules and respect. The new type of teacher never needs to enforce their will on the class because the class has already enforced their will on the classroom. This teacher is The Appeaser. They model themselves on three archetypes: Your Mother, Your Lover and Your Mate.
- Your Mother: This is a variation on a teaching style more common in primary schools and is probably more effective there. This type of teacher is typically an ample, middle-aged woman. She lavishes affection and sweets on her students, all of whom she talks to as if they were five. Teachers of this ilk are often respected for having good discipline skills as even the worst behaved boys may be reluctant to upset a substitute mother and (being unusually immature) are often the most compliant if singled out for affectionate expressions of disappointment. The main downside to this approach is the size and scale of the secondary classroom. Even the most giving of matriarchs will struggle to treat thirty year ten students as if they were all Mummy’s little boy or girl. As a result the mother hen has to treat some of her chicks as more important than others. The worst behaved boy will become Mummy’s favourite helper, always praised, always talked up, while better behaved students are neglected. This act of appeasement doesn’t just begin and end with the classroom. A maternal affection for the most immature of boys, and a habit of speaking to others as if they were not yet toilet-trained will be carried through into the life of the school. Mother will patronise other teachers, defend delinquents from the consequences of their actions, interfere with punishments given by other teachers and be the first to tell any teacher struggling with Jordan that “He’s never a problem for me”.
In the best case scenario Mother will move into SEN and be able to use strong interpersonal skills to good effect in the small group environment. In the worst case scenario she will move into Senior Management and become the worst kind of work place bully, considering every member of staff who doesn’t like being patronised as an ungrateful child, to be constantly subject to expressions of public disapproval.
- Your Lover: This type of teacher is good-looking, approachable and friendly. Lover-Boy (or Girl) is willing to make inappropriate comments about the attractiveness of the students in their care. This won’t be aimed at the most attractive child, it will be aimed at the dominant personalities. The subtext is clear, co-operate and my attentions will continue. As so much poor behaviour (particularly from girls) is about getting attention of an unsavoury kind this approach may often work. This type of teacher is usually a man. Teenage boys are less likely to show respect to somebody they fancy (quite the opposite in fact). These teachers are also usually young (attention from a near peer of the opposite sex is more welcome than the leering of a middle-aged letch). The exception to the dominance of this form of appeasement by young males is the practitioner of cleavage based teaching. There exist female teachers (not always so young, not always so good looking) whose clothes are picked to appeal to the breast obsession of your average 14 year old boy and whose main interaction with the class is to lean over to help any boy that asks often to the horror of any adult in the classroom.
I don’t suppose it’s necessary to point out the downside of efforts to teach through flirtation. The countless times where boundaries are irredeemably crossed can be seen in any good tabloid newspaper and the GTC tribunal reports in the education press.
- Your Mate: The most common type of appeaser, this kind of teacher attempts to win over the class by sharing their interests. Of course it’s probably a good thing when teachers can chat to their students about football, music, make-up and boyfriends. The point at which this becomes appeasement rather than sociability is the point where it starts to take up actual lesson time, students who want to learn have to sit and wait while Sir discusses the score line from the match yesterday evening, or Miss contemplates the best colour of lipstick. (It can even reach the level of unprofessional behaviour when teachers are discussing their colleagues or inviting their students to chat on MSN.) The Matey-teacher is easily identified by their colleagues. They dress like students when they’re on Inset days. They know the names of the most popular R ’n’ B artists (no educated person over the age of twenty five should know this). They put on the radio in their lessons. They seem to flinch if another teacher looks in on their classroom. An inappropriate number of students know their first name.
When teachers are asked inappropriate questions, students are quick to defend their rudeness by saying “Steve, I mean, Mr Mate told us about his favourite music/girlfriends/underwear/drug habit, why don’t you?” To which, of course, you can’t answer “because I’m a professional not a wannabe adolescent who thinks it’s okay to wear shorts in public at the age of forty-five”
Of course this last point is the real issue with appeasers. They create the expectation that all members of staff will pander to the students rather than educate them. Students become shocked when they encounter teachers who won’t pretend to be their mate, their boyfriend or their mother and who seem more concerned with teaching. They are even more appalled when school rules are enforced and poor behaviour punished rather than shrugged off in a friendly fashion. After all, being expected to listen and behave is just a short step away from being expected to learn.