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Obedience

May 28, 2009

The educational philosopher John Wilson, wrote an excellent chapter about discipline in his book “Philosophy and Practical Education” (1977). He observed that other philosophers had identified “discipline” as a kind of good order (or control) that was conducive to learning. Some writers even identified discipline with a situation where order was maintained because students understood the point of what they were learning. Wilson found this to be inadequate, and almost a form of wishful thinking on the part of philosophers who wish to use the word “discipline” to refer predominately to the situation they most approve of.  Their conception of “discipline” can be criticised because a situation could be ordered or even organised without much actual use of discipline, for instance due to the existing disposition of the students or the charm or beauty of the teacher. Wilson also notes that “discipline” is sometimes used to refer to situations (like that of military discipline) where learning is not the over-riding objective. He concludes that discipline actually centres on obedience and, in particular, obedience to an authority. He notes that this is a deeply unfashionable viewpoint to take and might be condemned as “totalitarian” or as a form of “tyranny”.

If obedience was unfashionable then, I fear that it is even more unfashionable now. But of course, in the topsy-turvy world of education there is nothing more unfashionable than what is clearly right. Obedience is not tyranny, nor totalitarianism, nor is it training for a life of servility. Obedience is a basic prerequisite for a learning relationship. If you are going to learn it is essential that you follow the instructions of your instructor. If you don’t then you are unlikely to learn because a significant proportion of instructions are given because following them will result in learning. Even a lot of instructions that relate to behaviour, such as requests to pay attention or stop talking, are simply establishing what needs to be done in order to learn.

Of course, an anti-authoritarian might object by pointing out that there are some instructions that don’t relate directly to learning. For instance: instructions to smarten up one’s uniform, not to drop litter, to stop chewing gum or to show good manners. Now, this is not really the place to explain why we might want children to be polite, tidy and not perpetually chewing, but once it is accepted that we might request such things from students then we don’t have the option of allowing students to disobey in these cases and not in others. Selective obedience is no obedience at all. If students find such instructions too burdensome to obey they will quickly find instructions relating to learning equally burdensome. It should take extreme grounds (such as inappropriate instructions that impinge upon safety or propriety) to justify any disobedience at all.

Now, unless you are very fortunate, a teacher in a British school can expect to be directly disobeyed by students dozens of times a day. The nature of this disobedience will vary. Many students, particularly in lessons, will not comply with instructions until they have seen that other students are complying. You actually see them look around the room while they decide whether to do what has been asked. Other students will see particular categories of instruction (like “do your work”, “take the homework sheet with you” or “bring a pen to the lesson”) as purely optional. Some students will be embarrassed to obey a teacher in public, and will only follow instructions slowly and discretely. Some students are simply looking for confrontation and will disobey in the hope of being able to wind up their teacher. Some students will have existing (low) expectations about what should happen in a lesson and refuse to comply with any instruction that challenges those expectations.  Often disobedience is a habit, and even students who want to learn will have to make a deliberate effort to break the habit before they can comply with instructions. Such students almost welcome the threat of a punishment because they know it will give them motivation to comply and make it more acceptable to obey in front of their peers. Many teachers become so used to disobedience that they cease to see it as defiance. They just absorb the idea that nobody can take their coat off without being asked five times and start to see the repetition of instructions and the issuing of threats as little more than a form of punctuation that is necessary for effective communication.

Minor behaviour problems such as being off-task and talking when the teacher is talking are usually a form of deliberate disobedience. Major behaviour problems, such as verbal abuse and threats, are often attempts to intimidate teachers in order to stop them expecting obedience. The expectation of obedience is the basic element that separates classes and schools with good behaviour from classes and schools with poor behaviour. Obedience is the virtue that schools and teachers cannot compromise on. Unfortunately, it is something they usually do compromise on. A good discipline system will see any disobedience whatsoever as grounds for punishment. Bad discipline systems will see it as a teachers’ responsibility to nag, cajole, encourage and ultimately beg students to comply with a given instruction.

And one final note about disobedience. It is the root cause of much, probably most, teacher stress and, in my experience, most teacher nightmares. A teacher in a British school is likely to be used to starting to do something, even something as simple as speaking, and having to stop what they are doing due to deliberate disobedience. If you are not a teacher it might be hard to imagine how frustrating this defiance is. I can only suggest that you imagine that feeling you get when you are in a traffic jam on an important journey. Now imagine how you feel when you think the traffic is starting to move on, only for it to grind to a halt a second later, and imagine that happening repeatedly for hours on end. Now imagine how you feel when you realise that the hold-up is not actually due to an accident ahead, or a busy road, but is in fact due to somebody (probably a caravan owner) deliberately driving at 10mph in front of you and not letting anyone overtake. Now imagine that you are trapped in this situation for two dozen hours a week. Finally, imagine that every so often your boss drives up to your window and tells you that if you are trapped in a traffic jam it must be because you are a crap driver. If you can imagine that, then you have some idea how frustrating it feels to be a teacher.

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41 comments

  1. Some writers even identified discipline with a situation where order was maintained because students understood the point of what they were learning

    Which sadly means that those of us who don’t teach Maths or English might as well just give up and go home. Often’s the time I’ve had a kid, when faced with a detention or a phonecall home, tell me that “my mum don’t care wot I do in ‘ere, she only cares about Maffs an’ Inglish.”

    You are of course spot on about the levels of disobedience and outright defiance we face every day – although even typing those words makes me feel as though the PC police will be out to get me! And I loved the driving analogy :-)


    • inspired writing.
      you have put into thoughtful prose, feelings I have nurtured for 15 years.

      to commit the blamsphemy to suggest students are responsible for their own actions is refreshing and you do so with uncommonly good wit.

      have u considered the post of secretary for education? or are u too sane?


  2. Often’s the time I’ve had a kid, when faced with a detention or a phonecall home, tell me that “my mum don’t care wot I do in ‘ere, she only cares about Maffs an’ Inglish.”

    I’d bet those very same kids drive their English and maths teachers mad complaining about how they don’t need to learn Shakespeare or algebra.


    • I think that’s a pretty safe bet ;-)


  3. A good discipline system will see any disobedience whatsoever as grounds for punishment.

    You overstate your case both on the grounds that disobedience to arbitrary and capricious rules can be inimical to learning and on the grounds that punishment is not always the most effective form of corrective action.

    If you are not a teacher it might be hard to imagine how frustrating this defiance is.

    I can only imagine you are not a parent :-)


    • John, I’m a teacher and a parent – I became the latter before I trained to be the former, and I think I can safely say that in my own case, the frustrations of parenting have been nothing like the frustrations of teaching. Or at least not so far.


    • I could have sworn I had explained exactly why disobedience regarding any rules was a problem. Do you actually have a reason to think I might be wrong? For that matter can you identify a “corrective action” other than punishment than won’t be completely useless?


      • I could have sworn I had explained exactly why disobedience regarding any rules was a problem

        I certainly saw you make that claim, but your evidence that disobedience to any arbitrarily imposed rule would lead necessarily to disobedience to all rules was rather lacking. I presume you have some evidence to support that rather bold claim?

        Do you actually have a reason to think I might be wrong?

        Certainly – the one I provided. disobedience can be inimical to learning, but it can be conducive to learning – not least learning that blind disobedience to authority is unhealthy. For example, you are human, and therefore subject to the possibility of error. Moreover strict adherence to the letter of your instruction may in fact stifle creativity and learning. Of course good classroom management is necessary – but, I repeat, you overstate your case.

        can you identify a “corrective action” other than punishment than won’t be completely useless?

        Warning, advice, personal example, seperation, discussion – of course the context is important, but I would be pretty horrified if your reaction to every infringement of the rules, however minor, were automatically to resort to punishment.


        • I certainly saw you make that claim, but your evidence that disobedience to any arbitrarily imposed rule would lead necessarily to disobedience to all rules was rather lacking. I presume you have some evidence to support that rather bold claim?

          I must admit I tend not to gather evidence for the staggeringly obvious. Is it not unmissable that disrespect for a teacher’s authority is not selective? Kids don’t categorise impositions according to abstract principles.

          For example, you are human, and therefore subject to the possibility of error. Moreover strict adherence to the letter of your instruction may in fact stifle creativity and learning.

          If you are going to put forward incompetence as grounds for student disobedience, then can you please refrain from phrasing it so as to suggest that it is me who is incompetent?

          Regardless, teacher incompetence is not grounds for disobedience, simply because it is not the role of the student to judge and take action against the teacher in this way.

          Warning, advice, personal example, seperation, discussion

          Oh for pity’s sake.

          – of course the context is important, but I would be pretty horrified if your reaction to every infringement of the rules, however minor, were automatically to resort to punishment.

          We weren’t talking about all infringements of the rules we were talking about disobedience and whether we could correct it without punishment.

          Tell me, what good a warning is where it is not a warning of punishment? Tell me, how you can hope to separate or discuss with somebody is refusing to comply with your instructions to separate or discuss?

          I was also going to ask you to explain how we can get children to obey through “personal example”, however, I fear any attempt to answer would result in people laughing at you, so we should probably let that one rest.


          • Is it not unmissable that disrespect for a teacher’s authority is not selective?

            It is very far from obvious that disobedience to any single arbitrarily imposed rule leads automatically to disobedience to all rules. I presume you sometimes drive above the speed limit, yet doubt you are a habitual thief. You appear to believe that even occasional, mild disobedience is evidence that a child disrespects the teacher. Perhaps you were a paragon of virtue whilst a pupil at school, but I was not. Nevertheless, the only teacher for whom I had little or no respect (though a healthy amount of fear) was the martinet who bullied her ten year old charges for every perceived infraction. My repeated crime was the heinous one of talking in class. The reason? Boredom.

            If you are going to put forward incompetence as grounds for student disobedience,then can you please refrain from phrasing it so as to suggest that it is me who is incompetent?

            Not only a paragon of virtue but a flawless teacher too? I did not imply you were incompetent, merely human. You write of the incredible levels of frustration you feel in your job – in my own experience such levels of frustration can lead to overreaction.

            We weren’t talking about all infringements of the rules we were talking about disobedience and whether we could correct it without punishment.

            Well I apologise if I inferred more than you intended from the words:

            “disobedience regarding any rules [is] a problem” [Your emphasis]

            Perhaps you could explain your position again, since it still appears to me that whilst the general thrust of your argument is sound (and I happen to largely agree with it) you continue to overstate your case.

            Tell me, what good a warning is where it is not a warning of punishment?

            None whatsoever – whoever implied there was good in it? Any warning must be supported by the threat of real punishment. This is where I both heartily agree with you and also part company – the knowledge in the mind of the recalcitrant youth (be they soldier, sailor or school pupil) that failure to heed a warning will result in punishment grants power to the warning to curb disobedience. However, the threat of punishment is not in itself punishment. Of course effective punishment is necessary to support discipline – but punishing any and every infringement of the rules is not.

            I was also going to ask you to explain how we can get children to obey through “personal example”

            Well, it seems to work for my kids. But perhaps you are right – maybe only actual punishment works in schools. But if that is the case, why do teachers working in the same school, with the same disciplinary procedures and (lack of) support, consistently experience different levels of disobedience?


          • I don’t think I have overstated my case. I think you are misinterpreting what I said. I talked about “instructions” not “rules” and when I referred to disobeying rules it was only in the context of my previous point about instructions.

            I still maintain that disobedience of a teachers’ instructions is not selective according to whether those instructions relate to a rule which the student has some principled objection to. It has far more to do with the students’ attitude to the teacher’s authority, and the likely consequence of obedience and disobedience. For this reason disobedience of a teacher in one case is likely to lead to disobedience of that teacher in other cases.

            However, you seem determined to paint this as me saying “students who break one rule for any reason, will break all rules” or even “students are not selective about which rules they obey on any grounds”.

            Do you understand the difference between those positions and what I actually said?

            (By the way you don’t strengthen your argument by implying that talking in class when you are not meant to be is not a serious obstacle to learning, using boredom as an excuse for disruption or making the ridiculous claim that if I object to being told I cause disobedience through incompetence then I am claiming to be flawless.)


  4. On this occasion I find myself in agreement, OA. I think that obedience can be fostered by an atmosphere of mutual respect. But, of course, not all children follow that and will continue to be disobedient even when shown the greatest respect by teachers and other adults.

    Do you feel that there is much that we can do in schools to curb this, or is there a wider social problem that needs to be addressed? I suspect a little of both.


    • Mutual respect is a very big ask.

      I think it is far more relevant to schools that courtesy is compulsory. Respect may or may not blossom with courtesy around, but it will certainly wither without it.
      And the common courtesy required above all others in school is not to speak when others are speaking. And then to speak when spoken to. To not chew gum when everyone knows that there are hygiene and cleaning problems when used gum contaminates a shared area.
      Rather than waiting for a better society around a school to seep in and indirectly affect the atmosphere – schools should directly set standards for behaviour that will stand students in good stead wherever they are.


    • I see it as, primarily, a matter of the expectations set in school. Yes, there is a wider issue in as much as pseudo-adolescent anti-authoritarianism is part of our culture, but I can’t really class that as a social problem (I see it more as a philosophical problem). Nor can I see an easy way to change culture outside of schools, except by changing it in schools and hoping that has a longterm effect.


      • But as we know, changing the culture in schools – especially the sort I (and I suspect you, OA) work in requires a very strong SMT who are prepared to (figuratively) crack the disciplinary whip, leading to a lot of short term exclusions, not be afraid of permanent exclusions and run the place like a boot camp until it’s sufficiently improved.

        But as we also know, pigs don’t fly.


  5. Brilliant. I think that since moving to my new school I am unfortunately getting used to the idea that many pupils can’t bring a pen to lessons or work without being told off tens of times a lesson. Thank you for clarifying the situation (as usual) and reminding me that it is unacceptable.


  6. The problem with exclusions, of course, is the pressure put on schools by LEAs and government to reduce exclusion numbers.

    There are far too many restrictions put on schools by outside agencies, and such things as league tables.


  7. Please find my comment at http://dancingcrocodile.blogspot.com/
    Joep de Graaff


  8. I would strongly recommend having a look at Joep de Graaff comments because they offer an insight into the Dutch education system. What he describes seems very different from what we have in the United Kingdom.

    1. Poor behaviour is unusual
    2. Parents complain when poor behaviour disrupts their own childrens learning.
    3. Teachers seem unafraid to complain about the same thing.
    4. There are academic standards in Dutch education.


  9. You write well, and you have my sympathy. The basic problem is the children have to be there by law, so you are placed in the invidious position of being their captor first and educator second. Not a pleasant station.

    Furthermore, you it seems you police an institution with arbitary and capricious rules: for example no jeans are allowed. Why should you be able to tell people what to wear? And sugar free chewing gum’s quite good for your teeth actually. These rules are stupid, so the kids end up breaking very good rules, like, don’t set fire to the lab.

    Also, you disrespectfully accused a pupil of arson with no grounds for believing that to be true when in fact the pupil was giving you useful information. I doubt if he’ll be so helpful in future.

    I wonder if you abandoned the central military metaphor of your blog (and more generally) if you would have a more peaceful and convivial life? Just a thought.


    • I’m not looking for sympathy. I choose to teach, and teach at tough schools. Save your sympathy for the kids who are forced to stay in that environment if they want to learn.

      I am not their captor. I can’t stop them if they walk out, not can I punish them if they choose to walk out of detention. It is only because we let them remain in school for the wrong reasons (i.e. for their social lives) and not to learn that there is any conflict.

      I’m not really sure why you think the rules concerning uniform or gum are arbitrary. Look up my post about non-uniform day to see why uniforms serve a purpose (and don’t get me started on gum chewing and the damage it causes.)

      I’m at a loss as to who you think I have falsely accused of arson.

      Finally, you seem to have misunderstood how a metaphor works. Metaphors are descriptive. Abandoning a metaphor does not actually change what is being described by the metaphor. I could change the name of my blog to “Oldandrew’s Caring and Sharing Hugathon” but secondary education in this country would still be grinding to a halt due to the conflict between those who want to teach or learn and those who stop it from happening.


  10. OldAndrew, I work in a rough, tough school. Lots of teachers at my school have the sorts of days it seems you have on a regular basis. Abuse from kids, no work done in lessons, frustration etc. etc. Of course this is bad. I have to say that in some ways my school could be run better, which would make life somewhat easier for these teachers.

    However, these are features of EVERY class I teach (full time, full age range, KS3 – 5, bottom sets, top sets, mixed ability GCSE classes in a traditionally academic foundation subject):

    a) All students listen to me when I am talking.
    b) All students obey my instructions (apart from once this academic year).
    c) Students want to do well. Two of the most badly behaved boys in Year 9 across the school regularly compete to get higher NC levels on their assessments in my subject, just as one example.
    d) Most students are willing to contribute actively to lessons and are not afraid of this looking “uncool”.
    e) All my classes do a mixture of active type things and very traditional, silent written tasks. They do both of these things well.
    f) Results in my classes are good, above the school averages and with good CVA.

    None of this is remotely exaggerated. The only issues I have are with late/poor quality homework sometimes in Year 9, and a few students who don’t push themselves. This academic year one student has directly refused to do what I asked him, although he is now (following some positive behaviour management strategies) one of the competitive Year 9 boys I mentioned earlier.

    I am firm, harsh sometimes to students who do not comply with my expectations. However, the real reason I have pretty much no behavioural issues is my positive relationships with students. I show students all the time that I like them, respect them, want them to do well. We have a bit of good humoured banter (although students do understand their are limits to this), I discuss their interests with them. I’ll say again that ALL my classes have a very positive, purposeful, interested atmosphere.

    You may say that it should not be necessary to have “good relationships” with pupils, they should obey you regardless. You pour scorn regularly on people who suggest “good relationships” are an answer to some behavioural issues. But then you have to ask yourself, who has pretty much impeccably behaved classes who make good progress and have a positive attitude to their studies? Because from your descriptions, it sure ain’t you. I suspect you will respond to this by suggesting I am some sort of “appeaser” who really lets students get away with all sorts of things. I cannot prove I am not, but I am not. I just don’t do what many teachers at my school do, which is show the students quite clearly that they find them unpleasant, make it quite clear they would rather be anywhere else, and never give students any positive reason to behave in their lessons. Your dislike and fear of the students you teach oozes from many of your posts. I’m quite sure they can tell how you feel about them, and in such circumstances I find it hard to utterly condemn them if they are not well disposed to you or your lessons.

    I guess again that you will say you don’t dislike the students, just the way they behave and the way schools are organised. This is not the impression given here, and I suspect not the impression given in your classroom. I suspect that your colleagues and students are quite aware of your bitterness, anger and scorn. You say in one post that “unless you are very fortunate, a teacher in a British school can expect to be directly disobeyed by students dozens of times a day.” This is not the case. I have several colleagues at my tough school who are only disobeyed extremely rarely. I have plenty more who are certainly not disobeyed “dozens of times a day”. They are the ones who genuinely like the students, make that clear, have high standards but also a sense of humour, and don’t hate their jobs. They are the ones who do not scorn the idea of “good relationships” as a solution to some problems.
    Of course I wish my school, and many other schools, were run more consistently and better. But the answer is not your strategy of carping (rather poisonously at times) from the sidelines. Several posters have asked you why you don’t apply for promotion or suggest some more constructive solutions, but I can’t find any answers to those questions here, apart from rather bizarre paranoia about being identified.

    You get a lot of support here from those who comment on your blog. I find it endlessly depressing that there is clearly a large group of teachers who plainly cannot manage their classes, and yet are willing to take no responsibility for this themselves. They blame the education system, their individual schools, the community their school is in, parents, SMT, middle management, the kids themselves. Of course I am sure that there are many problems with all these things. But never once do they seem to reflect on the fact that living in the real world, where the education system is not going to change overnight into some sort of compliant utopia, there are actually things they could do to make their admittedly hellish-sounding professional lives better.

    Give the relationships thing a try. I actually look forward to going to work. Imagine!


    • I’m afraid I’ve heard it all before.

      There is a usual procedure for you super teachers who want to blame me for the state of British education. It goes something like this:

      1) Claim to be at a tough school, but justify it with something that in no way indicates that the school is tough. In your case “some teachers have tough lessons” is so short of being any kind of justification for saying you are at a tough school that it is ridiculous. A school is tough when poor behaviour is part of the expectations.

      2)Claim good behaviour and assert that it stems from good relationships without considering other possible causes, or considering the rather obvious possibility that good relationships are likely to result from good behaviour. Most teachers do have some classes where there are good relationships and good behaviour. The classes where kids begin already expecting that they won’t have to behave are the one’s where the poor relationships appear.

      3)Hallucinate that you know what my classes are like. It never ceases to amaze me that people who disagree with me seem to be reading a blog that is mainly about my own experiences. There are well over 150 posts on this blog. You will find that less than 10 describe my own classes. Some of these describe the same class more than once. Some of these relate conversations I’ve had with classes that behaved really well for me. All of the ones describing poor behaviour in my own lessons describe experiences I’ve had in my first year at a school, or with challenging KS4 classes in my second year at a school who I haven’t taught in the previous year.

      4) Claim I haven’t suggested solutions. This just leaves me baffled.

      5) Ask about my own career. Obviously, you know that I cannot give information that will make it easier to identify me in the current climate. I genuinely cannot give you my position. All I can say is that if you think I have never at any point taken any kind of responsibility, never taken any kind of promotion, or never been involved in implementation of any of the policies I recommend then you are wrong.

      6) Argue that the existence of teachers who don’t have to deal with much in the way of defiance or poor behaviour shows that the problem clearly isn’t general. I do make an effort to find out what goes on where I work. The biggest category of teachers with no problems are actually liars and appeasers and I have lost count of the number of teachers I’ve seen caught out on this score. Beyond that there are some teachers who are rarely defied. Yet the main thing you notice about those teachers are that they have either been at a school for a long period of time or they have a position in the school that stops them having a full teaching timetable and gives them access to SMT and middle management beyond that of the average class teacher. Most (but not all) will admit that they did not have the same authority when they were ordinary classroom teachers or when they started at the school.

      But I’ve dealt with this stuff time and time again. The trouble with the “blame the teacher” approach, or the “blame oldandrew” approach is that it is always based on the principle that those who report the problem must have caused the problem. Even an ounce of common sense can tell you that this approach, even in the few cases where it might have some validity, can only ever result in the concealment of problems.


      • You may have heard it all before, but you consistently fail to actually respond to the points that are made.

        1. My school is tough. Of course, I have no more way of proving that than you do. You say you work in a tough school, for all I know you work somewhere far from it. Lots of teachers at my school expect and get poor behaviour, so do several managers. The area is deprived and the school has recently had notice to improve. Obviously I don’t want to give you any more detail than that. You are expecting me to take on trust that you work in a “tough” school, I can only ask you do the same.

        2. There is some truth in what you say. But I have also seen classes that are perfectly easy to teach, motivate and get high standards from that become bad very quickly for poor teachers who make it clear they don’t really like their job very much. Again, I have endless classes who behave very differently for me than they do for other staff. My good relationships do not stem from good behaviour, they stem from the positive atmosphere I work very hard to maintain in my classroom and the high standards that I consistently apply. Of course when I started at the school I had to work harder at this and had more incidents of disobedience etc. but this quickly dissipated.

        3. You have argued this before. “All these posts are not really about my classes” and so forth. Well, several of them are, and they describe some pretty unpleasant incidents. It took me 30 seconds to find these examples:

        “”After six weeks of term in which my year ten class have continued to disrupt every lesson I decided I’d had enough. I found the worst few incidents of the last couple of weeks (being called a twat by Charlene and being told to fuck off by Daniel) and emailed SMT about it.”

        “Madelaine had earned this by repeated interruptions and calling another student a “a pregnant bitch” and Will had earned this by refusing to stop singing while I was talking. The odd thing about this is that on Wednesday, when they were meant to be isolation, Madelaine and Will had attended my lesson and disrupted it.”

        “At a tough school you expect to have lessons disrupted and you expect to get verbal abuse.”

        “Sometimes, like this morning, a few year 11 students accidentally turn up for a lesson. This causes all sorts of confusion. For instance, today my class of five Year 11s thought they were meant to sit around a table chatting about the Prom. Unfortunately I had planned to teach them a few things they need to know in order to pass their GCSE exam. Conflict was inevitable. I am glad to say I only had to get one girl, Rochelle, removed from the class. She repeatedly refused to cooperate with even the most basic instructions.”

        “Sure enough when I looked it up Rochelle hadn’t had an exclusion for an incident a couple of weeks ago. Yes, she had thrown her work on the floor. She had told me: “Fuck off, I’m not doing it”.”

        “If you are at all familiar with children you’ll know that anybody who inconveniences them has bad breath, a body odour problem, a history of homosexuality and a fat mother. If you are familiar with teaching you’ll know that this kind of abuse is no longer only student to student but aimed at staff on a daily basis.) When I asked to see her note she told me to “fuck off” and then showed me her note anyway.””

        My apologies if these are not in fact your experiences, only you make them sound like they are.

        4. You have been asked this before and failed to answer it, but just for a laugh let us try again: WHAT ARE YOUR SOLUTIONS??? Just give me literally one constructive thing. Go on, please.

        5. You really do seem to have an issue with paranoia. As a former poster insisted rather more patiently than I am inclinded to do, how is explaining your attitude to promotion remotely going to allow anyone to guess your identity? Rather than blustering about how we are all trying to unmask you, please just answer this specific question. In case you are unclear, I will repeat it again:
        “How is explaining your attitude to promotion going to reveal your identity?”
        I really am not interested in who you are. You are a type all too common in teaching and that is what I am interested in discussing, not your actual school, your name, your subject or anything else that would tell me your specific identity.

        6. Oh, you misunderstand me. I never said the problem was not general. This is in part the fault of the system, bad management, misguided government policy, social conditions etc. but also in part the fact that lots of people who become teachers are really bad at it. Incidentally, I have been at my school for 3 years and have a full teaching timetable. A colleague who teaches very near to me has been with us for 2 years and is an ordinary classroom teacher. She also rarely has any issues with discipline.

        I don’t blame people for raising problems, if they are willing to work with others to find constructive solutions, and to accept an appropriate proportion of the responsibility for sorting out those problems. I don’t know this for a fact, but you give me the impression you are not one of these people.

        And on a final note, I blame you for nothing but the seemingly sorry state of your own classes, although I fully accept you may work in challenging circumstances. I am sure though that if you took a more positive approach to students and colleagues you would have a better time at work, but suspect you will pay no heed to this good advice now you have created an edifice of mutual moaning to sustain you.


        • q,

          This is appears to be the Mr Stephen debate again but with you playing the part of Mr Stephen, right down to his incredible inability to read anything I have ever written about what should be done about behaviour in schools.

          At the risk of repeating myself. I’m not asking you to prove you are in a tough school. The point is that you don’t seem to know what a tough school is. You still seem to think that it has something to do with the kids being from a deprived area or what happens in the classes of the worst teachers. The mere fact that you think that working at your school for three years does not count as a long time suggests an easier environment than most that I have talked about.

          With regard to the “my experiences” thing. I did not claim that I never mentioned my own experiences I just pointed out that my examples hardly described the whole of my teaching career or what happens in all my classes. For instance, of those six quotations you have found, one is from a passage that does not refer to any specific incident. All of the other five come from the same academic year at the same school and describe only two of my classes that year. For the nicer of those two classes you have actually found two quotations about the same child in a class that had been pretty good for most of the year and only went astray in the final few weeks.

          The point about promotion is beyond me. If you want to know my attitude to promotion (rather than whether I personally have ever sought or accepted promotion) then feel free to ask what ever it is that you want to know. Are you asking if I approve of it?


          • Whilst promotion on its own would not identify a teacher, with other information on this site it could lead to OldAndrew being “outed” and after NightJack ended up in the press and in trouble with his employers last week I can see why OldAndrew would want to be careful.

            I would like to know OldAndrew’s attitude towards promotion as he seems to know his stuff and cares for the pupils he teaches (making a child work when they do not want to is much more caring than letting a child do nothing!) and feel that he could have more influence in a promoted post.


  11. Forgive me, but every time you have responded to me you have suggested that I either don’t work in a tough school or don’t know what one is. A good way to dismiss criticism. Three years is not a long time compared to the people who have worked at my school for over 20 years. There are not many of them. It is longer than many of the teachers who come and leave within a term or year. I was merely pointing out that I have not been there for years, and have no responsibility to give me greater kudos. As I say, given that my school is not brilliantly run, is in a challenging catchment, has been given notice to improve, is renowned in the local community (both educational and otherwise) as a difficult school to work, has a high staff turnover, features lots of bad behaviour of various types from mild to extreme and has massive problems recruiting qualified staff does suggest it is quite “tough”. If you persist in believing that all teachers who say they work in tough schools and yet do not have discipline problems are either lying, deluded or don’t really work in tough schools, that is your look out. And one of the reasons I suspect your own experiences are unlikely to improve.

    You say that the quotes I mention refer only to this year and only to two classes. However, you seem to have had big clashes with students and more regularly with colleagues at at least 3 schools I can find mention of. And if you are a teacher of maths, english or science, two classes are quite a large proportion of your teaching time.
    Either your experiences of teaching are predominantly good or predominantly bad: the impression given here is that your experiences are predominantly bad, in terms of experiences with students and colleagues.

    The point about promotion is purely curiosity: nosy, yes, but to be expected when you opine so regularly about the awfulness of your colleagues. And I’m afraid it is, have you ever sought promotion. You still have not answered my previous question, which was why do you feel that revealing whether you have ever sought promotion would compromise your anonymity? Again, the motivation for asking is given that you seem very critical of so many you have worked with, have you ever considered applying for promotion in order to try and change things? Perhaps as head of department or head of year, you could try and behave in the opposite way to those you are constantly criticising. I would have thought promotion would be relatively easy to come by for somebody who has said they teach in a shortage area (your words – not trying to reveal your identity again!) and somebody who has such insight into how education should be.


    • This just seems to be getting sillier and sillier.

      I am not going to tell you if I have sought or accepted promotion as this is one of the things I keep to myself to preserve my anonymity, so tough. You can fantasise all you like about me getting into “big clashes” with students or colleagues but if you think what I have described on here counts as “big clashes” with students and colleagues in all of the schools I’ve worked in then either you know nothing about tough schools (despite claiming to work in one) or you simply haven’t read the blog. My experience of teaching is predominantly good. My experience of British schools is predominantly bad. If you wanted to argue that my expectations for schools were too high and then you might have some kind of argument. However, if you are going to claim that you can tell from what I have said about one bad class and one bad child in one school in one year of my career shows that everything I describe is all my own fault then you are wasting everybody’s time.

      Incidentally, if you aren’t Mr Stephen why don’t you get some of your own arguments? You are simply repeating what he has already asked me and getting indignant when you don’t get a different response.


      • Hmmmm. Ok, so your response to several perfectly clearly articulated questions is to increasingly shrilly claim I can’t possibly work at a tough school and should stop asking questions that have been asked before, even though you keep refusing to answer them. STILL no constructive suggestions, I note, and still no response to why admitting you had sought or been denied promotion would reveal your identity. I’ll try one last time: “why would admitting you had sought promotion or not reveal anything about your identity?”

        Surely the other details you HAVE revealed in this blog would be far more likely to identify you than whether you have considered promotion? I am truly intrigued as to why you won’t answer this question. Suspicion has to suggest that this is perhaps a bit of a sore point, because I truly cannot see how addressing this question would threaten your anonymity at all.


      • On another note, I leave it to others to decide whether it is “fantasy” that you have big clashes with other students and members of staff. There are clear examples of serious incidents throughout your blog and you certainly don’t seem to get on well with several of your colleagues. Funnily enough, you seem to have had similar problems at all the schools you mention. People I am sure can draw their own conclusions from this.

        I don’t think that considering all the abuse that you describe as “serious” means that I can’t work at a rough school. If you think this, then I am sceptical that your standards are as high as you say they are. It means that I know plenty of teachers who work at rough schools who don’t get that kind of abuse. At the same time there are teachers at my school who experience exactly what you describe and worse. I am not justifying the abuse, just asking you to consider what YOU could do to make your working life better. In fact, some of the things you discuss suggest that the schools you work at are not exactly the worst of the worst: I have been in schools for example where there is less input from SMT and less support from middle managers that even the mediocre and often unhelpful “support” you describe in your blog.

        And I am not indignant: again, wilful misinterpretation I think. I do however find you fascinating (admittedly rather in the manner that one finds


      • a car crash fascinating) and look forward to your next comment with great anticipation.


  12. Does anyone else reading this feel that there are a number of people holding discussions with themselves? I think Oldandrew you have an internet stalker with a sock fetish. I suggest you do something about it.

    fat-tony


    • Thank you. I’m not too bothered about people using more than one username, but I do think that changes of username (not to mention, from my behind-the-scenes point of view, fake email addresses) seem a bit out of place in posts that seem preoccupied with demanding I reveal personal information.

      Anyway, I will monitor the situation. I don’t particularly want to restrict debate, but on the other hand I can’t imagine many people read the comments in order to see me repeatedly asked for points of information that I have already quite clearly said I am not willing to give out.


      • So you are not willing to explain why stating whether you have considered promotion might help somebody work out your identity?

        Weird.


      • Weird’s right.

        I keep feeling I’m stuck in one of those strange US art films where you’re always half sure you’ve seen this scene before.


      • Just to clarify, then I’ll leave this tangent alone,
        are you saying that the person posting to bother you about you stance regarding your identity, is hiding behind a fake e-mail address.

        fat-tony


      • I really dislike odd socks. They always cause problems and waste lots of time.


  13. One point to be made is the difference between tough schools and deprived schools. The toughest school I worked in was on the fringes of Surrey in a relatively affluent area. Whilst some pupils experienced deprivation it was a tiny minority. However the behaviour of the pupils was consistently bad; as a teacher you were an old timer if you lasted a term.

    My previous school was an inner city school with huge amounts of deprivation. However it was a well run school so the pupils achieved at a high level and had the third highest value added score in the country


  14. So you are not willing to explain why stating whether you have considered promotion might help somebody work out your identity?

    At risk of feeding the troll still further, I am saying I will not tell you if I have ever applied for or accepted promotion. This is not because that alone will necessarily reveal my identity but because it is on my list of details which I have decided to keep to myself because too many such details might identify me.


  15. I think i can explain.
    If he says yes to the promotion question a database can ignore 70% of all other mainscale teachers.
    Factor in his sex, his subject, his likely age, his likely rough location and the list gets smaller and smaller until you end of with a 200 or so ‘suspects’ list.
    This is how people have been caught in the past.
    If I was in his position I would actively lie about my age and sex to avoid discovery.


    • I’m not sure it really needs much explanation. It is not so much that somebody I’ve never met might identify me, but that somebody I have met in real life might identify if I give out too much information. I have identified someone from the TES website before now in this way (made much worse by their habit of posting about their sex life). Therefore, there are a number of bits of information I avoid giving out.

      I want enough vagueness about me that even if you knew me in real life, and were told “that blog’s written by somebody you know”, then I would still be one of several suspects rather than identified immediately.



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