Posts Tagged ‘teacher’

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A Guide To Scenes From The Battleground

June 17, 2014

I have updated this guide, having neglected it for a few months (sorry).

This blog is about the state of secondary education. There is an introduction to it here:

And some reflections on it here:

Here is a summary of my main points:

Here are a few posts written purely for a laugh (although some of them perhaps make a point at the same time):

The following posts sum up what is typical in schools these days in various respects:

Behaviour:

Curriculum:

Teachers and Managers:

Special Needs:

School Life:

Miscellaneous:

As well as the advice for teachers included in many of the other posts, I have written advice specifically for new teachers:

These deal more directly with my own personal experiences, or the experiences of others:

I have also written a number of posts exploring and explaining how this situation came to be, discussing the arguments in education and suggesting what can be done.

Background:

Apologia:

Progressive Education:

Behaviour:

Initiatives:

Education Policy and Current Affairs:

OFSTED:

Teaching and Teachers:

Educational Ethics and Philosophy:

Education Research and Academics

Here are some videos I found on the internet which I thought were interesting, or relevant, enough to present in a blog post:

I wrote about some of the myths that are spread to teachers, often in INSET or during PGCEs:

I have also outlined what I would expect from schools willing to do put things right:

Here are my book recommendations:

This may be of interest if you are considering writing a blog:

You may also have found me…

Please let me know if any of the links don’t work.

Finally, I can be found on Facebook (please “friend” me) or Twitter (please “follow” me).

If you want to keep up with education blogging other than mine, or to see some of these same concerns discussed by others, then you should follow my sister blog, The Education Echo Chamber. The blog is here. The twitter feed is here.

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Eight Out Of Forty-Three Ain’t Bad (If You’re a Member of SMT)

April 30, 2009

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. I was surprised to get responses. I was not surprised that the responses consisted of passing responsibility to other people and/or denying knowledge of the incidents. Neither incident had appeared on the school’s behaviour database system despite two weeks having passed.

There were some incidents on the system. Madelaine and Will had been given a day in isolation on Wednesday (this is the standard punishment for being sent out of lessons). Madelaine had earned this by repeated interruptions and calling another student “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. I raised this and was told that these students had been let out of isolation unsupervised to go and have injections. They had then gone to my lesson to disrupt it rather than returning to isolation. Evidently the pleasure they get from stopping me from teaching is not easily foregone.

At a tough school you expect to have lessons disrupted and you expect to get verbal abuse. You can also expect SMT and HOYs to ignore incidents referred to them. However, they usually act eventually when it’s every lesson for a fortnight and you are emailing them every day about what’s happening. This time it’s been six weeks without progress. Previously well-behaved kids were joining in. So I contacted my union rep, Diane, to ask to see her about what was happening. (Unions are actually quite good at politely asking why kids are allowed to victimise their members with impunity, that’s why Jim Bulmer the head at Stafford Grove was reputed to bully union reps with hostile observations until they left). She popped in to see me while I was in the detention hall. I was allowed out for a brief chat and the Deputy Head “just happened to” overhear. Before I knew it there was a flurry of activity and he was agreeing to meet me Friday afternoon to discuss the matter.

I did my homework. I compiled the 43 incidents into a handy spreadsheet. 17 had not appeared on the behaviour system. Of those that had appeared only 8 listed any form of action that had been taken.

8 out of 43.

It even shocked me to see how many incidents of verbal abuse had been ignored. That said, it is the repeat offenders that make the inaction so depressing. Dave had walked out of 5 lessons without anybody doing anything to encourage him to stop. Daniel had been sent out of half the lessons he’d attended. Printed it out just made it obvious how badly I’d been let down by the system. How badly the kids in the class had been let down by the system.

On Friday I was surprised to see the Year Head for year 10 joining us. The Deputy Head and Year Head were soon promising to chase up certain students and let the year ten mentor assist in lessons. If anything they were too helpful now that the unions were involved; I had to persuade them that I didn’t currently want any help with my other year 10 class. As ever, the excuses were the main entertainment value of the meeting. The Deputy Head talked at length (convincingly) about how the schools budget for Teaching Assistants had been underspent and how outside contractors had been unable to deliver the updated behaviour system on time. The Year Head was less convincing. Apparently the lack of action on her part was down to:

a) Computer errors which made incidents just disappear from the system

or

b) Other members of staff leaving the door to the Year Head’s office open, thereby allowing students to sneak in and remove referrals from her desk.

Of course, if you believe that you’d probably also believe that the main discipline problem in school is “low-level disruption” and that exams are as difficult as they were twenty years ago.

Postscript

The following Monday I got to see the full list of results from the first modular GCSE exam year 10 took in March. Out of the ten classes in the year group there were only two in which the majority of students had met or exceeded their targets. I had taught both of those classes. No other class had more than three pupils reach their targets. A number of my colleagues later explained to me that their results were disappointing because they’d had some poor behaviour with year ten recently.

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The Driving Lesson Revisited

May 12, 2008

Before you read this have a look at The Driving Lesson dialogue which featured in my blog in November 2007. It was well received at the time and I revisit it now because it, and the reaction to it, illustrates some of the recurring themes of this blog.

Firstly (as you may have noticed), I have often explained that the behaviour of learners in our schools is terrible. Arguing over where to sit, blaming the teacher for poor achievement, refusing to listen and all the time arguing with the teacher is not just commonplace, but actually routine in many classrooms. I have seen it in the schools I have worked in and many teachers who read the story of the Driving Lesson responded to say they recognised it too. In fact the behaviour is worse than terrible it is absurd. It doesn’t consist simply of silly, childish behaviour or, to borrow a phrase, “low-level disruption”. It has reached the point of a ritual conducted out of habit no matter how inappropriately. For this behaviour to exist widely it is not enough for us to assume that children are simply awkward at times, or that teachers haven’t persuaded them to appreciate the benefits of an education. We have to accept that the education system has initiated them into bizarre patterns of behaviour. Arguing for five minutes over where you are going to sit is as pointless in a classroom as in a car. A couple of the teachers who contacted me about The Driving Lesson asked permission to use it as a role-play with their students in the hope that it may bring home to them the ridiculous nature of their behaviour.

Secondly, a major consideration in that behaviour is the belief on the part of students that teachers are to be held responsible for the students’ behaviour and effort. This is not at the basic level of expecting teachers to enforce the rules and spell out what is required for students. It has reached the point where a student can choose to break the rules, or choose not to work, and then tell any teacher who confronts this behaviour that they are at fault. This spills out from accusations into verbal abuse and even violence.

Finally, although large numbers of teachers can recognise the behaviour described there is another possible reaction to the story of the Driving Lesson; denial. When the original website that my blog was hosted on ceased to exist I looked into moving it to one of the top education sites in the UK. I was told

I’d be interested in publishing your blog, but it would need to be firmly focused upon education, so although I really enjoyed the driving school piece, it isn’t really suitable for [us].

Unbelievably, there are people in the wider field of education who are simply oblivious to how children are behaving in our schools. The web journalist quoted above is merely the tip of the iceberg. A far more important denial of the realities of behaviour in secondary schools is the following:

… most schools successfully manage behaviour to create an environment in which learners feel valued, cared for and safe … in our experience, where unsatisfactory behaviour does occur, in the vast majority of cases it involves low level disruption in lessons. Incidents of serious misbehaviour, and especially acts of extreme violence, remain exceptionally rare and are carried out by a very small proportion of pupils.

Steer (2005)

This quotation is from the Introduction to the Steer Report a review of behaviour in schools commissioned after school discipline became an issue during the 2005 general election campaign. It was put together by a team of headteachers, school managers, an OFSTED official with responsibility for behaviour, and various union representatives. Somehow the behaviour that is so commonplace that I could satirise it in my blog, because I could be sure teachers would recognise it, exists in a world that the leading lights of the educational establishment are unaware of.

I tend to see denial as emanating from the education establishment and the associated education bureaucracies, rather than the politicians. But what I want to see as soon as possible is a politician willing to face up to the truth on education, and say about the education system what John Reid (whatever happened to him?) said about the Home Office, that it’s “not fit for purpose”.

References:

Alan Steer (chair), Learning Behaviour: The Report of The Practitioners’ Group on School Behaviour and Discipline, DFES

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