Ten Things to Know About the Kids

August 5, 2007

Obviously this is intended to apply only to the students in properly challenging schools, and there will be exceptions. Nevertheless, if you are new to working at tough schools here’s what you should know before you enter the classroom:

Five Bad Things About the Kids

  • They break and destroy things. Outsiders just don’t seem to be aware of this, but you simply cannot give them breakable objects without setting down the ground rules. You can’t even leave things lying around the classroom.
  • They have no sense of personal responsibility. Punishments are seen as something the teacher has chosen to give them, rather than something they have chosen to get. Be ready to develop vocabulary and phrases appropriate to this, eg. “You have chosen to get a detention”.
  • They throw things at each other. Don’t ever give them anything they can throw. Never lend out more than one rubber (er… that’s an eraser to any American readers). Never lend out equipment with parts that can be removed or broken off (like pencils with erasers on the end). Never give them spare sheets of paper. Any unaccounted for object is potential ammunition.
  • They do not have school bags. Well they might in year 7. They might if I’m their form tutor. But generally speaking they won’t.
  • They don’t do homework. Unfortunately you will have to set it anyway.

Five Good Things About The Kids

  • They do know that education will make a difference to their prospects in life however much they pretend otherwise. That is why the ringleaders are so keen to stop others from learning, they are simply doing their bit to enforce the class system.
  • They are loyal to their friends. We often see the bad aspects about this, but this is a virtue.
  • They turn up without being paid. Bad schools are hell to be in. Yes, there’s an element of continuing their social lives and having nowhere else to go. Yes, they do seem to start vanishing as they get to year 11. But they generally do turn up.
  • Despite of all the claims to the contrary, they actually have quite advanced problem solving skills. Those computer games are difficult, damn it, but there’ll always be in a kid in year 9 who knows how to kill the last few pimps on that Grand Theft Auto mission.
  • They aren’t shy.

As there seems to be a lot of activity on the comments section these days, I’d like to hear what you have to say about the kids you teach. But try and say as many good things as bad.



  1. I’ve always found that my students have a good sense of humor, in that they are generally willing to laugh at my jokes (even the corny ones), and clown around a bit at the appropriate times.

    And if I do manage to find a way to really challenge them with something they are interested in, they will take that challenge and run it to the ground – they are persistent and meticulous when it’s something that has caught their attention.

  2. A good point. I get so frustrated at the kids whose idea of humour is to say someone’s gay or that they smell that I forget the ones who actually make me laugh, with bizarre flights of fantasy or deliberately tangled logic.

    Or just by being insane.

  3. OA, the DfES have posted their new Education Policy here – better remove it quick.

  4. Turning up is a good thing about kids? LOL.

  5. “Turning up is a good thing about kids?”

    Hey, it’s more than some of the teachers manage.

  6. Excellent observations.

    Speaking of the rough kids and problem solving: They generally have no choice but to figure out how the world works on their own, especially since they are pretty much on their own in many respects. The problem solving is definitely an asset that they are due given the fact that there tend to be so many other strikes against them.

  7. Wonderfully written and oh so true. Nicely done! And welcome to the Carnival!

  8. Don’t forget that almost all of them can be bribed, if you can just find the thing they really want.
    (I THINK that goes under the good list.)

  9. I agree with you about the “throwable and breakable” objects bit; their destructive powers are amazing. My kids will give (money, time, whatever) when they themselves have nothing. Sometimes it’s hard to find things that they connect to, but once they do, they are some of the most generous, empathetic people on campus. I think it has to do with the fact that they know what it’s like to lack, and they want to help (somewhere, deep down inside).

  10. Good: Once they realize that someone (you or another student) really is having a tough day, they will do whatever they can to help or be kind or carry the load.

    Bad: They are (very often) unable or unwilling to acknowledge that anyone else can have a bad day.

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