Just For The Record, I Don’t Hate The KidsAugust 17, 2007
I guess it’s a sign that more people are reading this blog, but my virtual self seems to have accumulated a few enemies. These enemies pop up either here or on the various teacher forums where my blog is sometimes discussed. My real self has a few enemies but they are mainly people who used to be my boss who don’t like the fact I quit their schools in disgust (the one advantage of teaching a shortage subject is how easy it is to escape).
There are two accusations made against me regarding my blog.
The first is that I must be a bad teacher, or unable to teach, to have the discipline problems that I write about on my blog. Of course this makes the huge assumption that I write about my problems on here. Anyone who actually reads this knows how rarely I refer to specific incidents on here, particularly where they involve students. I have no interest in writing about problems I can solve for myself. I have very little interest in writing about problems which I get myself into. When you add that to the fact I don’t want to be identified from the incidents described here you’ll find that what really interests me are the things that are happening all the time to all the teachers at my school, or at all the schools I’ve worked at. I have a particular fascination with how abnormal behaviour becomes normal. I didn’t write about “terroring” because I once got “terrored”, I wrote about it because all teachers can expect it in certain schools or with certain year groups. I didn’t write about the “fuck-off factor” because I once got told to “fuck off” but because it’s an everyday occurrence and is most often brought about by serious efforts to teach. And heaven help us if you think “Chantel” and “Jordan” are two real students.
As for bad teaching, I can assure you that I get results. I could point out any number of times my classes have done unexpectedly well in exams. I could also point out the times I have been praised for my classroom management or had to assist other teachers with discipline. Schools operate on a system of blame and I know I’ve had a fair share of blame directed towards me over the years, but I’ve not struggled with the logistics of classroom management for many years. But all of this is an irrelevance, because nobody could have told anything about how I teach from my blog, I don’t even mention my subject. The only way anybody could conclude that there was something wrong with my teaching is if you believe that any teacher who reports poor behaviour must have somehow caused it themselves. You don’t have to teach in too many different schools to know this is bollocks, to know that the exact same lesson, the exact same teaching, can result in completely different pupil behaviour depending on the school, or even just depending on the year group. Mind you, just because it’s bollocks doesn’t mean you don’t still hear it again, and again, in teaching.
The second criticism from my virtual critics is that I must hate kids. No doubt this is based on the fact I think they should behave. The implication is clear, if I object to students disrupting lessons, being verbally abusive and assaulting staff then I must really dislike students. This is obvious insanity. Again, it’s something that you hear again, and again, in teaching. But there’s an obvious reason why you hear it. Teachers who can’t actually teach have to justify their career choice to themselves somehow. A love of children is the most common excuse. You hear it all the time “my subject knowledge isn’t great, but I have really good relationships with the kids”. Roughly translated this means: “the children and I have come to an understanding that they don’t actually have to learn”. Those of us who still aspire to educate are seen as having a dislike for the darling children. I suppose I could attempt to write heart-warming stories of the students who I get on well with, have developed a connection with, the ones I can happily chat with. But who cares about them? What warms my ice-cold heart is not to count some adolescent as a friend, but to count them as a success: those clever young people who have gone from awful comprehensives to study my subject at top universities; those struggling children who start achieving in my subject for the first time in their lives; those average students who have got the grade they never thought they’d get.
So for the record, I don’t hate the kids, but I do want them to learn. I want them to learn as much as they can, even if it’s more than they necessarily want to learn. And I’m willing to fight to get my way. I’ve never yet met anyone who left school thinking “I know too much”, yet I’ve time and time again met people who regret not getting the grades they needed in my subject. For their own sake I want to educate them more than I want to be friends with them. Only in a truly disordered education system would this be seen as hostility on the part of a teacher.