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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What Price Respect?

You can't be serious! Posted by Hello

My "other job" is that of a High School teacher (State School, 11-16). I used to teach full time when St. Aidan's started but as the Church has grown I have been able to step down my teaching commitments and now I do only agency work as and when I can and need to (financially).

Although I enjoy teaching, I can honestly say in that in my ten years since qualification as a mature entrant, the amount of teaching and learning I have achieved falls far short of what I initially envisaged. When I started teaching I fondly imagined that a teacher might teach most of the time. How wrong I was. The time spent on form filling, bureaucracy, pointless meetings; also in being a surrogate parent (teaching children things parents should be teaching them) and dealing with the disruptive behaviour of a minority of sociopathic youngsters who should not be in mainstream education has left me wondering whether I have imparted anything useful to the young in my care. I am sure I have but far less than I had hoped.

If asked to identify the single most draining and injurious factor in the compromise of education as a practitioner, I would identify the deterioration of student behaviour. In my opinion and experience this has been a discernible trend in ten years' practice. Of course, I could just be a poor teacher. Others would have to judge that. However, I do not base my observation on personal experience alone. It has long been acknowledged that student discipline is a serious concern in British Education today. Consider for example the fact that practical experimentation in Science has been abandoned in a growing number of schools for safety reasons. Juggling test tubes, bunsen burners and noxious substances isn't exactly easy when Johnny is running amok in the lab because he hasn't had his Ritalin today. Read this BBC Report.

The Government is mindful of this parlous state of affairs of course. Post election, Tony Blair's "respect" agenda has placed education fairly near the top of a long list of priorities to bring civility back to our national life. Read here. How precisely he intends to do this through that blunt instrument of parliament only he knows but he does not convince.

"Respect," it is oft times said is "earned, not mandated." That is only partly true. Respect of persons and the common good is not up for negotiation but, rather, it is the bed rock of any society. It is a "given." What poor behaviour in schools and loutish or violent behaviour on our streets proves, if anything, therefore, is that our society is increasingly dysfunctional. This simple observation begs huge questions that politicians do not always care to face, let alone answer.

The erosion of community life and common moral values is a spiritual issue and well beyond the reach of Westminster. The solution to our various social ills lies with us and God. Now there's a platform no secularist will stand on. The road back to "rude health" in education and on our streets will be a long hard battle against "principalities and powers." Knowing this, the churches must become much less mealy-mouthed about what is now needful to avoid losing yet another generation to neglect and hedonistic despair.


George said...

As you posted your blog at 5.04pm, I wonder if you have jsut come home from a day's teaching? I have! I am a part time supply teacher providing temporary cover for absent teachers. I have just covered a year 6 class (11 year olds) in a Lancashire town. THe behaviour at this school is so bad I can hardly believe it - even though I go several times a term. I don't believe it is because of weak management or uncaring staff (there is plenty of support) The school tries endless strategies - but a frightening proportion of pupils have almost no self restraint or ability to reflect on the consequences of their actions. They are constantly goading, grabbing people's pens, hitting, fighting, running out of the room etc etc - with no sense of anything wrong or mutual responsibility even seconds after they have been talking or working in a "normal" way.

It's the lack of reflection on their totally self centred actions that frightens me (they deny absolutely any wrong doing even when they know you have just witnessed it)

Give them a few years and they have cars, alcohol, knives...and an even futher developed sense of "I do exactly what I want when I want.." ...

These are NOT typical of all children in all schools. This school is very unusual in having so many - but most schools I go to have one or two and many have more than one of two.

I have now answers

Father Gregory said...

I echo your comments George. I have taught in about 15 secondary schools now since September last when I went on the supply register.

Of these I would say that only two had a calm working and playful atmosphere with cooperative students. Many of the rest are engaged in a long war of attrition against selfishness and mass rejection of the "education idea." Too many "mother hens" (of both sexes) and not enough inspirational leaders with firm and unbreachable standards and expectations.

I agree that we shall shortly reap the whirlwind.

This, of course, is a deeply unpopular view amongst many teachers. Refusal to learn lessons though from reality still hinders progress.

Dave said...

As a fulltime secondary teacher, I would suggest that one of the worst things to come along has been the Key Stage 3 strategy, with it's starter, three activities, and a plenary. Got to keep them entertained. We have lowered education to a Playstation attention span - no, less than that because we are not as entertaining as a Playstation - to keep them busy and out of trouble.

As my new head of department (at the school to which I am moving in the Autumn) said, "You have to plan yourself out of trouble." In other words, as long as you have planned and execute an exciting lesson with lots of pace, they won't have time to be disruptive.

Now I'm all for well-planned lessons, but I'm am for them as a means of achieving academic goals, not as a means of crowd control.

Father Gregory said...

Dear Dave

I recognise this as well of course. What practitioners and theorists alike are so reluctant to concede is the necessity of teaching children physical self control and self restraint.

It doesn't matter how much you raise the bar on entertainment, (sorry, pace, multiple intelligence hot wiring, etc. etc.) ... there is no substitute for self restraint as a social skill. Even my dog knows that.

Deiniol said...

I can imagine the grief you have encountered, as I have seen this, and been amidst this first hand. I think an interesting implication into education is emerging, or so the government proposes. The government has proposed the institution of the Diploma, or bacalaureàt. A diploma of grades and constant assessment would surely be more effective than a high school system that emphasises on only one major set of exams, the GCSE's.

Although I think it's very unlikely that the "Diploma" will hit English schools in the next decade, I think it's a great scheme to get youngsters interested in school. If you look at places like France where they have this respective institution, it can be noted that most people there actually enjoy their studies. They are given more choice; there is more motivation. Constant assessment is what school pupils need. People in first year of English high schools (year 7) have absolutely nothing to aim for, nor in their second year, nor in the third. This is excluding the SATS. Secluded examinations such as this leave the possibility that children can be lacking in the need for revision until the week before their exam. I must confess this is what I did - I didn't revise properly until study leave and still passed with good results. Assessment in all areas at all times would promote the motivation needed and stringency evoked by the government at this time.

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