1) Discipline has become a naughty word in schools.
2) We don't always put children in groups of similar ability
3) The National Curriculum
Let's look at each one in turn
I was once advised by my Head of Department to use a different ink colour than red to mark the kids' books, as it was 'less confrontational'
This sums up our problems far more neatly than I could ever manage.
We have forgotten that as teachers that we are supposed to be in charge, rather than the pupils. Making lessons entertaining has become more important than making them sit still and listen. Punishing badly behaved pupils has been made more and more difficult, as available sanctions have diminished and those higher up the school (and in the Local Education Authority) become less and less willing to back up teachers who try to enforce those that we have left.
'The Tail Wags The Dog' ie the pupils control the school.
Oh I've just remembered- in the red ink example above she'd actually just finished telling me off for using the word (in our department meeting) 'kids' rather than 'Learners' or 'Students'
Mixed Ability Teaching
Let's take the example of two Year 7 kids, Mark and Kylie. Mark can barely read or write and certainly cannot understand anything that is being taught to him. Kylie is highly intelligent. The school is attempting to destroy both of their futures by putting them in the same class. In a few months, Mark will have started to cause trouble because he cannot do any of the work and feels left out. Kylie on the other hand is bored senseless with the work she regards as trivial and is starting to look for her own distractions also.
Mark knows perfectly well that he is not as good at lessons as the rest of his group. The conventional argument (which was preached in Teacher Training) that putting him in a lower set somehow stigmatises him does not make any sense. In a group of his peers he would obviously not stand out.
Teachers can teach effectively to a narrow range of abilities. (It is taboo to say this however) If the ability range is too wide then we simply do not manage.
The National Curriculum
This has resulted in us having to attempt to teach Leon French, when he can barely read or write in English.
However, this is the one area that I am slightly optimistic about. If recent proposals come to anything (which is a mighty 'if') then worthwhile, properly structured vocational courses, which lead to a qualification can be offered to those who are simply not academic. This would be so much better for them than making them plod unsuccessfully through the same work as those with an aptitude for it. I can only hope that we make some progress in this direction.