Friday, February 23, 2007

Lions led by Donkeys

Mrs Chalk is also a teacher, but unlike me she is a first class one; held in high regard by pupils and other teachers at her school. She is not interested in promotion which is just as well, since she would have about as much chance of being promoted as I would of winning the Booker Prize.

Her problem is simple; she constantly makes the fatal mistakes of refusing to ignore poor behaviour, of speaking out when something is clearly wrong or not working properly and worst of all; standing up to the weak willed, helpless cases who run the place. I've tried to talk her out of these foolish notions but to no avail.

In the last twelve months she has been rebuked for shouting at pupils, criticising parents, upsetting the Education Welfare Officer, making the School Psychologist cry and annoying just about every member of SMT together with a whole host of other things which should be compulsory behaviour. The fact that she hasn't had a day off in years and her results are far better than the average doesn't count for much.

There are teachers like Mrs C in every school I've ever worked in. They deserve our admiration and respect, for they highlight the most fundamental problem in State Schools:

Those who lead them are weak.

They have their excuses ready to trot out at the drop of a baseball hat:

"There's nothing we can do"
"We've decided that Shane deserves another chance"
"Shazney has a difficult home life"

We all know that Heads don't have as much power to discipline kids as they should have, but we also know that they could do a lot more than they actually do. (Exclusion, and to Hell with how the figures look; or involving the Police and the Courts. In fact just dragging the parents in and laying down the law in no uncertain terms rather than backing down to avoid a confrontation, would often be enough from a strong leader)

Generally however they prefer not to admit to problems in their school and either cover bad things up or pass them back down the ladder. What so many fail to realise is that in the eyes of the teachers who look up to them for support; trying and failing is so much more impressive than not trying at all.


Anonymous said...

Had Deputy Head interviews this week. I went around each candidate asking them what they would do if they had a staff member complaining about a student and the student moaning "She hates me and picks on me".

Not ONE said that in the first place they would support the teacher. They all saw themselves as some sort of arbiter "Probably six of one and half a dozen of the other", "If it's a personality clash we could move the child out.

Rubbish. I've never known a well behaved student to have a personality clash with a teacher. I don't believe in them. It normally means that that teacher has high expectations of their behaviour and is not willing to put up with them in silence.

Anonymous said...

Mr Chalk, once again you have discribed the shcool I work in. If our Simple Leadership Team were Generals in the First World War, I would not go over the top for them and would have deserted by now. In our school there is only one Year Learning Manager we respect and would follow into battle.

Anonymous said...

spot on frank - you could be describing mrs a----- p----- (i've given a bit of a clue in case she reads this - want her to know how much she's valued) who teaches at my school and is the only senior member of staff that i feel i can look up to. everyone else appears to be hanging on for the pension.

Anonymous said...

A top post Mr. chalk. I doubt, or rather I know, this type of thing isn't confined to schools, or indeed the public sector. I've worked in the architecture field for 10 years and the type of things you describe have become endemic in my field also. though we may not realise it, we're not alone, nor in the minority.

Anonymous said...

I would almost conclude that you are my husband except that I am not a top-class teacher and lots of kids hate me hahahaha. Things will change when the only response to complaining about discipline to SMT stops being the cheap jibe that you must be a crap teacher or it wouldn't happen in your class.

TAs are an invaluable resource: they get round all the classes and the teachers and run their own league table of crap-teacherness, which in every school I have been in is headed by those selfsame asswipes who scuttled out of the classroom for the calm obedience of the PC in the nice quiet office, and then have the temerity to suggest that to ask for support from them in implementing what puny sanctions we have left is an act of weakness.

Jennytc said...

I was a deputy head in a primary school a few years ago and spent a lot of time doing the same sort of thing as Mrs Chalk. In the end, I decided I needed a life, rather than constantly battering my head against a brick wall and decided to become one of the foot soldiers again. After 12 months, the opportunity of voluntary redundancy presented itself, I grabbed it with both hands and left the school where I had spent 18 years without so much as a thank you. In fact the Head teacher went out of her way not to be around when I was actually leaving. It was a year before I even felt able to set foot inside a classroom again.

alanorei said...

It appears from the above comments that many SMT members appear to take their cue from Peanuts by the late Charles M. Schulz.

"No problem is too big or too complicated that it cannot be run away from."

- Charlie Brown

Anonymous said...

Well said.

The only thing missing is the easy answer to all of this - blame the teacher.

The child is misbehaving? Your lesson was insufficiently paced/interesting/motivating/differentiated .... did anyone see that Panorama recently where they got the school to engage in some sort of athletics based behaviour management, where the children were encouraged to stand up, run and pslap post it notes ont he board, sing etc?

What a manifest load of twaddle.

AND where has the 'not shouting at children' come from? I keep hearing this, muttered like some kind of mantra by inspectors 'a good teacher never has to raise their voice': again, twaddle.

Children respond to praise, and a firm but fair rule system WITH BACK UP FROM THE SCHOOL MANAGEMENT. If little Shayne, or whoever, misbehaves, and nothing is done, they will continue to do so.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend teaches a particularly difficult class and she has been sending the bad hats out during her lesson, it caught the attention of the SMT and now the deputy head is going to have an observation on that class and shortly followed by one from her head of department...urmmm....maybe the logic escapes me, but the problems are the misbehaved students...why is the teacher being punish here?

Anonymous said...

Yes, my previous SMT's immediate response to any hint of dissent in the ranks was to order a few extra observations "so we can see how best to support you."

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else taught in schools where they have an isolation system, where four ticks against the kid's name means a day in isolation? Trouble is, sending kids to the isolation room is seen as something only done by icompetent teachers, so if you actually send children to that room you get the SMT offering to "help" you with classroom discipline - ie. sit in on your lessons and make it clear to the kids that you are regarded as incompetent.

Meanwhile the REALLY incompetent teachers play the system by saying "do that once more and I'll put another tick against your name" "I've told you before, if you keep doing that I'll give you that third tick" and so on, so "four ticks" becomes in effect twenty ticks. And those teachers who actually use the tick system as it is supposed to be used are seen as victimizing children and of course that is why the little darlings won't behave, isn't it.

So glad I'm out ....

Anonymous said...

We had the four ticks = day in isolation. Trouble was, it was always the same twenty kids who ended up in there, day after day. If they'd followed it up with "four days in isolation = term in Borstal School Of Brutalising Arsy Adolescents" (school motto: never knowingly nice), it might have been a bit more effective.

Anonymous said...

why do these children misbehave only in certain classrooms and with certain teachers and will behave, achieve and progress with others???? Some teachers need to look closely at their own class teaching - no longer do teachers automatically deserve the right of respect that was lavished in the past - earn it - scream and shout at children in schools and you've lost it yourself and should probably think about another career option - earn respect with respect! As for all this blaming the SMT rubbish (well some of it is rubbish and some deserved) discipline begins in the classroom with the class teacher and SO many are too quick to send "Jimmy" to the DHT or HT for swinging on a chair .... deal with it and impose your own discipline/sanctions .. if you can't ... get out yourself!