It has been fashionable to criticise the younger generation ever since Ug was a caveman, but nevertheless, you may be interested in a conversation I had last week with two Science teachers James and Ivan. Both men are in their mid-fifties and I was asking how teaching had changed since they started in the late 1970s.
(Please bear in mind that this is not a Scientific experiment with reproducible results- it's simply three guys talking in a pub).
Their first admission was that the new teachers worked so much harder than they ever did. Ivan pointed out that 'in the olden days' the staffroom was always full of people chattering and at lunchtimes they would play darts or pool. Nowadays they said, the room is almost silent and the young teachers are always marking and planning.
"They are under so much more pressure than we ever were" agreed James.
"We were pretty much left to get on with it, whereas nowadays you always feel like there's someone looking over your shoulder. "
Both men admitted that they were glad their circumstances would enable them to retire within the next few years and felt that they were luckier than young adults nowadays. They had not had to pay to go to University, could not imagine teaching until the age of 68 and felt sorry for people starting off in teaching.
Ivan qualified this by pointing out that half the country goes to Uni nowadays, whereas it used to be much more selective academically, so many of those who get a degree today would never have been given one in the past. We got slightly sidetracked at this point with a calculation that our nearest University now had four times the number of students that it had thirty five years ago. All three of us agreed that a huge con was being perpetrated on the current generation by telling them how clever they all were and pushing them into 'debt and dodgy degrees'.
This led to James claiming that the present generation of teachers were on average less intelligent than his own. He emphasised the 'on average' bit, before adding that in his opinion half of the 'new ones' wouldn't know how to work out an average anyway. Ivan agreed that subject knowledge along with standards of English and basic maths had dropped considerably in the last 30 years, but also pointed out that he had heard the same claims from older teachers when he was young and it was blamed on the arrival of electronic calculators.
"The young lads dress better than we did" admitted Ivan. "I used to wear a leather bomber jacket for school and you used to wear jeans half the time (indicating James)- whereas they tend to wear a nice suit nowadays."
"Yeah, but what some of the young female teachers wear these days is unbelievable!" Announced James enthusiastically, spilling some of his pint and barely able to sit still.
"Teaching methods have changed massively too. We just did chalk and talk so if you were having a bad day you just sat down, buried your head in a pile of marking and got the kids to do an exercise in silence from the textbook. Both laughed. "Now you're expected to provide non-stop entertainment".
They agreed that the job had become much more demanding. Ivan had started out when their school was a Grammar and recounted the shock that they all had when the Comprehensive intake arrived and suddenly the ability range broadened.
"The older teachers (at the time) just couldn't cope with a load of kids who could barely read. But even so, they were streamed from the minute they arrived in Year 7, not like now where you've got two years of mixed ability to deal with and all the Special Schools have closed so you've got all the head cases in there as well"
"And all this multicultural stuff- all the problems with the foreign kids' different culture and language. We never had to deal with any of that." James added.
"Looking back the discipline was so easy. We might have complained about the odd naughty kid, but nothing like today. At least there was a little bit of respect for teachers back then, both from the kids and parents- now we're just dirt.
Finally I asked them both whether they would recommend the career to a bright 21 year old graduate.
After a slight pause, they both shook their heads rather sadly.
I pointed out that job security counted for a lot these days and teaching was pretty safe. They agreed, although James pointed out that this would not be the case in a few years time when most schools had become Academies and could hire and fire teachers much easier.
He paused and added:
"Accountability and professionalism are all very well, but once they go too far and the job just becomes unpleasant then you'll only recruit those who can't do anything else"
"Like you, Frank!" They both added in unison.