Around this time last year I’d had my interview for my current job and had started to clear out years’ worth of rubbish from my classroom cupboard at the old place. I didn’t know that much about the new place, but it had seemed quite shiny and new. And the head teacher seemed cut from a different cloth to my previous boss.
But two terms in and I’m starting to see the cracks beneath the gloss. I’ve been party to snide comments from one staff member about another’s handling of a situation. I’ve been told that it’s no surprise that some kids are allowed to get away with bad behaviour when the management turn a blind eye to it. But this seems to be the norm for most schools: certain misdemeanours are overlooked to avoid any fuss/ paperwork/ visits from angry parents. And the bad behaviour continues.
At one school I worked in, the head teacher would come down on badly behaved pupils like a ton of bricks. The school was even singled out in the local press for by far the highest amount of fixed term exclusions in the area. Their spin was that we had a school full of ne’er-do-wells and a rampant drug problem, whereas we knew that most schools experienced similar problems but preferred to brush them under the carpet. At that school members of senior management spent their lunchtimes patrolling the grounds and keeping the smokers on their toes; at my current school I can see where the smokers gather each lunchtime from my window, and nobody seems bothered.
One time this previous head teacher suspended a boy who had threatened firstly a younger pupil, then the head teacher, with a broken glass bottle. How was this suspension not the right thing to do? But the governing body over-ruled the head teacher and the boy was allowed to return to lessons. And so, as a staff, we made the decision that none of us would teach this boy because of the severity of what he had done, and we would even walk out in support of the head teacher. The governors backed down and the boy was eventually found a place in another school, meaning that the child he had threatened would not have to worry about a retaliation attack.
In my last school, if a pupil swore at a teacher, and not just simply in front of them, it meant exclusion. But over the last couple of weeks I have heard all kinds of insulting language being bandied about, and had to report a couple of incidents to be taken up further. The only consequence for the offending pupils is to be placed on report, which is almost like a badge of (dis)honour for many of them. I find refuge in the “nice classes” and pity the poor children who happen to hear such foulness and altercations from a minority of kids who need taking in hand and showing that their actions will have real consequences.