Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Muppet surprises

My year 11 teaching group were a mixed bunch: some lovely, some lively, some lazy, and some who made me livid. But in their en masse state, I'd been counting down the days to their study leave since before Christmas. There are two who I would miss, if I was inclined to do such a thing, because they have made me laugh until my sides have ached - usually unintentionally - and want to do well. But at least half of the rest make me want to turn on my heel and slam the door behind me, tell them to go and screw themselves, and hope they fail their GCSEs, because in our last couple of weeks most of them didn't seem to give a tuppeny toss about their impending exams.

In our last lesson I was trying to give them vital exam tips but only a handful were bothering to scribble notes and listen. I have, of course, been giving them vital exam tips all year, but they've had no sense of urgency so it all has to be reiterated. I had to send a couple of them out of the lesson for their rude and inappropriate behaviour. They seem to forget they have to come back for their exams, and therefore see no consequences for being complete muppets in their last few weeks.

But then one of those who I sent out made a surprise reappearance last week just after one of his exams. He sloped up to my room with another ne-er-do-well, both of them clutching sixth form prospectuses.

"Sixth form?" I spluttered. "I thought you wanted to do an apprenticeship?"

"Nah, I wanna go sixth form," was the reply. "I'm gonna miss school. I wanna stay on."

I barely disguised my sharp intake of breath and raised eyebrows.

"Do you think I can do (your subject) in sixth form?" This time his question made me laugh out loud.

"Oh, you're serious? Um, well, let's see how you do in your GCSEs..." was my pragmatic reply. Because what I was really thinking was, "Please, no oh no oh no!" But I knew the school's response would be: "Fabulous! Another head to count towards funding. Let him do whatever he wants, and we'll even give him a special chair in the sixth form common room, right next to the pool table and within a cue's jab of the fridge"...

Friday, 8 May 2009


Just because everyone is twittering on about it, Ranting Teacher has signed up to twitter. I may well get bored of it soon, but it seems a mindless way to spend a Friday evening...


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.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

10 O'Clock News of Eff-Off!

I've just been watching the 10 O'Clock News. I think it's quite an achievement that I've stayed up this late. But now I'm thinking I should give it up - after trying to calm down for the last couple of hours after a manic day of heavy horribleness all round, I've just heard something that has made me panic to the point of needing more beer.

It seems that the latest news is that we will be expected to work until we're 70 to help pay off the national debt, accrued if I recall (and yes, I do) by greedy bankers. Those greedy bankers who have recently lost their jobs and are now looking to teacher training as a new career path. Hey, I have an idea... all those responsible for getting us into this financial mess, why don't YOU work until you're 70, because I'm not sure I could keep going for even the next decade let alone any longer...

Monday, 4 May 2009

Pandemic panic

It's been a lovely long weekend, in spite of the typical bank holiday grey gloom today, and a well deserved rest - after all, it's been a good two weeks since the last holidays. And still three weeks until the next break.

So you can understand why, when I sit here watching the 10 O'clock News and there's mention of schools closing because of this swine flu panic, my ears prick up and I rack my brains to think of any kids I teach who have just been on exotic holidays. Now it seems that this flu isn't as serious as first thought, wouldn't just a hint of it be a great excuse to "work from home" instead of going into work tomorrow? I have been sneezing quite a bit today, and confined myself to the house, eating chocolate to keep my strength up, and keeping my pyjamas on in case I've needed to take to my bed all of a sudden.

Oh, and a day off would give me the chance to catch up with all the marking I should've done today...

May Day

Happy May Day! There's no dancing round maypoles for me today, but instead I've been ploughing through the monotonous application forms for new jobs in a last ditch attempt to find something more lucrative for the new academic year. The end of May is the deadline for handing in notices of resignation in order to start a new job in September, and suddenly there has been a flurry of adverts in the educational press for roles that would pay me more money and probably give me bigger headaches. So I've saved up the little hillock of brown envelopes containing glossy prospectuses and reams of exam results and statistics for today. And now my teacher reference number is burnt into my retinas, and I have managed to rewrite some old application letters to fit newish criteria, only to find that my printer has run out of ink and I have no "large letter" stamps. I sound like an excuse letter from a parent for a child having not done their homework.

I have, however, assembled my applications into an order of preference, based on the following all-important criteria:

1. How far away the school is. Too close and going to the pub in the future will become fraught with dangers like bumping into sixth formers when off duty; too far and the future increase in diesel prices will render any increased salary worthless.

2. What time the school day ends. 3.05 is in the lead so far, followed by 3.20. Anything beyond 4pm is just ridiculous - add a 2 hour meeting onto that time and you might as well have a regular job.

3. The school uniform. Enforcing rules about doing ties up properly is just so tiresome. Dealing with polo shirts and sweatshirts is so much more simple.

4. Exam results. There's a happy medium to aim for here: too high and the pressure to get good results year upon year becomes untenable. Too low and the school will probably be a nightmare to teach in.

5. Inspection reports. Firstly, more points for those schools inspected within the last year - it means I wouldn't be walking straight into an atmosphere of paranoia and pre-inspection panic. But why is it that so many of these schools have negative comments about "small pockets of disruptive behaviour", "sub-standard accommodation", and "long-term staff absences"? It's a poor school that can't whitewash these things for Ofsted.

So there we go. Bank Holiday Monday is half-way through and I've not yet turned to the piles of marking I have to do for my current job. I've eaten too much chocolate to numb the pain of writing out the last five years' worth of training courses I've been on (who remembers that stuff? - and who checks?) and I've still got to visit relatives with my USB drive, a cheeky smile and a request to use their printer. I just hope it's all worth it...