Author Archives: themushroomdiaries

About themushroomdiaries

Not knowing what you don't know is always the biggest problem.

“Schools in crisis as graduates turn their backs on teaching” Guardian 26 Dec 2015

“It is SOOOOO annoying to have to read yet another article linking teacher recruitment and/or retention to teacher pay. This is simply NOT the issue!!!!!! It’s parents’ complaining, hours spent on data analysis, the serious lack of life/work balance, and pressure to get every child “above average” – despite this being statistically impossible, this is the main focus in education – from parents as much as the government. Employers all want their skill-set ‘taught’ by schools – so the curriculum is paradoxically both so broad (nearly every subject has to be offered) and yet so narrow (only English and Maths really count) – I assume because their own training budgets have been squeezed – it’s just impossible to satisfy anyone, never mind everyone.

And parents seem to have practically abandoned input – from teaching infants colours and nursery rhymes to older children about their immediate heritage (no-one knows who Churchill is any more).

Children themselves do not ‘know’ any less than when I started teaching 30 years ago, but they ‘know’ a lot about ‘stuff’ which doesn’t support an archaic curriculum still aiming to churn out factory fodder with a decent percentage of admin staff thrown in for good measure. (State schools are not expected to produce ‘the elite’ – Eaton still does that.)

Frankly, British education needs a major shake-up to bring our kids into the 21st century – starting with educating parents what they need to do/know, the curriculum and the exam system as well as school leadership training. Articles and media focus on teacher pay continues to miss the point – instead of looking at statistics and talking to spokesmen, why not actually visit some schools before your next edition?”

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In response to oldcornishlefty

+ parents and their constant ‘passing the buck’ complaints because it’s easier to blame and complain about teachers than it is to get their kids off social media and do their homework, talk to their kids about their heritage and contemporary issues, teach their infants their colours, a few nursery rhymes/fairy tales. etc. Kids do not know any less than they ever did, they just know different stuff – unfortunately, what they do know is of little use to the archaic curriculum the Tories have imposed.

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+ parents and their constant ‘passing the buck’ complaints because it’s easier to blame and complain about teachers than it is to get their kids off social media and do their homework

This is very true. I know several dedicated teachers who are giving their all for young pupils, but are up against this kind of thing. It’s funny – restricting TV and computer use is commonplace, particularly among middle-class parents, in North America. Here it seems to be regarded as fascist! No government advice that I know has ever included this to parents. I can’t imagine why so many people have children just to fob them off most of the time with electronic gizmos.

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A Right Royal Rant from 2 years ago!

The Guardian published a very ‘sensible’ article about preparing for the new school year: I wasn’t in the mood for it at the time – classic response from a fellow Guardian reader !
17

Totally patronising, ill-informed article !

Whilst I may kid myself that I can imagine the stress of a brain surgeon or the pressure of stock broker, when it comes down to it, what do teachers actually do that is so stressful?

Let’s be honest: I drift into school at 1/4 to 9 five days a week for 39 weeks – talk to some kids for a few hours, fill in a couple of forms, do a bit of writing on the board, do a bit more reading and then dart out of the place just after 1/2 3, when most people are still on their afternoon tea break. After tea I do a bit more reading, ticking as I go and – crawl into bed totally exhausted.

Teaching is a bit like football – anyone who has ‘watched enough games’ and of course, read enough back pages can do a better job than Jose Mourinho – and everyone knows what teachers are doing wrong, why kids aren’t learning and hate school.

Of course, teaching may be so stressful because in order to do my ‘talking’ to kids I need to have a degree in my subject and to maintain that level of knowledge regardless of the amount of new material constantly available. I also need to have to stay up-to-date with the latest teaching methods to squeeze every last mark out of every last child, and despite the population not getting any more intelligent, produce better and better exam results every year. I have to absorb a range of details about every child – I teach up to 150 different ones a day in my high school – I have pages and pages of rules and regulations to bear in mind before a single sentence comes out of my mouth – language awareness, school and government policies, as well as dividing my attention between 28 pre-adults who really really would rather be somewhere else. I have to keep them physically safe, emotionally secure and educationally motivated. I must not be political or evangelical – but I must be politically aware and correct, and imbue the Catholic ethos of my school – without disparaging or undermining any other religious beliefs of a single pre-adult in my care.

In order to continue my bit of reading/ticking at home I need to take in and assess each pre-adult’s performance, correct their errors (without proof-reading for them) and despite the number of hours spent on lectures, activities, discussions etc in class, now find two sentences which will finally force that penny down, so that the pre-adult learner will finally ‘get it’ and improve their next piece of work – which must be written by the way – despite most other real-life performances being assessed by ‘doing’ (think marital arts belts, sports trials, performance auditions, etc). I do all this with the memory of reams of level descriptors and their numerical demarkers at the back of my numbed brain.

I haven’t even mentioned dealing with parents – who whilst generally giving in to their child’s every whim to keep them quiet (See – Christmas now begins in the middle of November) and who has failed to entertain them for the summer six-weeks, who deals with most confrontations by shouting/grounding/slapping/threats of pocket money withdrawal etc etc – (see tantrums in super-markets) now expect me to be Mother Theresa, the entire Disney Channel and Socrates rolled into one – despite having 30 of them with the only serious sanction is some form of raised eyebrow – parents don’t ‘do’ teaching raising their voices to their loved ones anymore.

SO excuse me if I rant off the day before my GCSE results – with Sainsbury’s Back to School adverts stuffed into my eye balls, Mrs Psychologist – if it were as simple as you make out vodka shares would drop like the second Depression.

It’s time to resurrect the blog!

SO I intended to do a year in the life of ‘You Couldn’t Make it Up’ – a bit of a teacher-blog thing but chickened out in the end as I needed the job for a few more years. That gig has finally finished and I still can’t ‘reveal’ as libel laws are pretty complicated, not the least about the onus of proof – when ‘you couldn’t make it up’, even the truth is hard to prove !

As I no longer have a Sixth Form to vent my opinions on, this is as good a place as any have a good rant and reflect on anything else!

The Guardian: Young People Living in ‘suspended adulthood’ – to full article.

Extract/intro: “Despair, worries about the future and financial pressures are taking a toll on millions of young Britons, according to a poll which found young women in particular were suffering.

Low pay and lack of work in today’s Britain are resulting in “suspended adulthood”, with many living or moving back in with their parents and putting off having children, according to the poll of thousands of 18 to 30-year-olds.

Large numbers describe themselves as worn down (42%), lacking self-confidence (47%) and feeling worried about the future (51%).”

And thus is my son ! Although not quite as depressed or in despair as described above. But living at home and determined not to sell out to his PGCE ! And so I commented:

This is the generation that suffered the Blair ‘education, education, education’ – the classes of ‘born 1992 – 94 (now 22/3 – 25 yrs) were the guinea pigs for the END of the first generation SATs and the ‘original’ GCSE coursework syllabi – which had been working really well and which saw results climbing year on year – because teachers were getting better at delivering them NOT because standards were falling.
This is the generation Blair wanted 25% of to go to university and then did what no Tory govt. had had the audacity to do and charge for higher education.
They are the generation told not to bother to learn their tables or spelling rules because IT would do all that for them. They were taught to research and think for themselves and then had to undertake the new exams which tested mainly memory.
They have been treated shamefully: in debt up to their eyeballs from degrees no-one wants or needs – everyone thought they were going to be graphic designers or tour managers! Largely because that’s what they were told the country needed!
Blair and his gang should be tried for the biggest con trick ever.
And it was largely the 1960s baby boomers who fell for it and encouraged our kids to fall for all the flannel: WE bought our kids the computers and put them in their bedrooms – WE boasted about A/A* GCSEs full of literacy errors! WE kept them indoors because the media, headed and led by others of our generation, made the whole country believe it wasn’t safe to climb trees or run in the park any more because of the new “job’s worth” health and safety climate/there’s a kidnapper around every corner mentality.
But wait and see what the next generation turn out to be like!! I’ve just left teaching not in a small part because the latest syllabi/curriculum is the biggest joke yet. Can’t wait to see what people make of the current cohort of 16 yrs – 18 yrs old in 10 years time.

Got 6 LIKES ! (Not a bad haul on a mid-week article !) and a couple of responses included:

01

Thank you for your clear and concise perspective. That sums it up nicely!

Yes, Blair and Clegg have effectively derailed an entire generation and riots look likely having just watched the Charlotte riots video on the Gruan today. The mood is changing and young people are beginning to be indigent to the plots of politicians and crooked bankers.

I think the tories thought that they could somehow control this momentum generation by saddling them with debt and then monitoring them via their phones. I think they will rue the day that they thought that putting financial handcuffs on the youth would restrict the ability to take to the streets.

And

01

Best thing I’ve read all day, very well said.

 

“… you have time to write a novel on FB ” said my brother.

… or “How to lose it in August”

So, one minute you’re sipping the last dregs of a cold cuppa after ‘tea’ (the working class still have their main meal around 5-ish – with a cup of tea as opposed to posh people who have dinner at 7 with wine) and you’re chatting about nothin’,  as you do in August.

And then a Sainsbury’s advert for ‘Back to School’ gear flashes across the screen in the background and suddenly my children have a violent, foul-mouthed monster on their hands … and Facebook gets this lashing: My brother commented Nice to see you aren’t really busy ‘working’ as you have time to write a novel on FB !!!! FFS. Get a job. Later he said it was a blog not a post – so I decided to blog it as well: 

Whilst I may kid myself that I can imagine the stress of a brain surgeon or the pressure of stock broker, when it comes down to it, no-one can actually pin-point what teachers do that is so stressful.

Let’s be honest: I drift into school at 1/4 to 9 five days a week for 39 weeks – talk to some kids for a few hours, fill in a couple of forms, do a bit of writing on the board, do a bit more reading and then dart out of the place just after half 3, when most people are still on their afternoon tea break. After tea I do a bit more reading, ticking as I go and – crawl into bed totally exhausted.

Teaching is a bit like football – anyone who has ‘watched enough games’ and of course, read enough back pages can do a better job than Jose Mouriniho – and everyone knows what teachers are doing wrong, why kids aren’t learning and hate school.

Of course, teaching may be so stressful because in order to do my ‘talking’ to kids (i.e. not adults) I need to have a degree in my subject and to maintain that level of knowledge regardless of the amount of new material constantly available; I also need to have to stay up-to-date with the latest and often contradictory research on the latest teaching methods to squeeze every last mark out of every last child, and despite the population not getting any more intelligent, produce better and better exam results every year; I have to absorb a range of details about every child – I teach up to 150 different ones a day in my high school; I have pages and pages of rules and regulations to bear in mind before a single sentence comes out of my mouth – language awareness, school and government policies, as well as dividing my attention between 28 pre-adults who really really would rather be somewhere else. I have to keep them physically safe, emotionally secure and educationally motivated; I must not be political or evangelical – but I must be politically aware and correct, and imbue the religious ethos of my school – without disparaging or undermining the religion of a single pre-adult in my care.

In order to continue my bit of reading/ticking at homeI need to take in and assess each pre-adult’s performance, correct their errors (without proof-reading for them) and despite the number of hours spent on lectures, activities, discussions etc in class, now find two sentences which will finally force that penny down, so that the pre-adult learner will finally ‘get it’ and improve their next piece of work – which must be written by the way – despite most other real-life performances being assessed by ‘doing’ (think marital arts belts, sports trials, performance auditions, etc). I do all this with the memory of reams of level descriptors and their numerical demarkers at the back of my numded brain.

I haven’t even mentioned dealing with parents – many who, whilst generally giving in to their child’s every whim to keep them quiet (See – Christmas now begins in the middle of November) and who has failed to entertain them for the summer six-weeks, and who deal with most confrontations by shouting/grounding/slapping/threats of pocket money withdrawal etc etc – (see tantrums in super-markets) now expect me to be Mother Theresa, the entire Disney Channel and Socrates rolled into one – depite having 30 of them with the only acceptable sanction is now some form of supper-expressive but non-threatening raised eyebrow because  parents don’t ‘do’ teachers raising their voices to their ‘loved ones’ anymore.

So excuse me if I rant off the day before my GCSE results – with Sainsbury’s Back to School adverts stuffed into my eye balls, Mrs Psychologist, Guardian editorial writer this week – if it were as simple as you make out, vodka shares would drop like the second Depression. ”

 

Teaching … and learning.

Gove is gone.

And GM has just received a conditional offer (medical, CRB) for a primary school PGCE course from Liverpool Hope. [Apparently ‘the woman’ couldn’t stop smiling, nodding and writing ‘like mad’.] As I break up from school, my son is hurling himself head first into a profession that every current practioner seems to be trying to get out of. And my daughter is undertaking her annual fitness test for the Specials – the unpaid but fully ‘armed’ branch of the police.

We’re a strange little family, I reflect. We seem drawn to being ‘ruled by rules’ – teaching them, enforcing them – and me, well, I try to break them as often as possible.

Teacher. The Police. A pair of wonderfully dehumanising nouns. Labels which seem to entitle anyone and everyone to totally, completely and without a shadow of any guilt whatsoever conveniently remove any trace of humanity from their attitudes and behaviour, view and treatment of the said ‘non-people’.

‘The police’ are scary. It’s the uniform. When my daughter first got hers she appeared in the back garden unexpectedly and all I saw was a blur of black and the badge: Heddlu. I was shocked at my reaction at the sight of the uniform on my property and it took a long second or two to ‘see’ my daughter behind it.  My son wasn’t too affected by the day-kit but when she tried on her formal silver-buttons one, his heart raced at the sight of it.

Teachers are scary. It’s the name-thing: ‘Sir’, ‘Miss’. You’re not allowed to call them by their personal name – if you find out a teacher’s first name, it’s like some great treasure or trench warfare – there’s a little bit of ground taken back.

The summer holidays is one of my favourite times of year. Not because I’m not in school – I’m too zonked out and / or bored to think about that – it’s because it’s the only time of year parents hail teachers – and not for what we actually do, but for simply ‘having’ their children.

It costs parents a fortune to occupy and amuse their own children. Just keeping them under some level of control seems to challenge most parents nowadays. What disturbs me most is that these parents feel it’s their job to keep their children busy and engaged in some ‘gainful’ activity every single day. Children are not taught, let alone expected to amuse themselves any more. And children have to do this amusing activity under constant and vigilant adult supervision – because despite research repeatedly demonstrating that it is known family members who abuse children the most frequently, parents continue to be glued to the belief that every corner is hiding some lurking stranger out to steal and harm their child.

So it is little wonder that people who teach, like the people who police, are pretty stressed people. The responsibility of looking after their little wonders, just keeping them safe and occupied, is pretty massive. And then there are those who demand they are educated as well – everyone must be in the top set – as this is seen as some ‘ticket’ to a guaranteed future of gainful and lucatrative employment, and thus a rewarding and happy life. And despite there being little evidence of humanity as a species getting even in the slightest more intelligent, every year, children must leave school with more and better qualifications – whilst standards are maintained.

Stressed Young Teacher writing for The Guardian (click on title for article) is a classic case of a young teacher who clearly has ‘not got it’. The end of term reports, trips and picnics is the icing on the cake – they are not the camel back’s breaking straw ! Nearly every single thing this teacher bemoans is what I love about my job. He is considering giving up – he needs to realise he already has.

People don’t ‘get’ teachers – or the police. Some days I really mind this. Today is one of them. Everything that happens in our society is because of what these two groups of people do. Without the police and teachers, no one can get on with the lives we in our society take for granted. Lots of these people who teach and police get it wrong, make mistakes and get worn out and careless sometimes. There are complete ‘wrong-uns’ as well – corrupt, ill-equipped and incompetent members of these professions tarnish our image and reputations, and damage the lives of individuals, sometimes irreparably.  But by and large, most of them are hard-working and enjoy their work. And are not stressed out of their minds and the job long before they have paid off their student loans for the PGCEs they mistakenly undertook.

Gove is gone. There will be more change – and little will change at the same time. This paradox is about administrative systems, what labels are given to activities and the layout of forms. Little in the English classroom can change – you read the texts and get the kids to think about them. You train them to write about them to earn marks – a little more of this, a little less of that. Unlike science we don’t have to re-evaluate what we know, unlike history we don’t have to re-evaluate what we think, and unlike geography we don’t have re-evaluate what we do. More like mathematics, in English we look at unchanging things – like relationships and emotions, challenges and injustices. We look at how these things have been explored and expressed. Kids still gasp when they realise Romeo and Juliet look into each other eyes for a split second before his poison kicks in – girls still cry when George pulls that trigger.

I swing between resenting having to prove I do my job well and arrogantly enjoying the opportunity to show off; I veer between thinking I’m crap and must do better, and wondering how do I manage to do it so well after all these years. As my son and daughter embark upon the wonderful adventures ahead of them, I am beginning to reflect upon the adventure that has been my pleasure and priviledge to ‘get away with’ – and it’s even paid some bills and kept me fed along the way.