Thursday, 21 February 2013

With The First Pick Of The 2014 Draft, Shitsville Academy Selects...

And welcome to ESPN's coverage of the 2017 teacher draft. This year's crop of NQTs shows some great depth in a lot of positions, and it has certainly been a hard job for a lot of scouts to pick out their first choices. For those of you new to this programming, ESPN has been covering this process since it's inception, when the first teachers from the '14 class were drafted, according to league table position and available room in the salary cap, into the schools. Each school should have done it's homework by now, no pun attended, and each school will have only 60 seconds on the block in the first round and then 30 seconds after that. Everything moves pretty quickly and news is already coming through of some aggressive transfers for early picks in the second round and yes, Grange Hill has traded its second round pick plus Mr. Gray in Maths to Englefield Green for their first round pick. Mr Gray is a second year teacher currently in charge of KS2/3 transition. This will free up some of Grange Hill's salary cap and will give them two early picks in the first round.

So here we are: ten seconds until Shitsville Academy, last year's worst school on league tables, makes the first pick of the 2017 draft. Remember, this could have massive ramifications for next year's league tables, so all of you who play fantasy school tables will I'm sure have their eagle eyes and pencils ready for this one. The forums have been red hot for weeks waiting for this moment and here we are.

With the first pick of the Shitsville Academy of Science selects Tania Simmonds, PGCE Science with ability to teach Psychology, University of Brobdingnag.

Now I'm sure you'll agree that That is a controversial choice!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Why Are You Late Boy? Slept In, Sir.

Today I read this.

It's a tricky one isn't it. When I started my PGCE I was introduced to a particularly tricky year 10 class. I still have the notes for this class tucked away somewhere and it says next to one of the boy's names, in quotations marks, never attends on Tuesdays. I asked, at this point, why (insert pseudonym here) never attended on Tuesdays and the LSA attached to the class said, in very calm tones, that he was a school refuser. I believe my response, and this is as close to verbatim as possible was:
'What the fuck is a school refuser?'

I was not aware that this was a thing. A thing with a name. That not only exists but people, including professionals, accept, almost irrefutably, and label and continue with their lives unfettered by any sort of real panic that this is being identified.

I think i must have been sheltered as a child; I went to a nice Grammar school in the heart of the home counties and grew up knowing that unless you were bleeding out of your eyeballs you went to school and damn would you enjoy it. I had no real concept of the truant apart from occasional whispers in the playground about the kids that had skipped double french to go for a smoke. That was it really. My PGCE and then subsequent employment opened my eyes to a subculture of kids that really don't care and parents that are powerless to stop them.

Life is controlled by the mediating factor of the fear of repercussions. Teaching is the management of those fears. The only thing stopping a child standing up, swearing, and walking out the classroom is the fear of repercussions. When these repercussions disappear, or the child realises that they simply do not care about the punishment, they are free to do whatever they please. The article at the top of this ramble seems to demonstrate this quite firmly. The children do not care that their mother is suffering. The parent may well not care about the sentence. The deterrent is not working and so there is no longer any fear.

Teaching is profoundly just smoke and mirrors and once you swear at the mirror and realise that it can't do anything there is nowhere to go for professionals. Inclusion centres are just areas where students can avoid work and don't get shouted at by teachers they hate. Being suspended or expelled just lets the children avoid school; something that they are aiming to do anyway. Punishment in all its contemporary forms does not work because there is an attitude problem from the young and their parents. A decent chunk of the population seems to mistrust, hate, and seem to think they are in a battle with schools. I have no idea how this attitude can be adjusted. It seems to be inherently a lack of internal attribution of blame. I know that as a teacher if I teach a bad lesson then I go away and think about how I can improve. I wonder whether there will be a review of this process by the LEA. Cornwall Council's principal education welfare officer, said: "Prosecution is a last resort when everything else has failed." and they are correct here, everything has failed, and is still failing. This is not an end result. Has it helped the students go to school? No. All this has done is ostracised the family and imbued them with even more distrust of schools because the school, in the children's eyes, has taken their mother away. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Grand List Of Things To Do At Half Term

Officially, we are half way through the year. What is really true is that we've broken the back of this guy. The hideous loading of weeks into the abhorrent first term means we are rolling on banked time. Unfortunately for those of us who teach courses that are (still, despite the impending efforts of an assortment of automated, suit-wearing robots from a dystopian future) modular this means that short half terms are a kick in the balls to the unplanned teacher (such as me). Half term is now on its third day and I have been hideously nonproductive (read: drunk) and so I thought it would be best to form a list of all those things I need to do this half term in order that I am fresh and prepared come Monday morning. Just like a widely unread facebook status about lent, I feel that the best way to make this list real is to publish it in order to make other people feel slightly awkward and provide myself with some internal accountability. And so here it is; the alternative list of tasks for half term:

1: Sleep. A Lot
2: Get needlessly drunk on a weekday.
3: cry aimlessly and at length.
4: climb a hill and shout from the top.
5: read a book without taking notes
6: read a textbook because i am interested in it.
7: swear.
8: swear some more. In public
9: stay in bed and watch crappy tv.
10: show more emotional range than the accepted annoyed or apathetic or happy
11: wear grotty clothes
11b: hang around naked.
12: write creatively/destructively.
13: scream insults at characters on tv.
14: use the punchbag.
15: destroy something beautiful
16: Try and cook something amazing and subtle and ultimately fail.
17: listen loudly to guilty pleasure music. (The Lion King soundtrack seems appropriate here.)
18: Have a substantial (3 course plus) meal for lunch and take my time over it.
19: talk at length with/to the cat.

This will be a good half term.

Monday, 11 February 2013

School Trips and Other Tales

This week I finally completed the paperwork for an impending school trip. It has been a fight to say the least. I went up to the big smoke to do a full trip recce and realised the horrifying facade that the school trip has become. Having done the things I needed to do I dropped into the Tate modern on my way passed the gargantuan, monolithic brick structure. It was horrible. Quite apart from the fact I thought the exhibitions,  aside from a couple of notable pieces, were terrible, the entire place was full of school trips. Mostly sixth form art trips by the look of them. Students who you would think have a lot to gain and be interested in.You are wrong. These students didn't look like they could have given less of a monkeys if it was dipped in peanut butter and rolled in money.

These kids were dotting from room to room, notebook in hand occasionally jotting down a half-arsed attempt at imitation. I felt genuinely sorry for whichever teacher had done the acres of paperwork required for that trip to happen. The biggest problem? My scapegoat in all this? Camera phones.

There was a hideous amount of students who never looked at a piece of art in that gallery. All they did was take photos of them and then walk away, Despite my feelings of reticence at engaging with the art on show I appreciate that you have to give some pieces a little time to develop on you. Sculpture should be observed from a number of angles and, if possible, heights. Had I been that teacher I think I would have banned photographs of the works. This, however, would have been nigh on impossible. The ubiquitous nature of digital photography technology has reduced its impact. It has devalued its effectiveness. It has lost its nature as an artform and become just a poor-quality substitute for memory/actually paying attention.

These students forgave their opportunity to find something that they may have loved by reducing its gravitas to the size of a inch by inch-and-a-half blackberry (tm) screen. I think my dismay and amazement is best caught up in the following overheard conversation. I have attributed to the unknown female students names from plays. 10 points for naming the plays and the writer behind them:

(Two girls enter and see two others sat on the floor, sketching)
Laura: Oh, are you girls done?
Blanche: Nah, we were gonna go and sit in the cafe and drink hot chocolate innit.
Stella: Yeah we're bored.
Amanda: You do know we've only got like ten minutes left?
Blanche: Have we, Ah it's fine. I took a photo of something and will draw it from that with cake.

I didn't know whether to be wholly disheartened or applaud their ingenuity.