"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." - Ecclesiastes 1:8

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bad-tempered teacher's rant #147

Here's a blood-pressure-raising article I read too goddam early this morning from Comment is Pants:
"One favourite dinner-table anecdote over the Christmas holidays was the story of an ongoing battle I've been having with a Year 9 girl. Not content with telling an inspector to "fuck off", this student came back the next week with more of the same for me, before walking out of my lesson 25 minutes early. Clearly even this wasn't enough, as she came back in to give me some more words of wisdom after the break.

"What do you do?" friends ask. Well, in the moment I laugh inside at the sheer dedication, remind the student their behaviour is inappropriate, try and calm them down and then follow up with sanctions. And no matter how distressing it may or may not be for me, I try and remember the causes of this type of behaviour. Often rooted in the home, this kind of behaviour really shows a child in pain; uneasy in the world and insecure in themselves. I wouldn't be 14 again for a million pounds."

Other than the fact that Ms Donachy can't find anything better to do over the Christmas holidays than talk shop, I've got two problems with this sort of social-workery flannel about root-causes:

1) Sometimes it is indeed the case that children misbehave because of dreadful home circumstances. On the other hand, sometimes teenagers' misbehaviour has sweet FA to do with their home background; they do it because they can, they do it because that is what teenagers do. It's part of growing up, not a goddam medical condition. I tell you what they need - they need someone to hold the fucking line, not have excuses made for them. In most cases, they want someone to hold the line and if Ms Donachy has never noticed this, one wonders how extensive her experience of 'challenging' teenagers actually is.

2) Even if it is their home background, knowing why a pupil is misbehaving doesn't necessarily serve as a guide as to how the matter should be dealt with. But if pupils are to get the education they deserve, dealt with it must be.

Anyway, if we're all just creatures of our social conditions, surely institutions and individuals that continually make excuses for bad behaviour should be considered as a significant variable here?

Whatever the 'cause', I'm just not prepared to accept that being told to 'fuck off' is part of my shift. Goddamit all, never mind restoring the authority of the teacher - mere equality would suit me. They tell me to fuck off - I should be able to say, "No, you fuck off". But if I do this, I'm the one who gets into trouble. Unprofessional, certainly - so if I can't swear at them, I'll be damned if I'm going to let them swear at me.
"As far as I understand it, exclusion is not the answer. All young people are challenging in one way or another, and all deserve the very best we can give them, even if they do come back after break to tell us to fuck ourselves."
I tell you this: there's a sort of masochism rooted in self-loathing you get with some Guardian-reading teacher-types that makes them think there's something virtuous about putting up with this sort of shit. I can identify it - but I certainly don't understand it. As far as I understand it - and I think this view has been informed with as least as much evidence drawn from personal experience as Ms Donachy's - exclusion often is the answer.

Ms Donachy, if you disrespect yourself to this degree, what's to stop them doing the same? By your own admission, nothing. And because of this, you've ended up deluding yourself into thinking you're doing them a favour by letting them walk all over you. Not only this, but you're making a virtue out of it. This makes you part of the problem rather than the solution.

Another thing: One of my pet-hates is when you tell some wannabe social worker management type person a tale of behaviour that is slightly above criminal but some way below what is acceptable, they respond by saying that the pupil in question "can't help it" because they "don't know how to behave". Here's an idea: why don't we tell them how to behave? Then they'll know, won't they?

Via: Laban Tall

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