Tuesday, April 19, 2005

And the Award for Most-Swiftly Disillusioned Teacher goes to…

‘Tadpole’, barely beginning her new career as a secondary school teacher, sends in the following rant. All teachers and former teachers (and I know some regular TofE readers fall into those unfortunate categories) will surely sympathise.

Tof E welcomes all rants, diatribes and polemics.

Are English children really as English as they were when you were a lad, or did living in a cardboard box, sharing a third of a Mars bar with 19 other relatives on a Sunday and darning one's stockings really make for decent British citizens?

Working in a school with many aged staff, I have learnt to switch off as soon as the "In my day..." speech begins, and I incline to thinking that back in t'olden days children might have lacked imagination. Whilst it does seem to be true that there are a lot of disillusioned youths failing to see the point of it all, I suspect that was ever the case.

However, I'll admit, something might have changed. Let me give you an example from last term's attempt at a ‘Whole School Photo’ (only undertaken once every five years, thank goodness).

Despite the drizzle and the general confusion about who was meant to be standing where, and the usual issues involved when you ask children to try and estimate their own size in relation to other children (it seems that body-awareness is a trait that is lacking until you hit about 20), the lining up of the 1000 children went fairly well.

Only one boy got punched during the lining-up, and the small bloodbath that ensued on the stands was quickly resolved. It might have been altitude sickness that caused the first Year 11 to vomit off the back of the stand, but the rest just did it for fun, I suspect.

The first photo was, as you might expect, full of waving arms, unusual facial expressions and distinctly un-British hand gestures. The second was a little better, as the novelty wore off, although brains were clearly still not working, since the usual indignant cries of "It wasn't me!" were unlikely to wash in the face of such professionally taken evidence.

The third photo might have been a success if, during the preparation, a small year 7 in the middle of the third row had not vomited over all the students and staff in front. That was the end of the hour and a half session.

Most staff were agreed that this was an unexpectedly successful attempt. But would this have happened in the good old days? Actually, if the intake had been the same as it is today, I think it would. The worst troublemakers at the school would never have been there 10 years ago - even five years ago, before the Inclusion policy. They would be in specialist schools (or borstal, perhaps), not running around the classroom hurling chairs at the teachers and brawling on the floor.

Perhaps some of the English sense of pride in oneself and one's children has diminished, but I think the main difference is that a part of society which was once carefully hidden away is now more apparent, and more influential, in English society.



Brit said...


Screwing up those giant school photos is as old as school photography itself, I expect. A boy at St John's when I was there popped on a clown's red nose, which nobody spotted until development, and his parents were made to pay for a re-shoot.

I've also heard that you used to be able to appear twice on them: appear at one end then run round the back as the camera sweeps across.

Your comment about 'height awareness' reminded me of how they sometimes used to divide us for rugby. Everyone would line up in height order, then the teacher would part you in the middle, and the big boys would have one game against each other, and the little boys would have their game.

If, like me, you were somewhere in the middle, there was a mad scramble to get as close as possible to the short end. Far better to be a big fish in the little pond, than be pummelled to death by the hippos in the big pond.

Perhaps that was a quick and harsh lesson in height-awareness that these ruffians have sadly lacked.

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