Why can’t humans be like wine?
People love to ask ages, the young especially.
“How old are you, sir? Sixty? Seventy?”
I normally tell them that I was born the year after the Battle of Hastings. That shuts a lot of them up for a few minutes. The bright ones are straight onto it.
“Really, sir. How old are you really?”
Kids have a way of guessing ages to within a year or two. I am vain enough to dispute some of these accurate estimations with, “One Hundred and Seven next birthday.” It now feels as if this is true.
I reversed my car into the neighbour’s that was parked on the road opposite our drive. I was out of the house late, surprisingly after waking up quite early. We drank tea in bed, as is our norm. My wife had not slept much; ditto. She was worried about how she was going to handle her job. Like me, she is a teacher. Unlike me, she has been excellent at taking it for what it really is and having no ideological driving force that propels her into the classroom, day after day.
The problem now is that the demands placed upon teachers are not only unrealistic, unfair and unsustainable, they are also life damaging. Ordinary classroom teachers are being made to sacrifice more and more of their time to the self-promoting activities and ambitions of their schools, colleges and significant individuals with their establishments.
“I don’t know how I’m going to be able to do it. I can’t sleep thinking about it. If I can’t handle it, if I go off sick, we’re knackered.”
I couldn’t disagree with her. I couldn’t say anything.
This is what it has come to for many teachers. In a bid to bring about that magical improvement, teachers are being made to justify themselves on a daily basis. They are being made to write trite reports on their plans to reach the unrealistic and unreachable. They are being driven into the ground in the unquestioned belief that this is how to get the best out of them.
Like me, bang up to date?
Again, my sleep had been interrupted by thoughts about becoming obsolete.
I had two classes yesterday. Classes is probably an ill-fitting description, herds is much closer. Anyway, these herds bundled into my classroom, pushed past each other, shouted instead of conversing, sat down, got up, walked around, threw insults and erasers at each other. During all this time, I was practising my projected, deeply resonant voice of command; none of them heard it. Finally, I asked for some assistance.
I hear what you are saying, “He certainly asked for it!” And I agree. But, I have reached that point in my life when I believe that the basics of respect are needed for teaching and learning to take place. What an old fuddy-duddy!
I needed help from a Head of Year, somebody over twenty five years my junior, somebody whose presence made the rabble quieten and still. I had become that sad old fart who could barely control a class; unless control was concerned with keeping the natives mesmerised by the ceremonial burning of the of the has-been explorer before serving him up with a selection of greens and whoopee juice.
My drive home was filled with thoughts of my demise.
In many schools that I have worked at, it is behaviour that matters most (the poor behaviour of their student cohort). Many kids are now routinely rude. They think that it is their right. They have a right to be rude and disrespectful to whoever they want. They can ignore reasonable requests to follow reasonable requests. They can accuse, threaten arrest for not paying attention to their feelings, shed false tears and commit perjury.
All in all, they can do all and all their very hearts’ desire. And what is required of me is full obedience.
GET DOWN WIDDA KIDS!