Where You Are Born


It’s called an accident of birth. That’s not quite right. The accident comes from where you happen to be born and what family you are born into. It stopped being an accident a long time ago.

Last week I spent some time at a school not so far away from the ‘challenging’ academy I had spent six months at.  Although the academy has an official Ofsted rating of ‘Good’, it is anything but a good and easy ride for its teachers. Indeed, it’s quite a rocky road through each day.

The staff who work (successfully) at challenging schools have their coping mechanisms.

They know how to settle a group in a manner that doesn’t place undue stress on the students or themselves. Worksheets are good and they are printed to order in a way to provide endless differentiation. A Powerpoint is also useful because it allows for a decent amount of copying from the board (much better than chalk and talk). On the whole, a settled class is a good class. My attempts at engaging students often fell flat as I tried to get them up and out of their seats in order to participate in collaborative activities.

They didn’t like to move. They didn’t want to deviate from the norm.

In my finite wisdom I have decided that I am not right for institutions of that ilk. The way I like to teach draws reactions of dread from a number of students and other teachers. I want a talking class that works together and gets involved. Worksheets are for making small fires with. Powerpoints are for making monotonous presentations with.

The new wants to enable social mobility. That means moving up from the lower strata of society towards the higher stratas. In truth, it also should mean moving downwards as well. It doesn’t.


Even in relatively modest income bands there is a distinct difference between those accidentally born on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ and those that are not. There are boundaries in the geography of towns and cities and those boundaries play a definite role in the way in which our children get educated, and move on in life. The school that I worked at last week was as far away from the academy as one could get within a few short miles.

It was a ‘leafy’ school. The fecundity of nature (I love fecund) was everywhere on the day that I passed through it gates. Grass, trees, the buzz of bees, and relaxed freedoms were everywhere. The teachers mooched on their way to lessons whilst the students dawdled purposely and without the obligatory intimidations. In the classroom things progress in much the same manner with the ever-vigilant eyes of the eagle being replaced with a relaxed wander, a polite reminder, and a word of encouragement.

The students (most of them) seem to come to school in order to learn rather than to escape wayward home-lives. Here, they have come to do what is generally the accepted purpose for schooling. And they tend to do it without too much fuss. There are those children whose parents have managed to relocate themselves. These are the ‘more aspirational students’, I was told by one teacher. They know where they have come from and they want to move on, social-mobility in action.They are like the children of refugees who have escaped war zones, persecution and poverty.

It just seems that their journey to a better world is paradoxically more difficult that moving across continents.  


Accidents of birth ought not to become tragedies.



27 thoughts on “Where You Are Born

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  1. I don’t have kids and have never been a teacher but I do wonder if too much time is dedicated these days to ingraining into children that everyone should be equal. I gave a speech at a school to 14/15 years olds about going into business for themselves rather than being a worker bee. My first question was ‘who’d like to drive a Porsche and wear Gucci – I figured that they’d be far more inclined to listen to what I had to say with that as the opener rather than ‘who’d like to be in a position to help their fellow man 20 years down the road’. Anyway the talk went well, I got loads of questions and the kids seemed engaged but, afterwards, I was properly told off by the teacher in charge for encouraging his pupils to ‘want things’ and why didn’t I focus on how businesses can promote equality and diversity??? I figured that your average 15 year old would be far more interested in cars than quotas but what do I know………….

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  2. The kids who have it the hardest need more help. I grew up dirt poor, with a single mother who was looking for her next boyfriend. Luckily for me, I was also born with intelligence and a desire to learn. There were a lot of teachers who encouraged me along the way.
    One’s home life *does* matter! It’s difficult to care about an algebra formula or a history lesson if you’re hungry, tired or worried about what’s going to happen after school.
    The education of our children *should* be equal!! I feel very strongly about this. With very few, rare exceptions, “disadvantaged” kids never seem to be able to really catch up, let alone get ahead.

    Okay, rant over.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t really want to rule the world. I just want things done the right way. Which, of course, is generally MY way. Things that seem so glaringly obvious to me just don’t even register with most people.
    Dang, I’m “rantish” when I come out of my cave…still snarling and snapping. Maybe I need to go back?
    Ah, I need more coffee… Yes, that explains it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Dang! Why not just call me every filthy name you’ve ever learned!
        That was low, dude… low….
        Tea is good too. I just love the flavor of coffee. Coffee ice cream, coffee candies, iced coffee, hot coffee…coffee, coffee, coffee

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nah, nah, nah… I’m poor. I buy off-brand french roast and perk at home. Maybe, maybe once a month I’ll get a coffee from out. Very rare. I save my extra pennies for BOOKS!! My TRUE addiction.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Cults can be like that. There is one cult in Eastern Europe where they drag their feet over shards of broken Coca Cola bottles. They don’t bleed becasue they have knowledge of a secret ingredient.

        Liked by 1 person

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