March 14, 2004
"You must employ this teacher!"

My friend the teacher in Kent emails as follows:

I thought you might be interested to know that I have managed to escape the school I have been teaching in. I have been offered a job at another school nearby and will be starting in September.

The final straw for me came when I had a detention class a few weeks ago. I had about six pupils in for a variety of offences - lack of work, misbehaviour in lessons etc. I don't have too many of these detention classes as few actually bother to turn up if I set them, but on this occasion about six did.

I attempted to get them to sit at a table each and gave them a book to do some work from. Chaos erupted. They weren't there to do work, they told me. They never do work in detentions. Other teachers just let them sit there. Well, I said, in my detentions you do. Result - boys began running around the room, jumping on tables and swearing at me. The Head of Department comes into the room, looks around, and walks out. I dismiss the boys (who are left some have run off already) telling them they have failed the detention and it will be reset.

I filled in the incident report forms and took them to hand into the Head of Years concerned. In the Staff Room I met the Head of Year 10 (most of the miscreants were from that year) to be told to stop writing so many reports as he couldn't deal with them all. He subsequently speaks to my Head of Department who meets me later to tell me I am too strict with the boys and shouldn't use detentions as a punishment. Instead, detentions should be an opportunity to have little chats with the boys and get to know them better.

I start looking for a new job that evening. I visit a number of schools to have a look round and the one I like best is the nearest and, although the intake is less able than my current school, the ethos is quite different. The Head is very visible, seen around the school talking to staff and pupils alike. He egularly pops into the department to see what's going on. If there is any misbehaviour, he'll yank them out of lessons himself. This is quite different to my current school where the Head has never visited the department in the two years I have been there. Many pupils have no idea who he is as he seldom leaves his office.

The school I visit is immaculate. No graffiti, little litter. Windows and lockers intact. My current school is covered in graffiti, strewn with rubbish and has numerous broken and cracked windows, including the main entrance to the bloc where my department is situated. The boys don't have lockers at my chool as they would be wrecked within minutes.

I go back a couple of weeks later to have an interview at the school I like. The demonstration lesson goes well, the kids enjoying it and an observing Headmistress says it was fantastic. Some of the kids (I later learned) went up to the Head of Department and told her "You must employ this teacher!"

The interview goes well - but one issue is raised - the Head of my Department has stated in his reference that I have problems with kids due to my "rigid discipline." I explain the situation at my current school which is greeted with shock and incredulity. High standards of discipline are fundamental at the school I am visiting. I am offered the job straight away and accept (beating six other candidates).

The next day I return to my old school. I have a cover lesson in a different department. As I enter the room to see if any cover work has been left (there usually isn't and wasn't) there is a loud crash behind me. The door has been pulled off its hinges and now lies in the corridor. The boys inside and outside the room claim to have seen nothing.

I send for the Head of Year 10. He's too busy. I send for a members of senior management. They're all in a meeting and too busy. The Bursar is sent to collect a list of names. I have a few, those that I know, but some have refused to give names and there is no register available. I write a report and stick it in the Head's pigeonhole. Later in the day he sees me in the Staff Room and ignores me. Nothing is done about the door as far as I know.

At least I'll be gone by September.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:01 PM
Category: The reality of teaching