So where are these people in the schools I’ve taught in since becoming a teacher myself? The Modern Foreign Language teacher can be spotted immediately in any staffroom. Whilst most members of staff drag their slightly flustered selves in each morning carrying carrier bags of books, the MFL teacher, who is with very small exception female, appears immaculately dressed in expensive looking clothes which exude class and style as well as flirting with the fashion of the day. She always wears make-up and it’s usually the full works: blusher and eyeliner, lashings of mascara and a finely powdered nose, plus lipstick to match nail polish. MFL teacher is never seen in a pair of shoes with a heel less than 4 inches, and she walks with assured grace and ease where others are pushed aside by bags and sweaty adolescents. She is so impressive that people write poetic essays about her.
Standing too close to MFL teacher is a soul-destroying exercise as you start to scrutinise your own ill-matched trousers and shirt, look down at your shoes that need a good polish or possibly even a good binning, and breathe in not the scent of chalk but the finest fragrance.
By contrast, the RE teachers are a dowdy bunch. Some people have RE thrust upon them, and they don’t always conform to the stereotypes, but otherwise RE teachers seem to be either miserable and serious, or happy-clappy do-gooders. I don’t mind the happy-clappers so much, because whatever angle they are coming from, they have the best interests of the children and of society at heart. They spread messages of goodwill, preach inspiring stories in assemblies, and although generally Christian, you never get the impression they force Christianity down the throats of their audience. It’s the messages of Christianity that are important to them, such as being compassionate and caring towards each other, helping those in need, and so on. Society as a whole needs these people.
Look, I know these are just stereotypes, right? But they are scarily based on a wide pool of samples. Now I shall have to have a think about teachers of other subjects. Maybe next time I’ll start with PE – or is that just too obvious already?!
Now I know my GCSE class is not the only group who can’t really be bothered. They don’t bring their books or handouts or even their sodding pens to lessons, let alone complete pieces of coursework. If I break down their set tasks any more we’ll be back to reciting the alphabet and building up words like c-a-t and m-a-t. I feel the pressure and the sense of urgency whereas they simply won’t let any of it filter through, so instead I carry the burden of thirty or so lackluster slackers.
Take a lesson this week for example. I returned their abysmal mock GCSE papers. One boy’s two hour paper consisted of three scribbled lines for a question worth half of the overall mark. He saw his percentage, which had barely crawled out of single figures, and flung the paper across the room with gusto and a fair sprinkling of expletives. There followed a tirade on how effing crap the school is (and I’m being polite here for those with sensitive filters or dispositions) and how effing useless all the teachers are.
I had anticipated some despondency, perhaps not quite so vehement and Anglo-Saxon, and had prepared photocopied packs detailing how they could have scored higher. I had also given these out before I returned the papers, as I knew the class competition for the lowest score would take preference over anything constructive, but what I hadn’t quite prepared for was the total disaffection as we looked through the sample answers and they had a go in pairs at filling in tables and diagrams to help them understand anything they hadn’t quite grasped in the exam hall. Or rather, they didn’t have a go, but instead chatted, turned around and thumped each other, scribbled on each others’ hands, threw paper across the room, and lied about whether or not they were chewing gum. So it was only fitting at the end of the lesson that half of them left behind their revision packs, and I was still finding screwed up pieces of them around the room all afternoon.
Thanks for reading, be sure to check my other posts about school and my teaching days. Stay tuned for new entries, there`s always something to write about!
Out of all of the ongoing dramas, Coursework Deadline is probably the one that causes me the most stress. I know it’s a control freakery thing. Marking exams and writing reports is pretty much down to me. I know the deadlines, and technical hitches aside, it’s up to me to find the time to complete these things. (If anyone finds they have some extra time, please send it this way. I could do with a whole heap right now.)
Does the phrase “why do I bother?” spring to mind? I keep asking myself that. It’s not like I actually care any more whether some of that group pass or fail. In fact, if I’m honest, I would be gutted if some of them walked away with good grades because they just don’t deserve them. But I still carry on, trying to find ways to interest them in what the exam board says they must study, but fighting a losing battle. In this case, I’m doing it simply because it’s my job. I don’t want to be seen as the incompetent one here, the one that can’t cram a bunch of knowledge and concepts into kids who have gone well past the stage of independent learning, or who can’t extract from these kids a decent answer to a dumbed down question.
And here we return to my initial point: the extraction of coursework. We’re talking about a bunch of kids who can’t be bothered to write more than a few lines in a two hour mock GCSE exam. You think they’re going to willingly produce coursework that they’ve had to do in their own time when they could have been getting drunk or stoned or in trouble? You think I’m going to do it for them, like some other teachers come very close to doing? Well I’m sorry, but no. We may have results and league tables to consider, but I’m quite principled about this. Not only is it cheating, but it also teaches the kids not one single positive lesson for life, and surely that’s one of the most important parts of my job. (Okay, you can lead me away on my high horse now...)