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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Evidence that Fran has been humbled over the years ...

I think Mr Gove has a special servant who looks at a clock all day and says: 'Mr Gove.  Another five minutes has passed, sir.  Time for an announcement about what you are going to change in education.' It's not that I disagree with all Gove's ideas; I like his apparent wish to drive up standards and instil higher expectations.  But he just throws out ideas randomly, like confetti, without properly consulting anyone and it's so destabilising for the profession.

I was browsing through some of my Times Educational Supplement columns; I wrote for the newspaper over a period of several years.  This column was from 2007 and examines the way new teachers are like teenagers ...



You know when you're about to become a parent, and someone feels it their duty to tell you what it’s really like?  You smile indulgently, because you know your kids will be different.  

           Someone informed me when I was pregnant that her kids argued over the number of baked beans she served them, and fought over which end of the sofa to sit at.  I nearly rang Social Services; surely the family needed intervention?  But it wasn’t long before my kids were bickering over whose fish finger was a millimetre longer - and I thought back to what she said.  

            Likewise, try telling a fourteen year old that she should learn to use a washing machine, answer a telephone politely and keep an account of her spending so that she has these skills for the future.  The future?  You mean, this afternoon?  Hey, Mum, lighten up!

New parents and teenagers have something in common: an immunity to the hard, unwelcome truth about what lies ahead.  And it’s just as well, otherwise the population would diminish and teenagers would have the future to depress them as well as spots, exams and unrequited lust.  

Trainee teachers, too, can ignore the warnings from those-who-have-gone-before about what is to come, thinking they can inspire the uninspirable and thrill the unthrillable.  They, like new parents who decorate their lounge in apricot white and put their DVD player at floor-level, and like the teenager who risks early deafness with his music and early death with his McDonalds, won’t listen to anyone. 

I remember being like that.  “Pace yourself,” someone told me when I was training and as green as guacamole.  “Don’t plan all your lessons as all-singing all-dancing performances.  Keep the odd worksheet to hand.”  I could hardly keep the sneer under control at the W word and it wasn’t until two years in when only intravenous caffeine kept me awake that I learned to be more humble. 

Similarly, I was told by a female colleague, “Don’t try to be their friend.  You are their teacher.” Ha!  Surely she was only saying that because she didn’t know how to relate to young people.  I, on the other hand, was going to revolutionise the profession by being a magical Poitier/Brodie combination and the kids would cluster around my desk to talk about their problems.

They clustered round my desk all right, but they weren't looking for therapy.  They were looking for new and innovative ways not to be in their seats, herding up the front like wildebeest when I said, 'If anyone needs help, do feel free to come and ask'.  

I had to be shamed by a pupil before I toughened up.  She hissed, in the midst of paper-aeroplane pen-stabbing no-learning chaos, “Just give them detentions, Miss.  Don’t worry about them not liking you.”

Some things no one mentioned.  No one told me that it was possible to make seventeen cups of tea in one day but drink none of them.  No one mentioned that you never lift a school desk by putting your fingers underneath it unless you like having your hands in old chewing gum.  

And nobody told me that every germ in the school would make it his personal mission to invade my body so that I would always be in one of three states: a) feeling as though I were getting a cold; b) having a cold; c) just getting over a cold.  

It’s no wonder no one told me these things.  They knew I was impervious to advice and peacock-arrogant.    

Things have changed.  Anyone who wants to give me advice now: bring it on.  Especially if you have a cold remedy.   

With her new blue jumper stuck firmly to the blackboard, Fran realised that Rule 1 was: Never leave a
tube of superglue out where the kids can use it against you


22 comments:

  1. Good advice about that Super Glue.

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    1. You can't say I don't teach you life skills.

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  2. My kids learned to use a washing machine early. I told them they weren't going to be allowed to leave home until they could do their own washing. All were doing their own by age 12.
    Cold remedy? No such thing, just ride it out. Prevention on the other hand... Vitamin C and cod liver oil daily for the last 30 years, and I've never had a cold or the flu. Hayfever, yes, but that's an allergy which likes to mimic a cold. Antihistamine takes care of that.

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    1. So, did they leave home at 13?!

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    2. Two of them are still in that house, I left instead.

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  3. I still wonder if I could make it as a teacher. But I don't think I have the determination, sheer guts and energy to see it through. I take my hat off to you.

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    1. To be honest, if i can, anyone should be able to. I am not a 'sticker-at-it' by nature.

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  4. When I taught, I replaced a teacher who was "friends" with the students. I was doomed to fail. The kids thought that if they attacked me that she would come back. They attacked; I got fired; she didn't return.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I think that's called a lose-lose situation for them, isn't it?

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  5. I give up ? How is it done ?

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    1. When I find out, I'll leave teaching and run my own courses.

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  6. Yes, yes, and yes. My first year of teaching began when I replace a woman who left for a heart transplant (not the best sign of things to come) and her substitute who had done little for six weeks other than yell at the top of his lungs. As a result, I had classes who were immune to a raised voice and I had students who literally ran in circles (no, not elementary school, this was fourteen year olds) around the room.

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    1. I know I shouldn't have laughed at the heart transplant omen ....

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  7. This is so true, about so many things. And parenthood....I now know, far later than I should, that there are almost as many ways of bringing up kids as there are parents. ( I say almost, because beating them to a pulp or locking them in a dark cellar isn't one of them). Oh, what a wise mother I would be, if I had my time again. Too late, alas (sorry, T,D,B and J, but I did my best at the time...).

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    1. Did you call them T, D, B and J while you were bringing them up? I take my hat off to you. I called mine 1, 2 and 3 and it was just as effective.

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    2. I think I used their names. I'ts been a long time, Fran.

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    3. we all answered to; "PEN-AD-MA-PAT " (Penny, Adam, Martin & Patrick )

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  8. True, true and true. Well done for nailing it, Being You. Chuffed to know I'm not the only one getting colds etc by the tissue-full. The truth is, and this is what I find so hard - there are as many ways to teach well as there are to parent well. But they all - parenting gurus and OFSTED etc - want to turn it into a formula, so we are all exactly the same. How constricting is that? I will do it...I just don't like it. Life affirming post... Well done :)

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    1. Yes, that's so true, the formula thing. So true.

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  9. Another useful thing to remember, isn't it? is that even kids who behave really badly aren't really being personal. They're kicking against you because they're in a certain place and you're a teacher, not because they hate you. I'll always remember how really annoyingly rebellious boys would come and ask me to dance at the school disco and be all shuffly and shy. (This was some time ago when I was young and more comely.)

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  10. That one took me about 10 years to figure out ... so ... that was - er - Tuesday last week.

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  11. I just avoided all this by working with children too small to inflict lasting damage on me or the furniture . ( No-one under the age of 25 should be allowed access to anything other than a Pritt stick or a wax crayon , anyway ) .
    Having recurring nightmares about senior school and my contribution to it made "grown up" teaching a definite no-go area !

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