Sunday, September 22, 2013

Teacher is a fool

Not personally, but collectively.

Put yourself in the animal slippers of the girl below this Sunday morning:

From the Daily Mail (print edition), !9 September 2013

Now put yourself in the shoes of her partner.

Teachers' working hours have, very carefully, never been decided. Unlike social workers':

You'd think the divorce rate among teachers would be high, but although it's more than some it's less than others - about 1 in 8 marriages in the US. One reason is that in the UK, they tend to hook up during teacher training and after that have virtually no social life except on holiday, when they are either working to catch up on all the stuff they told their managers they'd already done, or crawling into GP surgeries to cash in all the health "brown points" they've accumulated during term time, or letting their hair down on some 18-30 jaunt like pit ponies brought up from the mine for their annual gallop round a green field. The divorced ones fantasise openly about meeting a rich man.

Teachers, said a landlord of mine when he went on the pull, are gullible. But think of the career path: before compulsory 16 - 18 education/training, they were the ones who had gone through their school careers working for pats on the head and gold stars; for symbolic and often deferred approval. The system has selected for obedience, diligence and emotional vulnerability; and now that women are the majority of workers not only in the primary but also in the secondary phase, anyone who joins the "profession" enters into a competition with manipulable workaholics. Merely hint that her display is not quite as vivid as her colleague's, or that her lessons could be just a tad more interesting, and she'll burn the midnight oil down to the desktop. With their abject fear of failure, they're fantastically easy to bully.

And the definition of success is not to be one. So if blessed with some nous and a benevolent line manager, the path is out and up: pastoral care, curriculum management, senior management, headship, adviser, Ofsted inspector.

Or, of course, to start a family and then come back part-time, or not at all. Or even to take one horrified look at what they've done and switch, fast: a fellow trainee went and joined the BBC straight after the post-grad teacher training course, a colleague did a couple of years and then left to be a rep for a chemical company, others became computer engineers, estate agents or bulk-sold for a plastic bag manufacturer, and so on.

Teachers are almost completely incapable of hard negotiation. Ignore the odd noisy activist you'll see on news clips of NUT conferences: the union path is another one out of the classroom. They're so bad at it that they wait for decades for someone else to do something for them. In 1974, the Houghton committee turned its attention to teachers' remuneration (as an afterthought: the original focus was nurses) and considered the demands and skills of the job in relation to similarly responsible work in the private sector. This was to sort out the perennial cyclical recruitment crisis, once and for all.

The result was a big bump in pay, and staff car parks filled up with new models to replace the bangers. But teachers, having been warned at the time not to let this slip, lost out almost immediately to the roaring inflation of the mid-70s, and very soon slid down the comparative pay ladder to their natural, humble and inoffensive niche.

The years rolled by and in came a Labour administration keen to show that it was succeeding in education; so pay got more generous and the exam grades got inflated. Now we have austerity, and exams are being changed, teachers' pay has been frozen for a couple of years, the retirement age has been put back by 5 years, and their conditions of service have just been officially weakened (all a bad manager needs is more power). Ofsted are going into schools in areas of social deprivation with an agenda to find them failing and so trigger "special measures" intervention and ultimately conversion to "academy" status. Schools are privatising, others are starting up as "free schools" using education budget money and venues in all sorts of weird places.

There have always been more votes among parents than teachers, so that determines political angle and media coverage. First hint of industrial action and Superwimp dashes into a phone booth and becomes Uncaring Teacher in the blink of an eye.

Similarly, the attitude to teachers' social contribution is bipolar: by turns they are either unable to teach a cat to drink cream, or commanded to teach manners, ICT, social skills for business, political correctness, ecological salvation and the virtues of the allegedly democratic system that governs us.

Not that the whole institution is necessarily about teaching. Its other role is to keep children off the streets, and Ed Miliband's lovely new idea is to turn schools into 8am - 6pm nurseries for 4 - 11 year olds. And the implications for the educational workforce? Socialism can only go so far, don't you know.

Nor has the examination system ever received a consistent, definitive brief. Half the time it's about meeting some minimum standard for all, the rest of the time it's an egghead-sorting machine to decide who has a small, medium, large or chickenbanger brain. In any case, the winners tend to be the organic free-range children from percheries in rural areas, market towns and treelined suburbs, who constitute the real middle class and supply most of the green benches in Westminster.

Fools. Clever, well-qualified, hard-working fools. Only teachers and horses.


Why teach dozens of young children when you could teach millions?
Pic source: Daily Mail
Being played till all hours by 10-year-olds I know this week.
Curriculum links: PSHE, SMSC, ICT
(Pic source)

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A K Haart said...

"they're fantastically easy to bully."

I didn't know that. Not the impression I get from the media, but who briefs the media?

Sackerson said...

They - we - are always, always behind on something, deficient in some respect - you can always be got at, if your face doesn't fit.

Paddington said...

It sounds like Ofsted (or whoever guides them) has the same ideas as have been used in the US to ruin education. I would suspect entities such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill, who are conducting conferences on how to 'monetize' and 'securitize' education.