Saturday, 4 May 2013

Chumming The Waters

Attainment in my placement school is significantly below the national average. Behaviour is generally abysmal. An overwhelming sense of apathy pervades the student populace - despite the best efforts of a committed, passionate and enthusiastic English department. Sadly, the efforts of these wonderful teachers see them swimming futilely against a tide of myopic management and poorly applied policies which undermine them at every stroke.

I have been thrown into this sea of mediocrity like chum for sharks - those rapacious pupils fully aware that I am fresh meat for them to chew up and spit out. It's a hugely difficult position to be in, and one in which I have oscillated wildly between flourishing and floundering.

In the main, I have stringently adhered to the school's behavioural code of conduct. This sees a verbal warning for pupils who warrant one, followed by a pair of written comments in their planners for subsequent misdemeanours - and a ten minute detention. A third comment is accompanied by a room-removal and an hour after school. Further (or more serious) crimes result in time spent on Miss Trunchbull's chokey (aka inclusion). Pretty standard stuff.

Unfortunately, this policy is not worth the paper it's written on. There are numerous reasons for this which can be easily summarised:
  1. The school day finishes at 14:45pm to accommodate ten minute detentions before school buses take the pupils home - meaning it's not really a detention at all.
  2. There is no cumulative process for totting up 'comments' other than a detention if you garner twelve documented instances of bad behaviour in a week.
  3. Pupils do not give a shiny shite if they are given an hour's detention, often bragging or boasting about them to their peers - before failing to turn up and serve their punishment.
  4. Behaviour on corridors goes largely unregulated, with phones and fights to the fore.
  5. SLT's selective vision leads them to describe behaviour as 'outstanding'.
  6. SLT's wilful blindness/self-delusion annoys staff and leaves them feeling abandoned and powerless.
  7. Abandoned and powerless staff are easily identified by students who subsequently take advantage wherever possible.
I'm sure this scenario is familiar to many of you. But for a student teacher, these problems are magnified tenfold. We are seen as a weak link. An adult figure they can toy with and test. And they are absolutely right - we are virgins waiting to be defiled.

So, despite my misgivings about the policy's shortcomings, I have soldiered on. Behaviour in my classes is now significantly better than it was. In some cases my pupils behave better for more than for their own teachers. But at what cost to me? I have a few weeks left in this placement school and feel that my teaching has suffered significantly - i haven't had the opportunity to sharpen and hone my pedagogical skills in the way I'd have liked, thanks largely to the constant demands of behaviour management and the time it has stolen from actual teaching.

I know that managing my classroom is a huge part of the job. But I also know that my placement would have proved a far more valuable experience were I (and my colleagues) not constantly undermined by a horrendous culture of poor behaviour which is tolerated, ignored and, dare I say it, encouraged by appalling mismanagement from those who profess to be the shining beacns of excellence and good practice.

No comments:

Post a Comment