So, today I walked out of a school.
Was I being unprofessional?
I was in on supply and I walked out in the middle of the second lesson.
Why? Because apart from being called an arsehole twice by two different year 7s, who by the way, weren’t even in my class, they were out wandering the corridors. I was then subjected to a stream of abuse in the second class of the day.
In the second lesson, I came face to face with a group of angry, ‘mean girls’, which would normally make me laugh, but when they started telling me to fuck off when I asked them, politely, to sit down. I decided that I actually didn’t need to be there and have abuse hurled at me. Three times I asked for someone from the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) to come, each time, they arrived, the pupils were silent and perfect while the SLT member was there. None of the girls who I identified as having sworn at me were removed from the class or even spoken to outside by the SLT member. The SLT member told them, ineffectually to settle down and the kids simply continued the minute after they left. Eventually the deputy head arrived and that’s when I left.
Was that an effective course of action from SLT?
I’ll let you decide.
My crime? I simply suggested that one of the girls might consider rolling her skirt down an inch or two, because it was so short her bottom was actually visible. I didn’t tell her, or order her, I simply made a polite suggestion. At no point did I raise my voice, I was respectful and polite at all times, regardless of whether the child is polite and respectful in return. This is how I usually do things.
Now, I wasn’t afraid of the group of girls whipping themselves up into a fury, I was simply upset and sad.
I felt really sad looking at these undisciplined, uncivil, impolite and feral children and I felt sad for our society. These children were 16 years old, very close to being adults and yet, they believed that the only thing they needed to do, was not to apologise for being rude and offensive, but the best thing to do was get their stories straight. Right there, within my earshot.
“We’ll say that she was rude to us and we just gave as good as we got”
I worry for our society and I’ll explain why.
Two things have changed and either one, on its own, would not have had such a dramatic effect, but together it has caused a change, which I’m not sure can be easily solved.
Now this is a theory that I have come up with, based purely on my observations and experiences and I know that some people will be offended by it.
The first thing that has happened is that parenting styles have changed. Parenting is now very much child-focussed.
This is illustrated thus. A child walks into a room, the parent is talking to another adult. As soon as the child appears, the parent stops talking to the other adult and immediately turns attention to the child. The child says what they want to say and then the parent reacts to what the child said. Sometimes the child enters a room and interrupts the adult conversation, old parenting styles would have the parent admonish the child for the interruption and once adult conversation is concluded, they would then turn their attention to the child. However now, the interruption is ignored and the parent reacts immediately to what the child says.
Now, I’m not making judgements on this style, I’m simply explaining, from my experience, what the consequences of this style are.
If this parenting style is continued throughout the early years of the child, that child is given the belief that whatever they have to say is more important than what anyone else has to say. They are also given the belief that they can express any thought they have in their head, as soon as they have it. Regardless of whether that thought is disrespectful, offensive, inappropriate or breathtakingly rude – they instantaneously express it.
This type of parenting has always existed, but it used to be the exception rather than the norm. There was always that one kid without a filter, who would say whatever thoughts they had, regardless of whether anyone else was speaking. Now, there is an entire class of kids doing this.
Now, on its own this would not normally have a detrimental effect on society, because these things (socialisation, social interaction) would be picked up at Primary school. During play time at primary school, (and I mean timetabled play, not break times) kids would be encouraged to interact properly with each other. They learn through play how to communicate effectively with each other.
The second change, which affects society, has been in Primary schools. Successive Government interventions in the primary education system have left primary teachers stretched and the constant assessment and targets have meant that in many primary schools play time has been reduced. Kids are arriving at secondary school in year 7 with this behaviour unchecked.
How can primary teachers educate children in social interactions when they’re drowning in assessments and admin?
So we have a generation of children who are unaware that occasionally you have to wait for someone else to speak and shouting over people to get your point across isn’t the most effective course of action.
Combine all this with the, still prevalent, cultural attitude, that it’s a good day at school if you can muck about in a lesson and do nothing.
(This has always been the case, in fact I was probably one of the worst pupils for causing distractions).
Add to this the fact that kids are aware that even going to University doesn’t mean that you have a guaranteed good job and you have an entire generation of kids, mostly inner city kids who have lost faith in the whole system.
Teaching, like policing, happens by consent and if an entire class of 30 decides not to consent to be taught, even the most effective classroom manager would have difficulty. Especially if that teacher is a supply teacher.