I am a mum of three so I am doing schooly stuff every day. I made up that adjective. If it’s good enough for Joyce…My background is in secondary teaching but these days I mostly work in a one to one and small group capacity with students who want help for all sorts of reasons. Because they benefit from just a bit of extra support and stimulation; are retaking exams, poorly, excluded, home ed; because they were bullied and were removed from school when the school could not manage it; because they are recovering from or managing mental health problems and just doing a few GCSEs as they go forward. Because they just want to do some extra work! Because (this is the one I find really uncomfortable) they self refer when the teaching they get doesn’t seem to cut it and they are desperate to be stretched because they’re passionate about the subject. I suppose I’m without portfolio; off grid. These days. You know, I was a kooky kid; weird kid. So much going on (and I have written about this widely elsewhere). I loathed school and do not remember a single sympathetic person in my time at secondary. Ah, but I had the books, a rich and deep imaginative life, mental health problems: used to come home and batter myself because of rage and loneliness. Who knew? But there were a couple of inspirational teachers who matter to me to this day – both of them English teachers. And I hope…well I hope I have been a better classroom teacher and am good at what I do now because of my own tricky experience. And, maybe, because I have held down more than one job. When I was teaching, I was also a volunteer support worker elsewhere, for example. Now, I run what I run and I am developing a writing career, but I also have a couple of discreet mentoring projects that mean the world to me.
But this isn’t about me; rather just a few observations on what irks. All about why, in schools, one should not reiterate things like this (in word or deed). Anyway…
1. There is something wrong with you or different about you, kid (and not in a good way).
2. I have been here a long time and I am therefore incapable of making a mistake. We KNOW we are a good school so it must therefore be you, young person.
3. You are a minor and it is therefore impossible that you might know more than me about a subject.
4. I am a teacher and therefore I am an expert (and cannot make those constant, stumbling, very human errors that we all make). I am an expert on SEN and on mental health too and may choose to disparage health professionals or people who burble on about self esteem.
5. I cannot laugh about that really shite piece of bureaucracy I’ve just had to uphold and which we both know is shite. I’m sorry if you leave this room feeling like screaming about such upholding, but there we are.
6. This summer – say between year 11 and 12 – is the best summer of your life!! What does this say to the person who has ingested no.1, struggles socially and definitely isn’t going to the prom/to Glastonbury for the post exam blow out etc? Also it implies that there is something idyllic about the state of childhood and that adulthood is death and taxes. Not so my brave hearts: please copy this to your offspring!
7. Everything is riding on this. This exam session. EVERYTHING. If you screw up your GCSEs you are fucked and will have no options and that will have dire consequences for the rest of your life and I have evidence for this.
8. Do as I say and not as I do (although I am not going to confirm that, because I am very human, I DO lose paperwork,DO forget things and DO misconstrue things because that would not happen, oh no no no: but you, kid, have no excuse).
9. We have no reason to doubt any of our staff. (I ask: why? We should doubt and reflect. It is healthy and intelligent. There is always reason to doubt – ourselves and others. Always reason to listen to a child or a parent.)
10. There is so much wonderful stuff out there; great schools, gifted insightful people who work enormously hard. But there are also people who need – we ALL do, don’t we?- to be less sure. Tentativity is a good thing, I think. Also, if a child does not like school, this does not mean there is something wrong with a child. DOES NOT.
What do you think? (She said tentatively…)