Friday, 2 September 2011

Just so we're clear...

This is a BAD idea:
Ministers are scrapping a requirement for teachers to record instances when they use physical force, as part of a wider move to "restore adult authority" in the wake of the riots in England.
Here are some reasons why neither I nor any teacher I know thinks this is good:
  1. Pupils should not be afraid of their teachers, as this is a barrier to their learning. If you are afraid of your teacher, you are less inclined to view your education as an opportunity, and more likely to view yourself in opposition to it.
  2. There are plenty of alternatives to force in dealing with classroom behaviour issues. If you do need to use force, you have already lost your authority.
  3. The link with the riots is specious. It is not a coincidence that the riots happened in the most deprived areas of London. The underlying cause is inequality, not a lack of caning.
  4. I didn't get into this job to beat children. However annoying it is when a lesson doesn't go to plan, grabbing hold of a kid is not a solution to the problem.
  5. This whole thing feeds into the right-wing myth that the primary cause of bad behaviour is a lack of discipline. This is part of the whole hang 'em, flog 'em, dose of national service bollocks. As Lenin recently noted: Greece has national service. It is not 'discipline' that is the problem. Discipline is an issue for the army and a prison, not a free society. Yes, we need a certain level of co-operation to do our jobs, and yes there needs to be an understanding that there are consequences for poor behaviour, but this has to be based on the understanding that co-operation and good behaviour are beneficial to the individual students and their peers, not 'cos I'll give you a clip round the ear if you don't. Which can be complicated and tedious, but has the benefit of not being neolithic.
As you were.


Jim Jepps said...

I'm sure you're right but - genuine question - "There are plenty of alternatives to force in dealing with classroom behaviour issues. If you do need to use force, you have already lost your authority."

Is it not irrelevant if a teacher has already lost their authority?

If you're in a situation where one child is attacking another and you haven't been able to stop the attack verbally surely some sort of force might well be necessary to protect the other child in your charge.

Fine a better teacher might have not let it get to that stage but some schools are tough and some teachers are inexperienced or under pressure.

I can't see myself saying that it is always wrong to use force in the classroom. (Not that it would be ormal and I'm sure most teachers would never have to physically intervene in that way in their whole career).

Christie Malry said...

Well here's the thing - fights do sometimes happen in classrooms. I've had to separate fighting children myself on several occasions and almost certainly will have to do so again. There are occasions where you have to physically intervene to stop children hurting themselves or each other, and it's not always something that can be foreseen and defused, even by very experienced teachers.

The point I'm trying to get across though is that Gove's announcement goes some way towards attempting to normalise physical intervention in classrooms, and this is a very bad idea. There are occasions where it is necessary to physically intervene and I suspect always will be. But these are incidents that we should do our best to ensure are as isolated and infrequent as possible. Good teaching is about co-operation, not adversarialism, and government policy that says "So let me be crystal clear, if any parent now hears a school say, 'sorry, we can't physically touch the students', then that school is wrong. Plain wrong. The rules of the game have changed." is aimed at the latter and moves us away from the former.

I'm still a relatively young teacher, and it's a job I have to work very hard at, and I want to improve at all the time. Since the Condems came in, I've rapidly reached the conclusion that if I'm going to be a very good teacher, it will only be by listening carefully to what Gove says - he always knows exactly how not to approach an issue.

Jim Jepps said...

I completely agree that it seems reasonable to record those occasions (hopefully rare) that do occur - so as usual Gove is wrong.

I just felt that saying it's never necessary seems over the top and risks stigmitising teachers who find themselves in a position when it *is* necessary.

Roobin said...

If children were born 27 feet tall and grew down there would be no question of adults hitting them. Adults hit children because they can. It may be understandable. It may even solve some problems and/or circumstances. It should never be encouraged on any level.

Another thing, Jim's what if is probably the most restrained I've come across in ages. I find that when rightist (not the Jims of this world) take up this topic, they usually like to fantasise luridly, along the lines of:

"What if one pupil has another two locked in a basement, tied up with socks in their mouths, you reach for the handle BUT THERE'S TOO MUCH BLOOD ON THE KNOB... what're you going to do then?"

Roobin said...

Game on, say teachers


BRITAIN'S teachers absolutely cannot wait to get cracking now physical force can go unrecorded in classrooms.

Open your textbooks and turn to chapter six, 'The Stench of Fear'Dozens of inner-city secondary schools have started work on weightlifting rooms to ensure staff can backhand a fire door shut and many have renamed PE lessons as 'game time'.

Defeated wreck Wayne Hayes said: "When the headmaster phoned with the news, I put down the gin and sleeping pills, downloaded the Rocky soundtrack and shadow boxed around my flat for two hours straight whilst imagining that gobby little shite in year 11 who keeps asking why I’m not married.

"In any great society, teachers should really love their jobs. And now I do."

Education secretary Michael Gove has also ensured that physical terror will return to the curriculum by recruiting 500 recently-redundant soldiers with a faraway look in their eye and anger management issues to teach woodwork, PE and whatever other lessons don't really require formal training.

Christie Malry said...

Heh, it was that very article that made me get out my soapbox...

Roobin said...

Daily Mash has been getting more and more right wing lately, at least it has to me; which is a shame.

Christie Malry said...

Unfortunately, I have to agree. Still the occasional piece, but most of the time if falls back on the lazy rightist tropes that only a fucking idiot would accede to. You know, like a Harry's Place contributor.