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Reflections of a qualified teacher

Posted 14 October 2007, 1.52 am by Villager

The past six weeks have been a first for me: six weeks of proper full-time work, with proper pay. The first time I have earned more than minimum wage, too. I have taken a job in Lincolnshire teaching English at an old secondary modern school. I've found success easier to come by than I had imagined, but it does come at a high cost to my time and energies. It is perhaps instructive that I am only truly discovering this at the age of 23, but I abhor the price that work demands from me.

It has been interesting. I have been lumbered with almost exclusively with Special Needs groups which makes every lesson something of a drama, but really I feel sorry for the children: teacher training in this country does not equip teachers to teach anything other than reasonably bright, able children. Those with learning difficulties and lack of intelligence are quietly ignored. I plod through, doing what I can to avoid lessons being an utter waste of their time, but it is terribly disheartening. The entire school is geared towards maximising exam results and those with no hope of ever attaining a C grade are regarded as a depressing nuisance, to be dumped on the new teachers and quickly forgotten. In a strange way I'm glad it's this way: bright, well-rounded children need little help becoming successful, well-rounded adults. Teaching those who struggle most brings an acute sense of purpose and levity to my efforts, even if they are met with perpetual failure.

Then there are the bastards. These are the children that through malevolent parenting, poor social choices or simple innate malignancy, are thoroughly unpleasant young people. It is my job and my mission to educate them, but if you bang your head against a brick wall for long enough, something must start to crack. They are utterly disengaged from the idea of learning, and will shout, kick and scream as they resist attempts to bring them into a mode of thought and behaviour that is both boring and an object of fear. I have yet to be assaulted in this job, but I have had some awfully aggressive encounters. I imagine the only thing that holds them back is the suspicion that there is an authority that can hurt them if they transgress the law. Sadly, the only way to beat them is to be even more aggressive and horrible. That might sound faintly amusing to anyone who has met me or knows my nature, but it's true. through necessity I can now bellow and intimidate with aplomb.

The most depressing thing about this job is realising the extent to which children’s development and subsequent life chances are determined by their parenting. Households where the nearest thing to a book is the TV guide and Dad's stash of porn, where mothers pass their offspring fast food through the school gates to save them from imposed nutrition, where a father tells his boy to swear at the teachers so he'll be expelled and save his father the hassle he gets from the school about his boy's behaviour, produce children who simply can never live in the same world as other children. The concerted efforts of any school and all the staff who try to help will never truly mitigate that 'home' environment. You see the sharp boundary past which no well-meaning government initiative, nor any amount of public money can ever penetrate.

When I go to work I become another person. I am an actor, and when I put on my suit I feign enthusiasm, personality and principles. One considerable benefit of this is that I have been forced to confront my introverted, constipated nature, and develop some proper social skills. But it also means that I feel like I'm contriving an entire, artificial persona, when my own is in desperate need of development. The thought recurs that I've postponed living to earn some money. I haven't read a book since August. I feel I exert ever greater effort in making an impact on my career, and feel it reverberate in an ever more hollow sense of existence.

I swing between the conviction that I need this occupation for the sense of purpose and motivation it brings, and the desire to jack it all in and return to the comfort of reclusion. I'll stick with it for the near future, but I have yet to submit to the conclusion that I must surrender the great bulk of my efforts in life to a vocation which can never ultimately be fulfilling.

Reliquiae
on 18 October 2007, 2.21 am
Welcome to my hell. I've been working in a school for 4 years teaching kids who've been in and out of jail, abused, raped, abandoned and destroyed. Some days, I want to just shut down.

I can completely relate to this article.


cyprusudo
on 29 October 2007, 2.33 am
Come to Las Vegas. They are desperate for qualified teachers. With any luck, You could even get a classroom with normal well behaved and eager to learn kids.


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