Education my part in its downfall (part 2)
In the first part I spoke about how education in the UK has changed in my 20 years as a teacher, and not for the better. I spoke about the teacher crisis I had experienced and started to talk about how children have changed, specifically the children in the areas I had taught in. I am now going to move on to the controversial subject of parents. If you did not read the first part the n you can find it on my website http://www.anthonypottsauthor.com.
There has been a gradual move in the relationship between teachers and parents in the UK. It used to be that you worked as a team. Both parties understood that they wanted the best for the children and it was the starting point of all interactions. Over time this has changed. For example, when I started teaching if I got in touch with a parent about an issue with a child. The parent would be horrified and apologetic at the same time. A meeting would be arranged promptly. In the meeting the focus would be wholly on the child and how you could both work together to get past whatever the problem was. Fast forward to the present day. First of all, arranging a meeting would be very problematic. Phone calls are ignored, arranged meetings cancelled or the parents might not show up at all. Now, if a parent agrees to the meeting quickly, it is often a bad sign. It soon becomes clear that the meeting is going to be ambushed as a chance for the parents to vent on what they see as the real issue to be. The modern relationship between teacher and parent is one of distrust. If I was having a wall built and had bricklayers over to give me a quote, I wouldn’t dream of telling them how to build it. Not in education, increasingly at these meetings I am being told how to do my job. This lack of respect for the profession can be placed directly back to the attitudes of the media and government.
It always amazes me that parents will take the word of their children over that of a teacher. If your teacher is telling you that your child is a nightmare, then they are a nightmare. It is not in the teacher’s interest to lie. You may be able to argue the toss over individual incidents but I promise you that you would be shocked if you actually saw how they behave at school. Did you never lie to your parents? Just think who has the most to gain out of the lie. Your child who might get in trouble or your teacher whose job depends on your child making progress. I have lost count of the amount of times I have seen parents shouting at and threatening teachers. Often in front of the children. I have seen grown men and women raging with anger and yet when the incident that has caused them such anger is investigated it has turned out to be nothing more than a misunderstanding. No apology is forthcoming. A new phenomenon is social media groups in which parents join forces via social media to criticize and chastise teachers and schools. I saw a group called “Mrs _______ is a B****” I kid you not. And yes, teachers do hear about and read the content of these groups. Don’t get me wrong these parents are still the minority but it is rising year on year. I fear that it will soon be the majority.
To finish the second part, I am going to talk about testing. Many parents love tests. Most teachers do too. It gives us an idea at where the children are and it helps us plan to help move the children on. We do also recognize that you cannot make judgements on children based on tests. Some children do not test well. On the day of the test it can be affected by many things right down to whether the child had breakfast that morning. If you internalize testing and use it just for your school it can be very useful. The minute you start using the data from tests to judge teachers, schools, boroughs then you are entering the land of make-believe. There are children in this country living in poverty, are neglected, homeless, in broken families. Is there anyone who thinks they are going to make the same progress as the average child from a middle-class background? A child who has three hot meals a day, has seen the world, whose parents can afford a tutor, who has their own space to work, who has access to books, who has professional parents – people for whom education has been a positive experience. For every argument flip it for the alternative. I could continue but I am sure you get the point. The borough get it in the neck from the government if their results don’t match the rest of the country. The headteachers then get it in the neck from the borough if they don’t match the other schools. The senior management team then get it in the neck from the headteachers so they in turn pass it on to the teachers. It really is true that s*** really does travel downhill! The problem is what you get is what you get. Ask any teacher they all know which class in their school is the good one and which one is the nightmare. Teachers talk, “Hopefully I won’t still be in year 4 when 2c get there,” is not an uncommon thing to hear. You see them coming from nursery! The problem is at some schools there are more nightmare classes than good. The only way to get the same results is for schools from less privileged areas to become test machines. Churning out children in preparation for a test. This is verging on neglect. Not giving the children skills to learn independently or giving them a broad curriculum able to go where the learning takes them. There is literally not the time in the day to have a conversation with a child anymore – these are children who need to be heard, need to feel listened to. For many school is their safe place. But instead, they are cramming for a pointless test just so that the school isn’t deemed as failing. I believe that is called an oxymoron. Why don’t teachers say no? It is their job. They have a mortgage. They have to play the game. They won’t be listened to. They are judged by numbers the same as the children. I taught a child who had his brother stabbed to death on the build up to the test. They gave him 5 extra marks. I had to attend a meeting where I was asked why he didn’t pass.