Gove’s Classroom Warriors

Last night’s Panorama told the tale of the American born so-called Classroom Warriors, the government’s latest attempts to tackle behaviour issues in UK schools.

Image source:bpc-world.co.uk


The idea is that ex-military workers are being given a fastrack into teaching and the opportunity to use their skills in the classroom to tame our youngsters and set them on the right path. Becuse all teachers are useless and uanble to do this, despite their years of training. This is not my view, by the way.
The examples that the programme gave us were interesting. An ex-military teacher in America who had turned a young girl’s life around and helped her to stay in school. He was an inspirational teacher. There was also an ex-marine who stepped into the role of head-teacher at a primary school in the UK and did AMAZING things, such as shuffle the staff around so that they were in the positions that were best suited to their roles. Um, don’t most head-teachers do this anyway? This head-teacher was celebrated for his approach, being one of ‘like it or lump it’ and that was claimed to be a direct result of his marine training. Um, again, isn’t that a necessary leadership skill anyway, despite the type of training you’ve had? Every school I’ve ever worked in has had a shake up regularly to ensure that teachers are kept on their toes and that the role they play in school is the best one for them and the children.
To say the programme painted a one sided picture is an understatement, in my humble opinion. The programme makers neglected to report on the ‘other’ teachers who are out there every day working hard to try and educate our young. We were given glowing reports of improved behaviour and improved grades, all thanks to ex-military teachers. We weren’t told how these young people were going to be shaping up as adults- except for the ones who were going to join the military themselves. We weren’t told how important it was for a teacher to be an approachable human being, to show compassion and care in the face of young people’s life challenges. We weren’t shown a school like the one in which I teach.
There are behaviour issues at my school and they are mostly down to the fact that I teach in one of the most deprived areas in the UK. 90% of the children at this school are EAL and a good majority of them are new to the country. Many have escaped from war-torn areas around the world and from poverty and destruction. Our job is to help re-build these chidlren whilst we educate them and sometimes that means more than just getting the grades up. Sometimes it means being a shoulder to cry on or a person to talk to. For some reason, the makers of Panorama never thought to consider how children like this might react to a military style teaching staff.
Whilst teacher training, I did a short placement in a pupil referral centre which is the only one of its kind in the UK. Refugees and asylum seekers were placed here before they were allocated a school place and the teachers at the centre work so hard to help them integrate into society. Every lunch time, members of the local police force come to eat lunch with the children, in an effort to forge positive relationships with groups of children who have only ever regarded a uniform as danger. It was these children I thought of last night. These children who seem to need a different type of schooling than the one Gove is suggesting.
Also, whatever happened to celebrating the thousands of ‘normal’ teachers who work hard each day to make an impact on our children’s education? All we hear about them (us) is the bad news- falling grades, trunacy and poor behaviour. I’ve yet to meet a teacher who doesn’t care about the job. I’ve also yet to meet one who thinks they know it all about a child’s behaviour. Maybe its just me. But maybe we need to stop giving teachers a hard time and take a moment to think about the difficut job teachers have- a little support would go a long way. After all, if they want to bring the army in, they must know its getting bad!

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15 responses to “Gove’s Classroom Warriors

  • Mummy Beadzoid

    I’m pretty aghast at everything Gove has done since he became our new boss. But even before this teacher bashing has always been a national sport. The new government go on about how they want to get the bright and elite into teaching but these people don’t always make the best teachers. It does take compassion, understanding and dedication which are characteristics not necessarily synonomous with successful business folk and the military.

    I’ve taught at a school like the one you describe. It takes a special type of person to have a positive impact with children of this nature and I can’t imagine anything more disasterous than letting an ex army major loose in such an environment. It’d be the proverbial bull in a china shop.

    Wrong, just worng.

  • mothersalwaysright

    As a journalist, I watched this programme aghast. Where the hell was the balance? In my humble opinion, it was a shoddy piece of journalism, with no balance at all. A 1 minute clip of the NUT’s Christine Blower does not count as balance. My partner is a teacher and both my parents are teachers. My mum teaches in a very “difficult” school which often sees children arriving from war-torn countries. I wonder how these children would react to military style teaching?

    I couldn’t believe the way the journalist was praising “innovative” techniques, like lowering your voice if you’re angry. This is something all the teachers in my family do as a matter of course – none of them have had “behaviour issues” in their classes and none of them have had any military training! I couldn’t help but wonder if the journalist himself was a Tory or on Gove’s payroll.

    I appreciate he was showing how the methods have worked in some schools, brilliant. But there was a total lack of showing the other side of the argument.

    I actually have to stop typing now because I’m making myself angry!

  • Msissa

    Am yet to watch this, but am completely furious. You’ve made some great points, GWM, and I only wish the Gove Weasel could appreciate them. Grrrrr!

  • Him Up North

    I missed this so hopefully can catch up on iPlayer. It sounds like this initiative is another sop to the voters of middle England who “want something done” about behaviour in schools, but aren’t particularly bothered about the big picture.

    I’d like to link this post to something I’m writing for TBUN if that’s okay.

  • Crystal Jigsaw

    I had a statement review meeting today with Amy’s headmistress and support worker. They can’t do enough for her. I am very impressed with their tenacity and determination to make sure Amy succeeds. And they are supportive, helpful and always there for not only Amy, but me as well.

    I think these types of programs are a false view of the hard work and dedication our teachers give to students. The majority of teachers should be commended for their patience, not mocked and belittled.

    CJ xx

  • Anna

    I think I made my feelings on the Lovely Mr Gove in my post here : http://mummysquared.blogspot.com/2010/11/mid-week-rant.html

    Grrrrr

  • Honest Mum

    I teach and have taught in some very deprived areas where students were in desperate need of pastoral care. Teachers need to be viewed with more compassion, their job is so difficult and I felt at the time ( I mostly lecture at universities) in between my filmmaking work, that my job was part social worker too. It can be hard and teachers such as yourself need more support. Getting the army in sound like desperate measures to me. Great post.

  • Li-ling

    I’ve thought and thought so much about this since reading you post and responding to a discussion on bmb. My issue with the whole idea is in the basis and the definition of integration. As an immigrant myself I can see why it would be ‘good’ for immigrants to integrate and yet another rather large part of me wonders integration also means the ‘ relinquishing’ of some bits of myself and culture.
    It hard enough for asylum seekers and refugees to be up rooted and resettled sometimes several times over without expecting them to forgo an identity which is likely the only thing left that they know is their own.
    Well done you on what sounds like a terrific job in a difficult place!

  • Would you be on the front line? « The Blog Up North

    […] If you want a teacher’s perspective on this programme read Ghostwritermummy’s excellent view. […]

  • Nick

    I am an ex military teaching assistant working in a high flying school in the West country. The programme was not saying that we apply military styles of instruction in the classrooms, more that we have a range of experience that can be very useful, particularly when trying to keep control of unruly classes. We have lived life and many of us are used to dealing with extreme situations. We set boundaries that are policies and stick to them. We tend to send the correct messages to young people. I am not dumping on teachers but some of THEM could do well by following some armed forces doctrines.

    • ghostwritermummy

      I don’t doubt that there are some excellent ex military teachers and TAs. My problem is that the programme makers did not present a balanced view and that ‘normal’ teachers were not represented at all!

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