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.
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!