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What's it like to be a teacher?



A classroom.


30 seats, set out in rows of 4.


20 boys, 10 girls.


Big kids – 14- and 15-year-olds, many of whom are already 6 foot+.


You enter the class ‘blind’ as you don’t have your own classroom.


As you enter, there’s clusters of conversations.


Someone shouts ‘You alright Sir?’ from your left. Two girls seem to be screaming to each other at the back. A cluster of lads are laughing with each other at the front.


You walk to the desk as quick as you can.


Damn, the projector and screen are off.


You know that you can’t sort the tech out and sort the class out.


Ok, class first.


‘Can everyone please sit down and face this way?’ you say.


About half the students seem to half listen. They at least turn to face you. The remaining half are still continuing to shout, bawl and brat around as if you don’t exist.


You try again: ‘Can EVERYONE please face me and listen?’.


You get a few more. Marginal gain.


3 mins since you entered the room now. Ok, time to focus in on a few guys now.


‘Lewis, Chloe, please stop talking now’


‘Alan, Libby, sit down now and stop wandering around the room’


‘No’ someone says. You aren’t sure who. There’s too much noise. Damn, this is getting bad.


The 50% who you’d managed to gain compliance from have now awoken to your control-loss and start to re-engage in misbehaviour like rising zombies in the Walking Dead.


You have a PowerPoint, but you need a projector and screen to engage it. Whilst you lose the class a little more, you fiddle around with the smart screen in a vain attempt to make it work. Nope. You head to the corridor in the hope someone else is around. There is no one. It’s like a ghost zone. The next classroom is around a corner, the opposite one is empty and the lights are off.


Right, this is on you.


‘Ok, can you open your books please?’. It’s time to take evasive action and do what you can with what you have. You try to get through some instructions ‘Right, I’d like you to...’


A child laughs out loud to your right. You turn and some other laughter breaks out. It seems that something is going on but you don’t know what it is.


You start again ‘I’d like you to start with task 1 and then...’


‘Sir, what’s the point in this?’ shouts Tara from the backrow whilst swinging on her chair.


‘I don’t want to debate it, I just want to be able to get on with this lesson please’


You are frustrated, perhaps even upset.


It’s starting to get more difficult to keep composure; ‘Look, I just need you to all be quiet right now, this is getting ridiculous, you are wasting my time!’ You shout.


Thinking showing your irritation might save the lesson is quashed by a loud chorus of ‘boooo!’ and then more raucous laughter.


You notice a few of the quiet students who are desperate to do some work looking at you longing for you to do something to get the lesson and their education back on track but you are feeling helpless. A little bit of your heartbreaks.


Half way through the lesson, you realise most students have not put pen to paper and those that have seem to have been doodling. It’s now damage limitation but Libby tells you to ‘Fuck off’ for asking her why she hasn’t done anything you’ve asked her to do. You tell her she needs to now leave the lesson. She says ‘No, I’ll stay here’. What now? There is no other colleague in sight, you go to your laptop and send an email to SLT - ‘Can someone come and help me with a student please’ and put in the subject line ‘High priority’. It’s taken you a few minutes to write and send the email and while doing so your eyes have been firmly fixed on the laptop screen. You miss Tara (mentioned earlier) slapping another student in the face. You didn’t see it. But one student is crying. Another girl seems to be kicking off now – shouting swear words in the direction of Tara.


Libby is smiling at you. She knows that no one is coming to help you. She knows as an adult and teacher this is humiliating for you. So do her mates who are also looking at you laughing.


You sit down at the desk. You give up. You set the work. You ignore all other behaviours in the lesson. You wait for the bell.


At break time, a member of SLT comes to find you...


‘Hi Sir, are you ok? Sorry none of us could get to your classroom period 2, we were all stuck in a curriculum planning meeting. Libby has come to me quite upset as she said you shouted at her?’


‘I didn’t shout at her, it was just the class as I couldn’t get them to be quiet’


‘Ok, it would maybe be good for us to arrange a restorative conversation between yourself and Libby? Maybe try to repair that relationship? You can both have your views aired and we can then move forward.’


‘She told me to fuck off though?’


‘We can address everything in the restorative chat yeah? I think it’s really important you listen to what Libby has to say’


Your blood is boiling. You can’t take any more. Only another 3 lessons to go. Probably more of the same.

 

That night, you log onto twitter and share the experience you have just had. You get replies from numerous parents, consultants, academics telling you how you should have done it. You feel even more useless.


Nevertheless, you wake up the next day to do it all again.

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