Teacher Education

Because we never stop learning...

Category: Thoughts

Putting Children At Risk

It’s not something we do very often. In fact, as teachers, all we ever seem to do is exactly the opposite. We provide safe classrooms, safe playgrounds and play safe games or do safe activities. The OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] people are frequently seen walking around schools, with clipboards in hand, ticking off the boxes to make sure that every little inch of the school environment is as safe as it can be. Electrical plugs are checked annually, furniture is designed for safety over ergonomics and playgrounds are limited in their use by such rulings as ‘too hard to play ball’, ‘avoid the trees for risk of falling branches’ and playground equipment that is colourful and bright but tedious to use.

Gone are the days when such lethal weapons as the paper guillotine can be allowed anywhere near a school, let alone be used by children.

However, it presents us with a big question. Is this practise of taking the risk out of everything children do and providing nothing but safety nets in all activities, really such a good thing?

Sure, no teacher would ever want a child in their care to be at risk of danger, with their safety and care always being of paramount importance, but there are certainly elements about putting children at risk that will help them in their growth. So is right to remove these elements from a child’s learning? Does removing the heater from a younger child’s reach, for instance, solve the issue or make it worse? Surely we all need to learn that danger exists, so is it wise to live in safety bubbles? Continue reading

It is not only the teaching that is changing…

There is a lot of talk lately about how teachers are not doing the right thing. It is said that standards are down and children are not being given the basic knowledge required that will equip them for life. Of course, it is not a new theme. Politicians and parents often blame teachers for their woes and teachers know that it is never going to be possible to please everybody all of the time.

But let’s get back to the original statement that teachers are not doing enough to teach children these days. Could it be that the world is changing, that what once happened is now no longer a reality? Teachers were once people who had respect in society. A child at one time, would never dreamed of answering back their teacher and swearing anywhere near an adult was viewed as a major sin. And yet look at how it is now. Teachers are subjected to abuse, swearing, and even physical abuse from children, often on a daily basis. The laws say teachers cannot punish a child. Suspending children from schools does not solve the solution – it simply places a temporary halt to the problem – and parents refuse to accept that they are doing anything wrong. It is a ‘pass the parcel’ situation which goes on and on while the problem continues to increase in intensity.

Yes, times have changed.

Of course, it must be said that this is not the scenario in every school and there is still a high percentage of children who show excellent manners, a deep desire to learn and who will go on to be respected members in our community.

The issue, however, is that the level of disrespect and abuse has increased. It is certainly an area for concern for all teachers. But not for teachers alone. It is a problem that should concern every member of our society.

And now, today a news story has merged from the County of Durham which is enough to send a shiver down every teacher’s spine across the whole country.

A 12-year Old Pupil Charged With Teacher Rape.

Story update: [17-01-05]

Unless the authorities are willing to back and support teachers and force children to understand that this kind of behaviour will never be acceptable, education as we currently understand it, will very quickly become a part of history.

It’s more than just a story. It’s very frightening!

It’s a scary profession sometimes

One of the real fears male teachers face all the time as we teach is that we never know if a pupil in our care may turn on us and make a false accusation. I say ‘male’ because I think this is more likely to happen with male teachers, even though there have been a few incidents of late which have involved our female colleagues as well.

I myself, was called into the headteacher’s office a few years ago and had to sit and listen to an official complaint from a child in my class who had made a false accusation against me. Luckily for me, my headteacher was supportive and the matter was very quickly resolved. The child soon admitted they had made the accusation because they were angry and I was pardoned of any inappropriate behaviour.

However, it sent shockwaves through my soul at the time and is not an experience I would wish upon anyone.

Reading through this article today, ‘The whole thing turned into hysteria’, I can fully appreciate the feelings of frustration that this teacher must have had to cope with as he fought the ‘system’.

I take my hat off to him. I am not so sure I would be left to comment after going through such an ordeal. The suicide rate for teachers has always been a concern. Stories like this make you realise just how and why…

A Soapbox

I was sitting at a conference this afternoon with a bunch of other teachers, ICT co-ordinators and a few others involved in ICT and education.

And you may not realise this but most teachers who take on ICT in schools do so quite reluctantly, because no matter how you look at it, it is a big job, especially when it is in addition to teaching a class.

And the guys at the front of the conference, the big guns, all stood around and tried to impress the 95% majority of female teachers as they strutted their stuff and talked jargon to impress.

The really silly part of it all though, is that they really did not impress anyone but themselves. One guy sat there behind his laptop at the front, with an Interactive Whiteboard at his disposal, and then proceeded to run through such things as how to use a forum, make the most of his gimmicky little site features, and add resources to his big list of two files added thus far. He spoke with his back to us and rarely had any eye contact. He also mumbled and made jokes to himself that no-one but himself and his cronies understood. Did he do this as teacher in a class too?

I actually felt embarrassed for these people, as the teachers around me laughed at their stupidity and others shook their head as if to say, what the hell are you guys talking about?

The sad reality in so many of these situations is that the people at the top are generally the ones who are the most out of touch. As we sit at a conference such as this and they pour out their ideas, we as teachers, think to ourselves is it really feasible to implement this idea in a practical situation without spending a huge amount of time in preparation? And, is this huge amount of preparation justified by the result?

More often than not the answer is NO.

I learnt a very valuable lesson in life when I was in another profession.

Many moons ago, I was a chef and was able to move up the ladder of promotion until I arrived at the peak one day and found myself being called the Executive Chef, in charge of 3 separate restaurants, wearing a suit and tie instead of my familiar chequered black and whites and spending vast amounts of money on purchases and staff.

And after 6 months of this dramatically changed lifestyle – almost living with food company reps, counselling the staff, hiring and firing the staff and generally doing exhorbitant amounts of paperwork, I realised one day that I had not cooked a meal in over 3 months.

So I went back into the kitchen to get back in touch with it all. And it was the best move I ever made. No matter who you are, and how good you are [or how good you think you are], you have to keep a finger in the pie, a toe in the water, a taste in your mouth. No matter how you describe it – you have to keep the initial passion alive.

In education this is even more important because you are talking about changing the lives of the next generation. As teachers you have the future right in your hands, staring up at you with innocent eyes and hearts of gold. If you leave the classroom for too long and forget what it means to see a child suddenly click as a new piece of information is taken on board, then what do you really have to offer the profession overall.

I am a very firm believer in leadership working on a rotating level, whether it be in private enterprise or the education sector. It has so many benefits to the whole working environment and it means you can always keep in touch at the root level.

When a gift becomes a burden

I read an interesting article today concerning Christmas gifts that teachers are given. The question raised is – Should teachers be allowed to accept these gifts?

I have never received anything of much value from children but some of the gifts I have been given could be perceived as ‘questionable’ in nature. And to be honest, this Christmas, I did actually receive several bottles of wine, even if I do not have an issue with it. I certainly do not encourage gifts in any way and I see the gifts as a recognition of my work with the children, from the parents.

A few years ago I received a crate of beer and 2 bottles of Scotch, which now sounds very extreme, but this was a gift that needs to be understood in the context of the location. I was working in a rural Australian school and for a large majority of the local population, drinking was seen as the end all and be all of entertainment and recreation. To give someone a book or gift from a shop was almost seen as an insult, especially to a male, so I was being honoured by the gift of alcohol.

I certainly think that teachers need to use common sense when accepting gifts and keep the whole affair very low-key. For one thing, not all children are able to buy their teachers gifts and the actual act of giving can become a problem in itself if not monitored.

Just as an afterthought: If anyone of my class are reading this article, please don’t forget I am diabetic and those chocolates you keep buying me really are ‘murder’… [Or perhaps that is the whole idea]

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