Working within inner city schools really opens your eyes. As a teacher, you can spend your time babysitting, crown controlling, and getting completely stressed. Yet, within every nuisance class is always a section of students that want to work, yet you spend time dealing with the trouble makers. In a correct environment you do not have trouble makers. If the troublesome aspect was removed from a classroom, the level of learning would boom. It’s all very well saying that you should have behaviour management, it’s all very well saying that in an all singing and dancing classroom, children do not want to misbehave.
Different schools have different policies. One of the most successful was a school that operated a backup system, where senior members of staff toured the full school every lesson, picking out pains in the neck, and either removing them into a specialist isolation unit, or giving them a dressing down. That and the fact that the senior teachers were seen at the school gates, every break and dinner time had the effect that bad behaviour would not be tolerated.
Other schools have a system that a troublesome child can be spoken to by a more senior teacher. And eventually the talks get higher up the system and the children end up in a PRU. That's a Pupil Referral Unit in English!
So you have a child that may end up in a school that is known as being troublesome. The media can sensationalize the goings on in a school, but it is not to say that an inner city school will necessarily be troublesome. A lot goes on with how you feel about a school, and what your intuition tells you!
But what do the children say? In conversations with children, from 11 to 16 years, it does seem that the ones that have the major problems, are the ones with parents who do not support a school, and will openly tell their sweetie that school is not important, or that teachers are stupid. Discipline at home is another 'teller' the more rampant the child, the less home discipline is shown.
It is hard to listen to 13 years old saying that they can't wait for the weekend, so they can get mortal. Some even come into school with massive hangovers. Others in full evening make-up, no school equipment and haircuts that their parents know is unacceptable. Yet, amongst these children, most are well dressed in full uniform. But with a massive teenage chip on their shoulders.
School for some is a complete waste of time, or at least that is what the children say! I'm bored with school. It’s too long, it should be less than five days, and the moans go on and on. Or is it moaning, and are we failing some children?
I worked for a year at a Further Education College, and one of my teaching classes was a group of older students over 21 years of age. They were on an Access course, and the successful students could use this qualification to gain University access. A mixture of students, some from abroad, some who had worked from leaving school, and some that had become parents. Some that quite clearly had been let down by the school system. It was meeting these students that opened my eyes to the current school system. The first assignment completed, I sat in the staff room with tears pouring down my eyes as I read and marked the assignments. The quality of the work in front of me was more than I could have ever expected. Extremely well written, well researched and with that panache that showed deep understanding. Two of these students are now graduates. They had no formal qualifications and had left school at 16 with nothing to show for all their supposed education.
When I had mentioned this to various Heads of Secondary schools the general consensus was that it was totally the student’s faults for not taking the opportunities offered to them. But what opportunities? In this case I knew that the students had attended what I would call a challenging school. They themselves admitted that they were not perfect students but that the teachers had considered them failures at an early age. As I had proved to them, this was not the case. So how many students left that school with the obvious potential to move successfully into University education? These questions seemed to have been brushed aside, and my own gut feeling is that we have many adults with the potential but not the opportunity to succeed as these students did.