The 'Vile Child'
well, what CRAAAAZY week!
They said it would be difficult and that we would undoubtedly shed a tear at some point or another. I am still yet to cry, indeed I'm feeling surprisingly upbeat about everything at the moment, despite my ever-growing list of thinsg to do. However, I do maintain that this is by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I'm no stranger to hard work; I got my first part-time job at thirteen and held down three part-time jobs during the second year of my full-time degree. Yet this course really takes it out of you both physically and mentally. It's my own fault really for being a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to lesson planning. I just cant leave the plan until it's absolutely perfect and all my resources are sorted. I also like to create my resources from scratch, which only adds to the workload. Then there's the ordering of equipment and photocopying and printing which can take up to an entire day if I'm not careful. I feel confident in that I know what I need to do and how to go about it. The problems arise when I realise that there are only 24 hours in a day, and unfortunately only seven days in a week. Especially this week, when I've been trying to complete all my lesson-planning early so that I could have the weekend away with my family, I have been surviving on six hours a night of sleep. This is manageable for a couple of days but when you're snoozing with your nose in a plate of sausages and mash at your big family get together lunch, you realise that perhaps the colour coordination of all your powerpoint slides could have been ignored. And maybe even the smooth transition from powerpoint to excel was not fundamental to your pupils' learning. And yes, that smiley face clip art picture does look cheery and does make you feel happy inside, but will it influence the children in any way whatsoever? Or, as I'm coming to notice all the more often, will they simply ignore the instructions you've spent a hour writing on the board in size 20 comic sans (perfect size to see from the back of the classroom and supposedly the easiest font for children to read), carefully deciding the best phrasing so as to keep the instructions clear and to the point? Instead, will they just individually ask you to explain the task to them, despite explaining it once to the whole class and then again when the stragglers finally arrived? So yes, despite my best intentions I am still sat here in the hotel on a Saturday afternoon, furiously typing away at the smallest laptop known to man, desperately trying to get down any words I can for one of the many assignments due in over the next few weeks, whilst my family enjoy themselves in the pool and luxury spa. Although let's face it, there are worse places to be sat writing assignments. Like at home where the bed still needs making and the washing up will disappear if I ignore it for long enough.
Anyhoo, I had my first "vile child" encounter this week. I've been lucky so far to have avoided such children that are just plain horrible. Yet this little devil reared his ugly head in my first full year 10 lesson. I had planned a lesson in the computer rooms which would ease me in quite nicely with a higher set group that are know for being disruptive and requiring firm handling. They were to produce a powerpoint presettion on a particular topic which was then to be printed out and stuck into their books. They had been given key questions to guide them and were required to complete at least the fourth question if they didn't want to stay behind at lunch. This wasn't a particularly difficut task and the majority of the pupils produced some very nice work with little input from myself. A select few required some gentle prodding and poking but generally did as I had asked. And then there were two lads who point blank refused to do the work as they were unable to see the relevance to their future careers; well at least that is what I think they were trying to say in between the grunts and groans and humphing. One of the lads was a 'charmer'. He's brilliant at manipulating people (myself included) so tht he can distract them with his witty conversation and interesting stories but succesfully avoids work for the entire lesson and doesn't even get told off for it! The other lad was just plain rude. When it came to the end of the lesson I reminded them that they were to stay behind and instead they just walked out. So I sent a message to their tutors asking them to come see me during registration with their diaries. Surprisingly, they did! Both were red-marked and while the charmer just accepted his fate and slouched off to go distract other unwitting colleagues of mine, the other was less than impressed. My red-mark had been the third one this week and so had automatically given him an after-school detention. Despite me having already told him why he had got his red-mark he demanded that I explain why again as apparently my first explanation was not satisfactory. He kept trying to draw me into a verbal argument but I said that if he wanted to discuss the matter with me anymore he would have to wait until after registration as I was taking a tutor group that day. His response to this was to throw his diary at me, kick the door open that I had to just shut behind me as I came out the tutor room to speak to him, and run off down the corridor. Now be prepared because this is where I'm going to moan about our society.
I have come to learn that you have to pick your battles in this job and only go for the ones that you can win. Firstly, it's sad that we have to have battles in the first place. Secondly, we are trained to be non-confrontational and diffuse situations before they get out of hand which I agree with completely because our job, first and foremost, is to teach and if we spent all our days correcting the minor but sadly very frequent behavioural problems then very little learning would actually take place. However, I think it's sad that we're having to allow children to get away with rude behaviour in the classroom simply to avoid confrontation. For example, yesterday at uni we were given a hypothetical siuation where a pupil comes into a classroom and is asked to remove his hat. He doesn't, so is asked again. He protests by walking to his chair slowly and still refusing to take his hat off. Now I would like to tell him to stop being such prat, take off his hat and sit in his chair within 3 seconds otherwise I'll waste his time during lunch time. However, this is confrontational and will only make an already unwilling child even more rebellious and unlikely to do any work at all. Why is it that he can't just deal with the confrontation (after all, he's going to have to deal with it at some point in his lifetime), accept that I have the authority in that classroom and that if I have asked him to do something then he is expected to do it immediately or else face the consequences? And why is it that he is allowed to sulk and protest in his own way rather than just accept that he is the one responsible for his actions and therefore if he has been reprimanded for his behaviour, it is entirely his own fault and nobody elses. Unfortunately, it seems we are producing a blame-free culture (you only have to count the adverts for no-win, no-fee lawyers to know what I mean) where teachers are unable to so much as put their arm out to stop a child in the corridor, they cannot take a child's hat off his head even if he refuses to take it off, they have to ignore the minor behavioural problems so that they can continue with the rest of the lesson and at least most of the children will be able to learn something, it is the child's word agaist the teachers and, what I believe is becoming most apparent, the children know all of the these things and are more than willing to use them aginst the teachers for their own benefit. Some schools insist that books are marked in green pen as red is associated with being a negative colour. During my primary school placement I noticed that "every child is a winner", which is a nice idea at primary school but these kids are going to have to lose at some point in their life and they're going to have to accept criticism at some point in their life. Also, the criticism isn't always going to be presented in conjunction with a reward and it's not going to be phrased so nicely as being called a target. And sometimes these kids are going to have to just do something because they've been asked, not for a learning point or a privelege or to leave the lesson first. And one day the sulking and slouching and aggressive behaviour is not going to be accepted and unfortunately that is probably when the police will get hold of them. However, they know their rights and the police can't touch them either so where does it end??
Anyhoo, I've had my moan about society and please don't think I don't enjoy working with these kids because often the most difficult ones are the most fun to work with. But I do question what will happen to the ones who have no excuse for their behavour and are we letting them down by not solving problems which perhaps their parents are incapable of?
P.S I'm no great believer in God but I had a packet of skittles to calm my nerves after the "vile child" incident and someone was definitely looking down on me because I had a higher than average proportion of purples.