Something is broken.
There are many diverse and complex social issues that I witness day to day in school, but most of these I feel come from a lack of respect, a lack of trust and a lack of a sense of moral and civic duty. That we have traded a sense of personal and social responsibility for one of entitlement and blame. The idea that there are things we want to do and can afford to do, but shouldn’t do because they are wrong, dishonourable or shameful seems to have gone. Absolutes on our own personal actions no longer seem to exist with every individual action boiled down to a relativist consequence, with our own personal gain put forward as justification for our thoughts and actions.
Perhaps it is our society that is broken?
The education a school provides is dominated by political policy, by university admissions and by OFSTED. Having a conversation about what is best for a child, at that particular moment, for their education no longer seems to happen. The expectation is that school and the education it offers will solve the panacea of the ills of British society, meaning that teaching and learning becomes an after thought to everything else schools are supposed to provide and solve. That school is taking on the role of parent within a child’s education, whereas before it the school and the parent used to be partners in this task. No wonder school leaders are fuzzy about their role, their vision, their meaning, and their responsibility in a child’s life. Being able to talk to students, building meaningful relationships and help them to be critical of the world around them is put aside to enforce sets of values that are meaningless without the support of parents and the wider society. That those schools and teachers who are unable to fulfil all the current aims of our education system are mediocre, below average, failing or not fit for purpose.
Perhaps it is the education system that is broken?
Entitlement extends to parents. Some pushy and demanding. Others not caring and passing on of all their responsibilities. A colleague at a local primary school left the profession this year because she would not toilet train a child on the assistance of a parent. Parents emailing staff all hours of the day and night, always expecting immediate responses and improvements for their child without the thought of others. Conversations with parents that explain to us our role as teacher yet never supporting, always pointing fingers. Ensuring you know when they think you are in the wrong, but never taking responsibility when perhaps they might be. Leading to an ‘us and them’ mentality where the child is forgotten to be put first. With SLT favouring parents, to ensure they keep them happy and quiet and not writing letters to the local press because of the bad publicity that might bring to the school. Teachers being forced to apologise via phone calls, through emails, through letter, publicly. Parents being allowed to bully and harasses teachers with impunity without protection.
Perhaps it is parents that are broken?
Leaders of our schools are now under immense pressure with the constant threat of losing their jobs, or being blamed for everything that might go possibly wrong with a child. Funding is reduced and budgets need to be met. We need to do more with less. Therefore experienced but expensive teachers forced to leave through capability, through natural wastage, being replaced by cheaper newer models. In that environment rather than give autonomy to teachers or collaborate with others, they micro-manage through PRP, having favourites or keeping secrets. This in turn heaps pressure upon pressure on staff, breaking their morale, breaking them physically, breaking them mentally. I have seen friends and colleagues leave the profession in droves in the last few years, some a shadow of their formers selves. Teachers with experience, with knowledge and with a proven track record destroyed. I see my partner sleep 4 hours a night during term to get the work done, I hear my colleagues speak to me of similar stories. That grades and results and inspections are more important that the health and wellbeing of a teacher.
Perhaps it is teachers that are broken?
Constant exam pressure, progress, not being able to fail and the stress this can bring leading to the rise of mental health problems in our children. I see poor diets, lack of sleep, and reduction of exercise. It is easier to place a child in front of the TV or a Video Games then take them to the park or teach them to read for pleasure at home. Pupils are beginning to feel guilt if they aren’t working or giving up when they see their efforts aren’t valued or considered good enough. I see their tears. I see their fear. Yet for ever being pushed by their teachers, because their livelihood, their job security and their families needs depend on hitting their targets. Teachers shouting at pupils because they are lazy. Pupils shouting at teachers because they lack self esteem, support and guidance. No trust or respect, when a school and its success is built on the strong relationships between its pupils and teachers. Without having a voice or expressing their thoughts and worries, our children then turn to the dark recesses of social media to surround themselves with ‘like minded individuals’. Every child matters? It’s everyone for themselves.
Perhaps it is our children that are broken?
Through this all, I observe. Like a twisted voyuer removed from the reality of it all. Through it all I hold my tongue. Through it all I don’t question. Through it all I don’t voice my concerns. Through it all I remain silent and get on with my job.
Perhaps it is I that is broken?