Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Aggression can pay

The debate on the crumbling of teachers' authority continues.

On Monday we wrote about the changes in dynamics inside state schools. It's swung from one excess to the other: from the days of corporal punishment to the relentless rise in violence from pupils.

Last week's two court cases involving teaching staff attempting to restrain aggressive pupils reminded society of the pariah status recently acquired by state schoolworkers.

Some commenters made the argument that pointing at this deteriorating situation is none other than "jumping on yet another populistic bandwagon", as the rate of teachers experiencing physical assaults is a mere "4,1%"- one in twenty-five.

But can you imagine if the same blase' approach was applied to any other area of public life? Walk around a museum and count the assistants. Imagine you found out that one in twenty-five was whacked in the face last year. Would you argue that it's not that bad and you should put it in a context, perhaps because "it never happened to me"?

And would you do the same with one in twenty-five bus drivers (experiencing, incidentally, the same assault rate as teachers'), nurses or firemen? "Populistic bandwagon" or totally unacceptable violence to be stamped out with no ifs and no buts- especially as it concerns our schools?

Just to give you a reference point, last year Derbyshire police recorded a rate of assaults on their staff of around 9%. Not that far off, are we? And consider that is the one job that most directly deals with violence- crimes, fights and assaults, the like.

Today Jenni Russell in the Guardian points out the dangers of this "inversion of power" in our state schools: "It serves no one", she adds "not the children who cannot learn in chaotic classes, or the teachers hamstrung by our anxieties. It is, ironically, a deep disservice to the disruptive pupils themselves, who discover that aggression can pay".

You can read Russell's full article here.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Sorry Claude but the definition of assault in this is physical contact from a student and as a teacher I do not buy that we live in the worst of times crap and that our children now are somehow feral.

Some teachers will report a student barging past them as an assault, maybe rightly, maybe wrongly but I've worked with such people who skew the figures.

Some students getting in teachers faces is as old as time, my dad did it in the 50s, I did it in the 80s, what me and my dad did is classed as assault although no charges were pressed.

It doesn't mean we live in the worst of times or our kids are out of control, schools are an agitational and exciting, visceral environment.

Obviously, any real incidents of a teacher being at the receiving end of violence is unacceptable but you need some field experience before jumping to conclusions.

Stan Moss said...

To the above commenter: from the article to calling 'our children feral' and 'the worst of our times' there's a bit of a generous logical leap though.

I for one would sooner die than advocate a return to the cane, but my cousin's an inner school teacher (science) and it looks like things are indeed deteriorating.

You can sneer at the figures as maybe rightly or maybe wrongly, but then you can do that with all figures - which, come to think of it, ain't no bad idea. But you know, in my book, to dispute that discipline in school is going down the drain is on a par with climate change deniers.

Emma said...

As a teacher I have experienced the sheer disrespect some kids these days have for teachers. They simply aren’t interested in learning, they don’t respect their teacher or their classmates, they enjoy being told off and relish being kicked out of class, rarely bring their books and day by the day the authority of the teacher is getting less and less. It’s rather sad.

The most depressing thing is, that more often than not, when you speak to parents about their child’s bad behaviour (not out of fun, because you are concerned, you care about your class and their learning and want to rectify the situation as soon as possible), they are at pains to contradict you, to say you are lying and their kid wouldn’t ever do such a thing, that they are a good boy/girl and always have their books. The latter happened to me last week during a parents interview. If the disruptive child knows that no matter how badly he behaves, his mum and dad will always be on his side, it really is a hopeless situation.

I love my job, and thankfully I teach a great deal more adults than kids, but this situation will only get worse unless something is done to correct it.

david brough said...

Is it leftists who are to blame, or rampant right-wing commercialism, individualism and the sort of dumbing down and anti-intellectualism encouraged by the likes of Murdoch, who are not opnly right-wing but also can be proven to be enabled by Thatcher and coddled by Blair and Brown, all Tories?

I genuinely cannot understand those who don't understand that neoliberalism does more to undermine decent society than any leftist ever could, or has, or ever wanted to.

Do they really think miners and steel workers, or postmen, are to blame for the lack of opportunity for working-class youths and the shite economic conditions in deprived areas?

claude said...

but no-one's here blaming "leftists" or "rightists...! Not when this particular topic is concerned, at least.

In terms of what's happening to discipline and teachers turning into powerless figures in state schools, I really don't think it's a matter of left or right.

In general terms though, I totally agree that, like you said " neoliberalism does more to undermine decent society".

PhilH said...

I'd be interested to know in what proportion of schools the assaults happened in.

Because I wonder whether this will mostly be concentrated in a relatively small number of schools, or whether it's more evenly spread.

Also, if I could claim I was assaulted every time a kid got right in my face as a teacher, I wonder how much I could make in compensation.

You're right Claude, there's no left vs right here. There are so many factors that could be having an effect...

*Over-testing kids too early putting them off school and learning
*Bureaucracy taking up teachers' and management's time, affecting ability to deal with discipline before it gets out of hand
*A selfish individualist social culture that has arisen
*A gradual erosion of public respect for the teaching profession, driven by the media (and pay levels?).

I could probably think of more.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Stan Moss:

It's a slippery slope, as someone who works with children and young people, I tire of their easy demonisation with no understanding of what issues they face, of the pressure of modern existence and the challenges it presents and how, in the mediatised age, the slips of the few become the burden of the many.

The idea that wholesale discipline in schools is slipping is ignorant and il informed. Go volunteer for a bit in one, try and remember what it was to be a child and actually see that our modern young people are far more well equipped and balanced than we ever were.

I find your statements pretty generalised and the same could be said about kids in the 60s, 70s, 80s. The key words you use are some, they have always existed since the beginning of time but since the 70s and 80s we have tried to have a more inclusive teaching system, rather than discarding the young people that are a problem.

By all means let us have a debate about the mores of the modern education system, or the fact that the most difficult kids get lots of resources and how the move towards qualifications has pushed aside a raft of vocational learners and that for some kids, school is just not right.

Broad brush stroke ideas are never much use, like my arguing you are not a very good teacher, maybe that is why you struggle? That would be unfair of me but it is easy to generalise, perhaps teachers are the problem, I've certainly seen my share of awful ones who get nothing out of the kids but then another teacher gets the world from them.

I agree that the over testing of kids is an issue for teachers and for kids, school also shouldn't really start until about 7 or 8 in terms of age as many middle-class families use school as free childcare; wedging children into education at 4 when they should be at home engaging with parents and peers in play.

l also agree that the paperwork is a problem but also what is a problem is teaching teachers discipline, in that some don't have it.

I am from the school that not everyone can teach and we have a lot of poor teachers.

I disagree that today's society is any worse than others, people could have said that about any age as modernisation creeps in and effects the world we live in; we just have to role with that, you can't fight against it.

As for teacher's respect being knocked, quite possibly but respect is earnt and to a degree teachers have to be enabled to do that by freeing them of paperwork and then making sure they develop as practitioners.

I also don't buy the teachers being knocked thing as all of us have at least one teacher who changed our lives or engaged us in a way that made us to some degree who we are. I think all of us are engrained with a deep personal sense of respect for teacher, the only danger lies in making out that todays teachers are worse than those in the past.

Stan Moss said...

A wee contradiction there, Daniel.

"Broad brush stroke ideas are never much use", coming straight after:

"The idea that wholesale discipline in schools is slipping is ignorant and il informed".

Then you said "all of us have at least one teacher who changed our lives or engaged us in a way that made us to some degree who we are.

What's it got to do with anything. Who said that all teachers are being disrespected, that all pupils are evil and crap and the rest?

Also, it would be nice if you didn't call people who disagree with you "ignorant". And the "go volunteer" bit is frankly patronising.

I take it you never criticise journalists because you're not one, soldiers because you're not one, politicians because you're not one either, council workers, football players, guitarists, you name it. But, as you can easily see for yourself, obviously the argument is lame.

We all know a teacher. I wrote yesterday that I'm related to one and the concern is growing, specifically in certain areas.
You can dismiss it from the mighty peaks of your high horse, and good for you for having a particularly good experience, but at least don't piss over other people's experiences and opinions.

PS Try and tell the thousands of teachers and classroom assistants who have to take stress-leave, or who get nutted outside school, threatened by their parents, or who get suspended for "investigations" as they restrain violent kids...
Try and tell those that they're ignorant, that they've "got to earn respect" and that "teachers are the problem", like you said. Out of order your comment was.

PhilH said...

I'd argue that teachers, like you say about students, are better than ever. The main reason results go up year in year out is because the teaching profession is getting better at getting the best results out of young people.

Also, I think general loss of respect for teachers is a factor, but by no means the main one, in discipline issues - it has its main impact on support from parents. I've never had a parent be really abusive to me, and I've worked in a very tough school. More often with the worst-behaved kids, the parents don't understand it and are at their wits' end (and I find middle class parents are less likely to accept their kid has been naughty). Teachers are still quite well respected overall - but that doesn't mean it hasn't been partially eroded.

I don't know how individualistic we are getting, how much we've changed, but I don't think that it's a very good thing, and not just because it's new or modern.

I never suggested those I mentioned were the biggest or only four factors - just ones I thought of off the top of my head. There are so many little complicated issues that arise because of the workplace or because of legislation or because little Johnny brings it into school with him, that you can never pinpoint exactly where it's all coming from.

I do think however that by far the biggest factor is the obsessive micromanagement of education workers by successive Governments - it never has been and never will be an effective use of my time to spend an entire afternoon linking the Year 7 Mathematics Scheme of Work to the objectives of Every Child Matters.

Kids are kids. They will get up to mischief from time to time but mostly it will be harmless. Sometimes they won't understand why what they are doing is wrong.

Lots of things have got better in education. I would argue that discipline is generally a problem, however - not the "feral children" rubbish you read in the papers - the problems stem from the adults around the kids, not the kids themselves.

In fact most "very naughty" kids I've taught, I really really liked. They're lovely people, bubbling over with character. They just don't know how to control their behaviour, or resist filling themselves up on fizzy pop and sherbert in breaktime. There's the odd pupil who is an unpleasant person, but they're very much in the minority.

One thing is that a lot of kids know they'll eventually get away with things, because their teacher can only chase them so much, and senior management in my experience don't want to deal with issues that have grown past department level (they have enough to do ticking boxes).

I heard about a school not long ago that finishes early in a Friday, and senior management wait by the gates, and pick off any kids that hadn't turned up to their detentions that week. Takes a whole load off the teachers, and the kids know they can't escape punishment.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

No Stan, no contradiction at all and if that is what it has come too, trying to unpick semantics of the argument I think the discussion is just about over.

The reason I mention the importance of teachers to us personally is to discredit the idea of wholesale negative feeling to teachers and also to stop the idea of some becoming many which is happening here in order to paint a picture of our young people being fundamentally more ill-disciplined then any other generations.

They are just different, as they should be.

Your statement stuck me as ignorant so that is what I called it, your attitude smacked of a lack of knowledge so what best way to learn than to do? That's what I did when I was a young man and still do now, a bit of volunteering to increase knowledge is always good.

Also, your poor analogy about experience excluding criticism is a strawman, which just about sums up where we are at in this debate, no longer the issue but the individual relationship between us.

As I matter of fact, I do partially agree that if you have little experience of something best to not wade in too deep, ignorance is never a good luck.

I've taught for 15 years in schools all across the UK, prisons, secure units, PRUs, home tutoring, mental health institutes, special needs schools and everything in between and quite frankly I am sick and tired of people labelling young people as a whole and making out there is a fundamental problem with them.

It's as old as time and I think Stan, rather than attacking the man as you have done in this comment, you should just get out there and widen your experience and don't take someone disagreeing with you so personally.

Or, God forbid, actually take on the points I have made here.

Normally, I agree with Claude but his teaching posts have been off the mark to me, that's the joy of disagreeing.

"PS Try and tell the thousands of teachers and classroom assistants who have to take stress-leave, or who get nutted outside school, threatened by their parents, or who get suspended for "investigations" as they restrain violent kids...@

Evidence please for this and also, this is nothing new, I'm sick and tired of people trotting out Daily Fail ideas of this is the worst of times, when it is the best. You really sound like the Daily Mail Stan, just because you're wrong and your opinion is just that.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


I'd agree that overall teaching standards have improved by a real margin but classroom control skills have gone down hill, partly because they are not needed so much, partly due to increase in supply teachers, partly by the fad in friendship teaching and many other factors; partly because discipline is not very fashionable at times.

"I do think however that by far the biggest factor is the obsessive micromanagement of education workers by successive Governments - it never has been and never will be an effective use of my time to spend an entire afternoon linking the Year 7 Mathematics Scheme of Work to the objectives of Every Child Matters.@

Total agreement here!

"Kids are kids. They will get up to mischief from time to time but mostly it will be harmless. Sometimes they won't understand why what they are doing is wrong."

Agan, agree utterly!

Your observations about "very naughty" kids are very accurate indeed as these are the kids I work with most of them time but a school environment rarely suits them and although I don't advocate what my dad faced by being chucked out of school at 14, finding a more suitable learning environment for them is essential.

And that technique that school used sounds like excellent good practice, I wish there was more sharing of what works practice.

claude said...

Hang on a minute. I think the discussion is slipping out of hand.

In fact, if I may, Daniel, I've always pictured you as a very caring, considerate and articulate bloke, but if you start brandishing insults such as "ignorant" and the following:

"you are not a very good teacher, maybe that is why you struggle? That would be unfair of me but it is easy to generalise, perhaps teachers are the problem, I've certainly seen my share of awful ones who get nothing out of the kids but then another teacher gets the world from them".

then it just turns the whole thing into a futile row of who's the most ignorant and I-know-more-than-you-do-ha-ha and the whole thing goes tits-up and it turns into your average shitty internet trash.

Empathy is an important thing. If a worker, any worker, including a teacher, tells me he or she has a problem (Emma mentioned parents earlier) the last thing they wanna hear is "maybe you are the problem".

As for Stan, I know him personally and he'll stick up for himself if he wants to, but the guy's a social worker who deals with juvenile delinquency see what I mean, Daniel, we all have our own personal share of experience...What tells you that he hasn't volunteered? WHow do you know he wasn't a classroom assistant before becoming a social worker.

What is this stuff about "I know more than you do about (fill in with name of subject of choice)".

"Your statement stuck me as ignorant so that is what I called it, your attitude smacked of a lack of knowledge so what best way to learn than to do? That's what I did when I was a young man and still do now, a bit of volunteering to increase knowledge is always good."

The above oozes arrogance and is patronising to the extreme. Surely you can make an effective point without that?

Otherwise where does it take us? What's the point apart from trying to piss people off because they disagree?

So, basically, Daniel, I'm not disputing your opinion, I actually respect the fact we disagree, but I'm asking kindly: easy with calling people "ignorant" and the rest while assuming that they know fuckall about a subject or are incompetent purely cos you disagree with them.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


I agree that the discussion is slipping out of hand and for my part in that I apologise.

You'll be glad to know that I am caring and considerate but rarely articulate as I'd like to be.

With reference to my comment to Emma it was to prove a point about vague generalisations and how they are hurtful.

As for Stan, I have had many dealings with the Social Services in my time and as he does work in the field of hard to help young people he should better than anyone to stay well clear of judging young people today as harder to teach. If he does have the experience that you make out he has then it worries me that he holds views that he does, he has a right to them as I have a right to be concerned that he holds them. My concern shows itself in my false presumption that he has no experience of working with young people.

Hence my concern about how much he knew. There is a clear logical line in my thought process, he didn't write like someone that worked with kids, hence my words.

I have to break it to you Claude but I am arrogant, I'm not proud of that and once again my words were based on a judgement I made based on his text, it is no more complex or insidious than that.

I actually give the recommendation to actually do something to people and volunteer quite a lot, I found it useful in my life and still do and by doing you pick up more knowledge than by not doing.

"What's the point apart from trying to piss people off because they disagree?"

Well that's debate isn't it? Take Stan's dig in his first comment, accusing me of being on a par with a climate change denier because he disagrees with me. That is pissing me off, that is effecting the debate but I don't flag it, I take it on and deal with it.

You'll see in my tone with PhilH what a serious debate is about but I can't take Stan Moss seriously and I'm sure he feels the same about me.

Emma said...


You really don't have the right to assume that I'm a bad teacher because I am unlucky enough to have some disruptive and badly behaved children in my class, with nasty parents who basically assume that the teacher is always wrong. From someone who has been lecturing on here about the risks of making sweeping statements and assumption, that's extremely hypocritical.

I also on a human level find it insulting.

You write that you have lots of experience in different teaching areas, well, good for you. That doesn't give you the right to imply that I or any other people here are less qualified, less experienced or less able than you are. You know zero about my experience or capabilities as a teacher, you make a sweeping statement that because some of the kids I teach are abusive and distruptive, it's obvoiusly because of my failings. Let's not get personal here, Daniel, but automatically that's the way the discussion turned thanks to your input.

I never implied anything about what you know or what you don't know, wheras you have about me.

I'm telling you what I have experienced, I'm not quoting the Daily Fail or other tabloid nonsense - Again, that's another ad hominem swipe. This is what I have seen and experienced as a part of my job, (which I do well, despite what you may think) and if you disagree, that's your right, But don't knock down my situation with words such as 'ignorant' or that I 'struggle', because frankly, how on earth would you know?

Unless that is, out of all the things you are an expert of, you can also judge the level of someones professionalism from a mere internet comment.

You constantly say that you're 'sick and tired', well I am sick and tired of people patronising over things they know sod all about, Daniel. Especially when I work my arse off and try to do my best, then there's people like you who are no better than the parents themselves.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


A bit like Claude you missed the point I was making, I don't think you're a bad teacher, how could I know that? But I was using such a blanket statement as that is what you are doing to a large raft of Britain's young people and it is not at all pleasant is it?

Sorry you didn't get it but glad you found it so insulting because making that statement about young people is also bloody insulting.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


A query, I presume you don't teach in Spain anymore?

Emma said...


I never once made a sweeping statement, hence the fact I used the word, 'some', Please read what I wrote again, specifically this sentence: "I have experienced the sheer disrespect some kids these days have for teachers", so you really don't have any reason to be 'bloody insulted' by what I wrote, because not once did I generalise, unlike you. I repeat what Claude mentioned, let's not let this discussion go down into the gutter.

I don't think all kids are like this, but a great deal are. I teach fantastic, well-behaved kids too, you know.

Finally, what relevance does the country where I teach have to the discussion?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


Some is a lot, also the way you spoke suggested something of the widespread. It felt sweeping to me and not at all fair, young people have enough issues in the UK with smears upon them as an entire body of society, as a teacher you must appreciate that?

"Finally, what relevance does the country where I teach have to the discussion?"

Well, if you're teaching in Spain it colours actually what kids you are talking about.

PhilH said...

I will agree at this point that Daniel was being rude, but I was trying to avoid being sidetracked.

I also feel I should add a bit more weight behind the defence of teachers who find it tough. Because I am one.

I'm the first to hold my hand up and say I was never the best teacher, and managing behaviour and workload are the two things I find incredibly challenging.

That's fine. I'm fairly new to the game. I could do better. Happy to admit that.

What I've never understood is why the system is not supportive of teachers who struggle, and simply expects them to be brilliant at everything, from the very start of their career.

If I have a problem with a pupil, who will answer back, then walk out when they are asked to stay behind, who will then not turn up to a detention with either me or my Head of Department, I expect some kind of recourse from the next level.

Yet it doesn't come. It gets passed back to the Department level to be dealt with. I get told to phone home (again). Gee, that didn't seem to make any difference the last three times, but you never know, it might work now...

And you know, all this chasing people round really helps with the whole workload thing. There's nothing more pleasing at the end of the day to know that the Year 9 set of books I planned to mark in my free period are still red ink deficient, because I spent an hour trying to ring 8 different sets of parents, three of whom have changed their phone numbers and not informed the school.

And then I'm falling behind on workload *and* chasing after kids, and then if I get stressed and shout at a kid (which I know I shouldn't do because it doesn't work), the Head Teacher has a quiet word with me, despite the fact that the Head Teacher frequently shouts at kids in the corridor.

And the whole time I'm made to feel like I'm being watched by management, whilst offered no support whatsoever.

And when I leave I get kids coming up to me in the corridor and telling me how disappointed they are I'm leaving because I was a really good teacher.

And I am. I can make really boring stuff sound interesting. I can explain things in a way kids will understand, and I can do it on the spot, with something I'm not prepared for because I didn't expect it to come up.

Because of gaps in my timetable last year, I was supporting other lessons, and they weren't often much less chaotic than mine. I saw advanced skills teachers, who are lauded by management, have their lessons destroyed by disruptive pupils.

There was one particularly difficult girl I used to teach, and after one lesson, the teaching assistant I had in with me told me she'd never seen anyone handle that girl as well as I'd handled her that lesson.

I made two major mistakes in my job. I got ill too much, because I was so run down and exhausted, and I admitted I was struggling. Hence I got noticed by management. Because it's more important to look like you're doing things right, than it is to actually do them right.

Going to do supply teaching this year, once my police checks *finally* come through. The chasing and the paperwork outside the classroom just isn't worth it.

If I can find the right job in the non-profit sector, I'll get out of teaching entirely.

And it's not because children are naughty.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


I don't feel I was being rude, I think we have to be careful here not to be rude about young people when they have no voice here to chime in with.

I do agree that support for new teachers can be lacking in schools and you need to be backed by the SMT.

Your comment also highlights how hard a job teaching is.

Emma said...


'Some' is not a generalisation though, is it? If I had said 'all' or 'most' then that would be a different story.

Also, the country where you teach doesn't matter. There are well behaved kids and badly behaved kids in all countries. Obviously. So, again, I fail to see the relevance to what we're talking about.

One thing you didn't mention was the responsibility of parents in this context, which was the main point of my comment. Maybe you've been lucky enough to not have to speak to parents about their childs behaviour, or maybe you have and you've spoken to understanding, supportive ones, but the fact at the moment is that some of the parents of these badly behaved kids are always too quick to defend their offspring and blame you, the teacher, as the one who's wrong. That, I find unacceptable.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


If you want to argue the semantics of this in this thread, we can but I warn you, it is not going to be an edifying spectacle.

It may shock you but I found your comment to be generalised and not fair at all, its tone overwhelming negative and not, in my opinion, reflective of reality.

With regards to where you are based, if you're teaching abroad you can't really have much to say on teaching in the UK can you?

As for parents, I've never met a hard to help kid without difficult parents but that is part of the job and ALWAYS has been.

Point is, none of this is new and all part and parcel of the job.

Emma said...

"With regards to where you are based, if you're teaching abroad you can't really have much to say on teaching in the UK can you?"

Well, but I have, maybe I taught in both countries, have you considered the possibility?

Also, surely you wouldn't want to generalise over the behaviour of Spanish kids, or would you?

"As for parents, I've never met a hard to help kid without difficult parents but that is part of the job and ALWAYS has been."

Were you a teacher in 1963? Have you got first-hand experience of how parents used to react when told their kids were being disruptive or, worse, aggressive, back then?

Also, like Phil H said earlier on, in my personal experience the most arrogant parents were actually the most middle class types.

But, back to the original point...I think you misunderstood what Claude's article was about.

The way I read it is not that most, or all kids are evil, but that the situation regarding discipline in schools is deteriorating and, especially, that it's not on that a growing number of teachers are having their lives ruined and their criminal record tarnished for attempting to restrain violent students.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

This is a post about UK children, not Spanish ones, yes?

Sorry to break it to you Emma, awkward parents are not an invention of the last 10 years.

Andreea said...

For the sake of this lovely discussion,i would argue that the country does have a relevance,and so does the school,whether a state or a private one. In private schools,even in Uk,i found things to be more organised and discipline was def controlled by the management whilst the teacher didnt have to deal with so many things like calling the parents,etc.Plus the head,if strict,will impose a certain conduct and things will not get out of hands.
Kids will be kids everywhere but there are different levels of naughtiness and they do know this as well.They will try it, especially with a new teacher and if they get away once,that teavher will stand no chance,however i dont think this can be used as an excuse.I mean,everybody starts fresh,still,not all of us have problems,thats because we either get help and support from other, more experienced teachers,or from the management,etc,etc.Nonetheless, I don't believe the teacher is to blame for his students' agressiveness,disrespect etc but the headmasters who'd rather hide behind numbers and boxes than solve the discipline problems.

Emma said...


With your question about where I taught, you made it into a discussion about both countries.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Emma, I was curious as to your teaching experience.


PhilH said...

I'm swinging between amused and annoyed at the way this thread is going. Veering towards amused at the moment.

On another point, because I'm sure most will agree with this but it hasn't been said explicitly:

As ever, media focus will be on the most extreme cases. Combine that with a quote from a teacher saying discipline is getting worse, and it looks like kids are physically threatening teachers all over the shop.

The solution doesn't lie in demonising the extreme cases, but dealing with the kids who talk when the teacher's talking, or who don't do their homework. It starts with the little things - which is what is causing most problems. Violence is quite rare.

I also think there's too much "inclusion" - there are numerous kids who are naughty, who know they're naughty, but who want to learn. They just can't cope even in a class of ten other kids who also have their own specific needs. It's not fair on them or their classmates.

Inclusion is generally a good thing, I just don't think the line's drawn in the right place at the moment.

Emma said...

Well, this is where I sign off because this 'debate' has turned into something of a charade. It started off with lots of interesting points, but thanks to some people being rude, it's turned into one of those tirades you normally only see on Geocities forums. Rather sad.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree Daniel, we seem to have had completely different experiences as teachers and that's the way it is. It was nice talking with you, and I wish you luck.

claude said...

thanks for your contribution.
Private schools are a totally different kettle of fish though.
Like, totally.

However, a good friend of mine who's taught at a one for a while said that parental arrogance there is actually BEYOND BELIEF. Some (but too many) parents really look down on teachers as some kind of failed pieces of shit. Not my words. Hers.

asquith said...

"Were you a teacher in 1963? Have you got first-hand experience of how parents used to react when told their kids were being disruptive or, worse, aggressive, back then?"

I'm told that they automatically gave their kids another slapping on the grounds that authority must be right & should go unquestioned at all times.

I've spoken to middle-aged authoritarians who go on about how their teachers beat the shit out of them to keep the class in order. On one particular occasion, I couldn't help thinking "This teacher sounds like he was fairly shite at actually, erm, you know, teaching the subject". When I said this to my mum's mate, whom I was talking to, he admitted that no one actually LEARNT anything from him but that wasn't the point. What exactly was the point then?

Many of these right-wing teachers kept a class in order with the cane but were actually incompetent. I've no wish to return to those days.

A lot of my teachers were fairly sadistic people. I wouldn't have wanted them having more power to "discipline" me because I know exactly what they would have done with it.

I hated school, managed to do reasonably well but that was thanks to my ability rather than the school, which was & is one of the worst on the continent.

PhilH said...

Claude, I think private schools will vary a lot. A not particularly expensive day school, I suspect, would be more likely to have lots of parents who feel rather special about being able to educate their child privately. Or I could be talking bollocks of course.

One of my friends used to work in a ridiculously posh boarding prep school. I mean posh - for sports day parents would set up tents for their champagne and strawberries. Some would ring up in advance to ask where they could land their helicopters.

By all accounts the parents there were lovely.

oldandrew said...

Anybody wanting more statistical, rather than anecdotal, evidence of the behaviour crisis can find it on this blog post, although as a teacher I find my own experiences and those of my friends pretty convincing evidence.

However, although it is important to focus on the extremes, particularly when the likes of Alan Steer are denying that it happens, it is part of a bigger problem. Even when it doesn't reach the point of violence, verbal abuse or malicious allegations, the amount of classroom disruption in the average school extracts a significant cost. There is a level of discipline required for actual teaching to take place, and another level required for highly effective teaching to take place. Our schools usually do not even aspire to the latter, and too often are not bothered about the former, except for target classes.

Stan Moss said...


I don't feel I was being rude,

Of course. It's perfectly typical of arrogant big heads to feel they could possibly do no wrong.

He says he can't take me seriously, but it's fine, it's my fault, I understand. I apologise, Mr Hoffmann.

As I've just learnt from reading this thread, Daniel Hoffmann-Gill is a Daniel of All Trades, can turn water into wine, has performed every single possible job to perfection and who am i, shitty little earthling and worthless social worker to contradict his Superior Point of View?

Next time you complain about the dirty streets round your neighbourhood, watch out for Daniel Hoffmann's wrath. He's probably also worked in the relevant council department and knows better than you do.

PhilH said...

Ah yes, Andrew. Target classes. Another pet hate.

"These children's progress are more important than those children's. The statistics say so."

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I just do not buy into this 'behavioural crisis' concept that old andrew is bandying around and the data he presents is not at all convincing, the terms of the questions and the statements are pretty broad but if he wants to use it to perpetuate that our young people are in the midst of a behavioural crisis the like of which we've never seen before, than fair play to him.

Nice to see a teacher demonising children, when teachers themselves should no better when they have received similar false treatment.


Thanks for your withering insight into me you twat, much appreciated duck.

And the strawman you then build based on your own self-loathing made me wince.

Oh well.

oldandrew said...


I'm sorry but I've heard it all before.

It is not demonising children to say that *we* (i.e. all of us involved in education) are letting them behave badly. My theory of children is that they are people, and people do bad things, particularly when they are encouraged to think it is normal and not their fault. This is not demonising children, it is humanising them. It is unfortunate that people, who hardly come across as saints themselves, still seem to think that children are saints.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

And Old Andrew, as I've already said, I've heard your line of attack all before as well and I just don't agree with it and hopefully, never will because if I do, I know it'll be time to get out.

oldandrew said...

"And Old Andrew, as I've already said, I've heard your line of attack all before"

Line of attack?

In case you hadn't noticed, I have not joined in your name-calling.

Nor do I intend to.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Your pendentrt speaks volumes, as you interpret very literally my turn of phrase...

Laban said...

I took a look at the TES forums the other day. One of the longest threads was 'can you think of some witty comebacks/putdowns for when the kids tell you to f*** off ?'

I'm pretty sure that wasn't a big problem way back when. You'd be outside the Head's study with an exercise book in your bags !

oldandrew said...

If you want a TES thread that exposes what's going on in our schools, try this one

PhilH said...

Nice thread.

In my last school a kid walked out of a detention, walked outside to the window and called me a prick. Then when I left the classroom he shouted obscenities down the corridor to me.

At first senior management wouldn't act because "there weren't any witnesses". So teacher accuses pupil, teacher's word isn't good enough. Even when said pupil is constantly in trouble. My Head of Department was furious.

Of course, I found out about the "no witnesses" thing second hand, as no one came back to me to tell me about it. They hadn't even thought to ask if there were witnesses. Which there were - I had another teacher in the classroom with me at the time.

Can't remember what he got - probably a couple of days in the inclusion centre.

claude said...

Careful Phil, or else Daniel will accuse you of tarring an entire generation with the same brush...!

If he's prepared to say that the data presented by the NUT are "unconvincing" (so he wrote in response to oldandrew on Fri 30 Oct), imagine how he's going to greet your own experience!

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Is this thread still going on?

I hate to break it to you Laban but students telling teachers to fuck off was not invented by the current generation of pupils, it is as old as time and we didn't have TES online forums where teachers could discuss such matters for everyone to see.


I'm curious as to what your solution is?


That;s obviously not on but I'm curious as to how this is evidence for the gist of oldandrew's attack which is modern kids are rubbish.


Yes I will, that's all that seems to be happening here and many seem to be forgetting that perhaps a long time ago, the 50s let's say, discipline may have been better because a vast majority of teachers used physical abuse and also the harder to help kids were discarded from the education system.

Do we go back to that?

Of course not.

The issue with these bits of anecdotal evidence is that they do not rove that today's young people are worse than young people of previous generations, indeed, evidence goes to show that they we are actually producing better young people with regards to their literacy and educational standards.

Why is it okay to be Daily Mail-esque with regards to children but not on any other issue.

The truth is modern society doesn't like it's young people very much.

PhilH said...

I rather though oldandrew's most recent point was more sayng that kids are not being disciplined properly, rather than today's kids being wild and out of control.

And I agree with that first point, but not so much the second. Not least because laying the blame on the kids allows you to wash your hands and claim you can't do anything about it.

When things go well, look out of the window. When things go badly, look in the mirror.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I've rather lost oldandrew's point to be honest in the blizzard of negativity, I mean kids are not being disciplined properly by whom? Teachers? Parents?

What is disciplined properly? Violence? Is this disciplined properly a new problem? It must be but the idea that young people not being disciplined properly is as old as time with regards to children, I'm sure teachers in the 30s were moaning about standards slipping?

When actually our young people are getting better, not worse.

oldandrew said...

"That;s obviously not on but I'm curious as to how this is evidence for the gist of oldandrew's attack which is modern kids are rubbish."

There's constructing a strawman and there's just plain lying.

You have just crossed that line.

But let's face it, this is just the usual tactic. Common enough for me to have already written about it.

First, pretend the problem doesn't exist. Second, suggest that pointing it out is some kind of hostile attack on children, even though they are obviously the biggest victims in this.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


Must this carry on? We are at polar opposites with our views regarding modern children and discipline, you accuse me of crossing some line (I'm getting an idea of you as a teacher now more and more with each comment) but never actually respond to my comments and requests for your solutions or for you to ever, ever talk abut young people in a positive light.

And then you mention straw men and have the temerity to accuse me of something I never said: which is that the problem doesn't exist. Get a grip and peddle your prejudice elsewhere, at your own little blog-hotbed of anger.

And I like how you want your cake and eat it, to moan about modern discipline but then not want the natural by-product of appearing pretty negative and hostile towards young people.

You talk about young people being the biggest victims in this, I'm still at a real loss as to what 'this' is and why young people are victims, more importantly oldandrew, what is your solution?

oldandrew said...

The above appears to be the next stage: Continue with the same tactics of denial and insults, but refuse to acknowledge you are doing so and act as if the person you are attacking is being evasive by not treating the attack as a serious argument to be addressed.

You do get how absurd you look saying you don't deny the problem and that you simply want me to explain how to deal with it, while simultaneously claiming not to know what the problem is when I do talk about it and accusing me of hostility to children for even mentioning it?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


You're ducking, you are all negative and no solutions, yet you still keep commenting here.

Speaks volumes.

I await the moment you actually debate.

oldandrew said...

"I await the moment you actually debate."

Who do you want me to debate with?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

The whole raft of points made in the comment on Friday, November 13, 2009 9:45:00 AM, it really is that simple, unless all you're keen on is the last word?

oldandrew said...

Who sent the post you are talking about?

The only post I can find at the time was the one you sent which suggested we shouldn't continue, and was full of ad hominems. I'm at a loss as to who you think I am meant to be debating with.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

You are ducking, yet again, I can't make it any clearer than I have and your odd refusal to drop this but yet failing to actually engage is very strange.

I believe that your attitude stinks, riddled with negativity, referring to the classroom as a battleground, my personal opinion of you, for the little it is no doubt worth to you, is that you are a sad reflection of the teaching profession.

oldandrew said...

More insults.

No doubt this is to be followed by the claim that I have ducked some kind of argument (that only you can see) hidden amongst the abuse?

claude said...


Any further posts on this thread will be deleted.