Monday, 27 August 2007

Sports Day was a Success. According the PR Management Team, sorry I mean the Senior Management Team.

The new academic year is starting shortly, in less than two weeks, to be more precise. I just wanted to reflect on some of the issues I encountered at the school, last year. Mostly I look back at my first year, at the school with disappointment. To be honest I dread going back there. I have wept a few times, over the course of the last few weeks, much to Doctor Finlay's surprise. I wail at him, like a dysfunctional three year old, "I just don't want to go back there!" He replies, “Oh just have another biscuit that should ease away the pain”. Then he cracks his whip, kerchaar, kerchaar …..

So, let's just recap. What exactly was my year all about? Did I manage to engage with some of the children, and teach them anything about the dramatic arts? Was I able to impart some of my knowledge about life, and equip them with new life skills? Because let's face it being a teacher is not just about teaching your subject.
Yes, actually I did, with some of them anyway, my year sevens, mostly.

Since September I had spent the year trying to get help with one particular class. The class from hell! Yet, I spent the year being IGNORED.

I, meticulously completed ALL of the time consuming, but necessary paperwork, which has to be done in order for the appropriate action to be taken, by the senior management team – but, they simply brushed it off – blaming my inability to come up with new and exciting teaching strategies.

Mostly the students’ behaviours were dangerous, and to put it bluntly, I did not feel safe in the room with some of them.

As I have already stated; I followed the schools' procedure of filling out the necessary forms, making phone calls to parents, regularly speaking to the relevant senior management team, assigned to year nine, expressing my concerns about this volatile group. Instead, I was criticised by the year nine team, for writing too many of these 'referral forms'. I was told that I had to find different strategies for dealing with the class. "Have you thought perhaps of teaching the lesson in a classroom, as opposed to the drama studio? Perhaps making the lesson more written based would help to alleviate some of the behavioural issues." Did this stop the violence, the fights, and the other anti-social behaviour? No, so I continued to report it, and nothing happened. They basically left me to it, and like a corpse I started to rot. It was only during the last couple of weeks, at the end of the summer term, when one of deputy heads managed to come down to the drama studio, where she witnessed it for herself, first hand. In fact the poor woman was actually hurt trying to break up one of their many fights. It was only then that she turned to me and said in a rather frazzled state, "These boys are not safe, they cannot possibly be in the same room together, next week they will have to be removed from the lesson altogether". All too late, I am afraid, because at this stage of the game, the kids have lost all respect for me because none of the senior management team took me seriously and took any action to rectify the problems.I felt extremely undermined. I wonder if it is this type of attitude from them that has caused the department to have such a high turnover of staff. I believe it’s something like four drama teachers in the last four years. The school should take at least some ownership of this, and ask themselves, well, why? Why is it that all of our drama teachers leave after only one year? Mmmm, it’s a tough one.

Sports Day - was a cosmetic exercise which I found to be highly superficial, reminds me of Blair's government, ironically – it’s all show and no substance.

One of the boys who was regularly violent in my classroom and just a vile individual in general, (that we all just had to put with) was made a hero on sports day. He might be a thug, but do you know what, he's a great athlete, who makes our school look good.

According to the head Sports Day was a big success. Despite the fact that the children left all of their rubbish on the floor of the stadium, they trashed it basically, nobody even thought to ask them to pick it all up. I felt ashamed of the mess they left behind. Some students even spent the morning throwing empty food cartons at the staff, but that's okay because sports day was a success.

The Thug that pissed in a student's bag.

My GCSE Drama results were painfully low and I am depressed about them. I worked tirelessly hard. Any idiot can get a GCSE in drama, and to be honest any idiot could teach GCSE Drama.

I took over the kids in year 11, and they had done NO coursework at all, but I believed that this was a very doable thing to accomplish, after all it's not rocket science, and if we all work together we can do this.

There were about six boys in that lesson that had no desire to gain drama as a GCSE. They were the usual – abusive, lazy, angry young men. They went out of their way every single lesson, to destroy it, and they succeeded. Again, I followed the schools’ discipline procedures, and again nothing happened. They left me alone with those animals, which confused me, because my degree is in Theatre Studies and not Zoology.

I kept turning up, with my lessons planned, and so did they – turn up, destroying everything that I had created.

A week before the drama exam I emailed the senior management team, reminding them of the exam, and requesting support because I knew things were going to kick off, and get nasty – they replied by saying, “No, we can’t support you, if we do this then we have to support everyone else, we have a school to run”. As predicted, there was a riot. The head HAD to come down – because things just spiralled out of control: The examiner nearly fainted. They were aggressive towards her, complaining about the running order I had created. She started shaking and said, “I think I am going to faint, can you get me a cup of tea please”. So, I made her a cup of tea, she then called the examinations board and said the following, “It’s been a difficult day here today at Hackney _________________. Because of all of the trouble should the teacher write into the board and ask for special consideration?”

Special consideration means that kids with learning or behavioural issues (who fucked their exam up, due to vile behaviour) will be given special consideration and possibly a better grade. Not on, they knew exactly what they were doing. They were being really vile. They should have all failed.

Let me just go back a few weeks to the incident involving the ‘pissy’ bag. As per usual I called for a senior teacher to the lesson; one of the deputy heads came down to speak to the boys, because they were being worse than usual. The deputy head said, “Just leave them, they’re unteachable, work with the ones that want to learn”. All I wanted was for him to remove the dross, but no, we’re not allowed to do that in my school, because my school promotes inclusive education, which means everyone has to be treated equally, and no one can be excluded from the lesson.

So, I left them. The rest of us went out to rehearse in the hall – at last progress! We were all feeling pleased with ourselves, we had achieved something. Towards the end of the lesson one of the girls returned to the drama studio to discover that her bag was soaking wet. She then proceeded to hand me the bag and shouted at me (because they blamed me for everything) “Miss! Why is my bag wet?”

I then put my hand in the bag, which came out wet, smelling my hand and I could smell urine, “Oh my God Estella! Someone has pissed in your bag!” I realise now in retrospect, saying the word ‘pissed’ to a student is unprofessional, but at the time I was utterly shocked and disgusted. I then stormed into my office to phone for back-up, to find that someone had pissed in my office as well.

Anyway, let’s back track a bit more, to the very beginning of that lesson, Kyle comes in with two hundred and fifty pounds cash, which he proceeds to throw up into the air and shouts “Scramble!” He has clearly been taking something, because his behaviour is even more erratic than usual, and his eyes are just wild.

Only one boy is brave enough to scramble around on the floor, and pick up all of the notes. Kyle then turns to him and says “You keep all of that to yourself!” Kyle is a local gangster; he wears a knife vest for protection, under his school skirt. Scary kid, it’s a shame about him because he does have talent. I did try very hard to reach out to him because I could see so much potential within him – but I think his work on the street is more appealing than my pathetic desire to get him a GCSE in Drama.

What chance did any of us have? Really disappointed, as I said a GCSE in Drama is a very obtainable qualification, it’s also a lot of fun, but they blew it – not so much the kids (?), but the senior management team. They should not have allowed monsters like this into mainstream education. Fuck inclusion – it does not work.

My school is a marketing exercise, a facade. Even the Ofsted inspector got hurt last September/October in the English corridor, but they still rubber stamped it, and allowed the school to pass its inspection. Really appalling. On paper, yes the school works, but the reality is that it isn’t working and that it is failing the good kids.

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