Sunday, September 28, 2014

Part 4: My Baptism of Fire

'You know, Sir...them!'


'The Krays! They're me uncles, ' she whispered, visibly proud of their murderous achievements. The class listened intently. It was the quietist moment I'd experienced all day. Despite the soft, hushed tone, she was desperate to reveal her secret to the whole class. It would do wonders for her street cred, after all. 'But don't tell anyone,' she continued. Just how she was now meant to keep a lid on a 'secret' that was no longer a 'secret' is anyone's guess.

'Your secret's safe with me,' I bemusedly replied, before gently steering the class's attention back to the lesson in hand. I say back, but who am I kidding? In reality, their attention had never been on the lesson in the first place. They just became interested after we veered off task and engaged in a conversation about London's underworld. They love to discuss anything remotely linked to brutality and violence, especially if it gives them the opportunity to look tough in front of their mates, even the girls.

Having said that, it was, at least, a brief breakthrough. It was great to enjoy an interaction that wasn't characterised by shouting and the casual dissemination of verbal abuse. It felt fantastic! In fact, it gave me a real buzz. These kids weren't so bad, after all, I thought. 

But, alas, the euphoria was short-lived.  As soon as we stopped discussing Reggie's savage, frenzied stabbing of Jack 'The Hat' McVitie, the class erupted into a crescendo of idle chatter again. It was the last lesson of a truly exhausting day and I was, for want of a better phrase, out on my feet. My torment, though, was not yet over.

'Get out!' I roared. 'Be quiet!' I hollered. Why won't they listen to me? I thought. Then, just as I considered walking out, closing the classroom door behind me and never returning, a large, chunky, rather effeminate looking man appeared at my door. As he turned the handle, entered the room and gently, purposefully closed the door behind him, the class fell deadly silent. How the bloody hell did he do that? I pondered.

I proceeded to watch, utterly speechless, as he, in a low, hushed voice, politely ordered the kids to line up in the corridor, silently file into the room and sit at a desk specifically allocated. Once reorganised, he continued to lecture the class on the art of behaviour for learning. To me, he was magnificent, and was indeed to become my hero. But as he spoke, a small, Gollum-like creature turned around, smiled at me and winked. His message was unmistakeable: 'Don't fuck with me,' it said. 'You're the pupil and I'm the teacher in this place!'

Friday, September 12, 2014

Senior Leaders are the brainwashed progeny of a Queen Educator residing in Hampstead

Senior leaders are curious creatures. In fact, I suspect they're all the ambitious, brainwashed progeny of a Queen Educator residing in some collective hive in Hampstead. In between her daily dose of Guardianista propaganda, Queenie, no doubt, seduces some bloke who looks a bit like Robin Cook, bears his ginger-bearded, gnome-like clones, and raises them to be rabidly committed to a mishmash of ideologically incoherent principles and an arbitrary combination of contradictory actions. They invariably claim to be champions of equality, for example, whilst embracing cultural and moral relativism;  self-indulgently declare a  cast-iron commitment to human rights whilst allowing pupils and staff to be threatened and abused; and, dare I forget, proclaim their unimpeachable moral authority whilst engaging in the unethical manipulation of school data, often at the expense of the children they claim to love. In short, and in my humble experience, many are self-serving, narcissistic hypocrites.

Big Brenda is one such leader. Putting to one side her well publicised, Thatcher-hating credentials for one moment, she is physically large, very large, hence the rather unoriginal sobriquet Big Brenda. She is inexplicably and perpetually red-faced, especially in the winter, and covered, from cheek to jowl, in wispy white hair that looks suspiciously like she's been stuffing her chops with candy floss.

Some less respectful colleagues refer to her as the indomitable Terry Waite, aka The Bear at the Fair, courtesy of her size and flossy beard. She is indeed an imposing, redoubtable-looking woman, taciturn and unflappable in equal measure.

I first met her at the beginning of a CPD event, a mere two days into my fledgling career. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the term - one of many oblique acronyms in educational nomenclature - CPD stands for Continued Professional Development. As a weekly event on the school calendar, it is designed to facilitate, as its title suggests, teacher improvement and professional growth. In reality, though, it is used as an opportunity to indoctrinate teachers with commie-inspired agitprop and popular Left-wing prejudices, one being the blind promotion of state-sponsored multiculturalism.

As one of the educational establishment's foot-soldiers, Brenda is a keen propagator of these prejudices. She inaugurated the school's annual multicultural festival, does everything but kiss the feet of our black African colleagues and, in contrast, as if to demonstrate her unimpeachable pro-Mandela, anti-apartheid credentials, treats their white African counterparts with appalling contempt, as though they were collectively responsible for the atrocity. On one occasion, she rebuked a white Zimbabwean for being difficult to understand - a criticism she would never have made had the guy been black.

Anyway, I digress. My first CPD session entailed, and I'm not joking, the Brenda-decreed practice of learning to pronounce black African names (Boer names were not included, despite the fact that we worked with several Afrikaners). Honestly! I'm not kidding you. For forty-five minutes we sat, mouths contorted, tongues doing acrobatics, listening and unsuccessfully attempting to replicate the sounds emanating from a native speaking African colleague. Look, before you all shout 'Racist!', I'm not against trying one's best to pronounce a person's name accurately. The said colleague was indeed a lovely man and, furthermore, later became a good friend. But spending an entire CPD session on it? Come on! How can that possibly help satisfy my developmental needs?! In fact, he can't even pronounce my bloody name correctly. Perhaps we should waste an hour on rectifying that.

But jokes aside, my first experience of Big Brenda was indicative. She was, and still remains, a quintessential senior leader. Born and raised in Queenie's hive in Hampstead, she may not look like Robin Cook, but she continues to enforce his party's cultural agenda.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Part 3: My Baptism of Fire

Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that break duty consists of a member of staff languidly ambling along the corridor, contentedly sipping his or her tea or coffee, dreamily whistling his or her favourite tune from his or her favourite era before stopping, gently swaying from side to side and cheerily greeting - in between verses, of course - bright, enthusiastic young pupils as they breezily pass by on their way to homework club. You could especially be forgiven if you also think you are closely related, through your friend's dog's one-legged great granddad, to the late Queen Mother which, after thorough investigation, you conclude, makes you eighth in line to the Fijian throne.

However you would be greatly mistaken. Break duty is not a calm, pleasant experience. Not pleasant at all. And, for the very first time, I was just about to discover why.

Kids were everywhere! They were running along the corridor - ostensibly being policed by me - crashing through the two sets of double doors at either end, and, most worryingly, ignoring every one of my lame protestations to remain in the playground. I was tasked with keeping the corridor clear of pupils, apart from those with teacher-sanctioned passes and, I thought, those desperately needing the rather unsanitary ablutionary facilities. But as you can probably tell, I was failing miserably. Every time I asked, 'Have you got a pass?’ they either blankly eyeballed me as if to say, 'Who the fuck are you?' before nonchalantly disregarding my query, or, if I were lucky, gave me a cursory glance before rudely replying 'No'. Either way, the effect was the same. They were ignoring every one of my desperate, hollow attempts to enforce the school rules. My nominal authority was just that: nominal. It was embarrassing! That said, I continued to ineffectually plug away, keen to prove my worth.

As the bell rang to mark the end of yet another surreal encounter, a veritable tsunami of kids rushed the double doors and flooded into the building. It could only be described as the very embodiment of chaos. Pushing! Screaming! Running! Swearing! Hoodies, headphones, trainers and mobile telephones everywhere! I felt like Dante as he began his odyssey through the nine circles of hell. Nevertheless, and under the circumstances, I decided to wait until the corridor was clear before heading back to class. 

Needless to say, it took several minutes to clear and, even then, there were a significant number of stragglers unenthusiastically trudging towards their next lessons. I hurried them along till I spotted, hiding behind a wall, a young man. He was tall and thin and covered in adolescence-induced spots. He must have been a Year 11 pupil, I concluded, before urging him to get to his next lesson. 

'Shhhhhhh!' he implored, index finger pressing against his partially opened mouth. 'Teachers,' he continued in a low whisper, still hiding but now smiling and pointing towards another, more senior member of staff at the other end of the corridor. The implication was clear. He wasn't scared of me. To him, I was a pretend teacher. I disconsolately, wearily plodded back to the torture chamber that had – hilariously! - been labelled my classroom.