Wednesday, April 02, 2008


It was with a knot in my stomach that I read this report on Steve's blog today.

To summarise, teacher David Buckley, writing in the Guardian's education supplement, tells the sad story of how he visited the Facebook site called 'The Dave Buckley Appreciation Society' and got a bit of a shock. He found himself described as patronising and disorganised with ill-fitting shirts and coffee stains on his clothes. He's had the site closed down, arguing rightly, that he signed up for scrutiny from a small audience not an international one.

As I commented over on Mustard Seed Shavings, I think this piece is absolutely horrendous. Personal attacks and incidents like this are why good people are leaving the teaching profession in their droves, and why the government are finding it so difficult to recruit others to the job.

There are, in teaching as in most other jobs, proper structures in place to evaluate the effectiveness of staff, and procedures for correction where appropriate. These include OFSTED (or DENI locally) inspections, the reports of which are published on the appropriate body's website for public consumption.

Then there's PRSD, the Performance Review and Staff Development scheme, were teachers are reviewed annually 'on the job' by their Principal or a member of Senior staff designated by the Principal. This involves monitoring of performance and classroom observation. (The outcome of these reviews is actually linked to pay, so they are not insignificant!)

Let's not forget about League Tables, a document published that showed the results for each exam class in each subject at every level in every school. You could use these documents to see, for example, what grades the class of a colleague who taught the same subject in another school got.

It's one thing to be judged by other professionals in your field. It's something completely different to be judged by those who are neither working in your field, nor professionals.

For years I taught students who didn't want to be there, didn't want to listen, didn't want to learn, didn't want to do any work and didn't want a job because they knew they could live very nicely on Government handouts thankyou. So, because I persisted in teaching the syllabus, because I expected them to listen to me instead of their MP3 players, because I pushed for coursework (and coursework of what I considered an acceptable standard for each individual pupil), because I expected a level of behaviour above 'riotous' in my classroom, and because I pushed them to be the best they could be, do the best they could do, improve themselves and their opportunities, I was judged. I was the bitch. Actually, I was the f**king bitch.

Of course, I wasn't the best teacher in the world, but I'd had my fair share of positive reports from DENI Inspectors and my exam results were always above average both in my own school and across other schools. I wasn't a greenhorn or a soft touch either - I held a fairly senior position within the school. However, where some of my students were concerned, because I didn't let them listen to their music, chew gum, swear at each other or me, do colouring in all day, talk about (or even to) the oppostie sex, beat each other up, write paramilitary graffiti and smoke or drink in class, I was a rubbish teacher.

People in some other professions just wouldn't take the abuse that a minority of students who act as judge, jury and executioner deal out to their so-called 'rubbish' teachers. Mine were rude; personal and hurtful. They told me they hated me. Frequently. I was sworn at and threatened. They made up ficticious stories. I was man handled (I was pushed off a bus when I was five months pregnant). They went out of their way to try and make life hell in the classroom. Will I go on? I'm thinking you're getting the picture.

And today, it's on a whole new level because they do it in the public domain of the internet. Go see 'Rate my Teacher' dot com.

It's bullying. And it's hateful, and it's hurtful, and it gets you down.

But, let it be said that, as in the story of the 10 lepers, there was generally one student who came back at the end of it all to say thankyou, and that in itself made it all worthwhile and maintained my sanity for many a year.

Just for the record, this wasn't the main reason for my breakdown, which led to me resigning my full-time job. However, who's to say if the constant wearing thin of my elephantine hide by such behaviour wasn't a contributory factor to it. One thing was for certain, life had got to the stage were I had to stop raising other peoples kids and start enjoying raising my own while I still had the mental capacity to do it.

PS. I think I need to finish off by saying that I love teaching, which is why I'm still doing it instead of working the till at Tesco!


St said...

Good points. Well made. Us clergy are not unfamilair with unreasonable criticism. Amazing how coffee stained clothes can set your reputation though.

Ali said...

I wouldn't dream of criticising any clergy least I was struck by a thunderbolt from on high! :-p

Pluto said...

I think you have summed up my feelings as well, Ali, although I have to confess that I was never pushed off a bus when I was 5 months pregnant!

Ali said...

it's a shame isn't it. Just think of the money you'd have made from being 5 months pregnant!

Dana said...

I think I've said it before, but this just solidifies my beliefs that as teachers you are underpaid, underrespected (is that a word?), and truly one of the world's most vital tools in shaping our youth.

That said, kids scare the crack out of me. I mean, seriously here in the US we just charged 9 3rd graders, 3rd graders! with plotting to murder their teacher.

What in the world.

My hat is off to you and Pluto and all our teachers!

Ali said...

Thanks Dana :-)

What age is a third grader?

Cosmo said...


You have reminded me once again of the extreme, but vital role that teachers play in the development of society. I have great respect for teachers.

Please know that this night I am praying for you and the other staff members of your school.

By the way, I think a third grader would be about 8-9 years old.

Dana said...

Oh I am so sorry, I forget you would have different age levels and grades...

They are about 7 or 8 years old...

Ali said...

Thanks Cosmo, that's much appreciated, and often needed :-)

Wow, 7-8 year olds - same age as my daughter. That is pretty scary

Ali said...

good grief Pluto, it's closer than we think:


jsi said...

Wow...really, all I can say is wow.
It is deplorable to hear this level of degrading and disrespectful behavior.

The adults woven into the lives of children are crucial and treatment of them needs to include more than courtesy - it needs to include respect.

Children will be men and women in a blink of an eye. They will be reaping the same uber-selfish behavior and treatment from the world quick enough to get whiplash - and they have all the control and opportunity to change it.

You and your colleagues have been important. I am praying for you today.

My 3rd grader is 9...and when that story was made plain, I was mortified and angry. I despise the things I have needed to speak about with my children, the awful world realities that they have heard about...but when this story was on the news, they heard it all.

Teachers are trusted members of the community built into a growing child's life...and should receive the same level of kindness and care that would be extended to a loved family member.