Saturday, 6 September 2008

One of the ice breakers at the induction was to write three things on a piece of paper and then get up and go around the room to see if anyone elses completely matched yours. Of course it was virtually impossible. 

The chief mathematician talked about the probability of it, and then the member of staff who I shall refer to as Chief Black Person announced that her technique was to only seek out other black members of staff, as they were more likely to have the same tastes. I wonder if I were to announce the same but change black for white... it would have been perceived as racist and exclusive. 

No-one said a darn thing about it!  To much hassle to come above the radar and challenge it. There an accepted apartheid within the staff. The majority of black staff sit together in the staff room. They are nice to the rest of us, but they're definately a clique. 

It echoes all the way down the ranks into the school. There is a pecking order. It is best to be a black student. Asian students are seen as "Neeks", -  uncool swots, -  who are to be avoided at all costs, unless of course they go seek acceptability, and act 'black'. Pretty much same goes for the caucasian girls. I'v noticed that mixed race girls make more effort to define themselves as black within the school. 

Perhaps it is the legacy of '80's politics, but it desperately needs an overhaul. Many worthwhile battles have been hard fought and won and barriers broken down. It's a good thing, but the politics have stagnated. 

In the '80's, it finally became  more socially acceptable to have mixed relationships and in turn have mixed race children. I think that if I had made a black/white marriage, I would have to demand that my partner not only held up good black role models to our child but made their approval and belief in good white role models explicit. I think it's neccesary to be proud to be black but it is also neccesary to be proud to be White. It sounds  socially unacceptable and feels clumsy to say this. I think this is cause  we are not used to hearing it.  Often people want to immediately attach negative connotations to these sentiments, and not only occupy the moral high ground, but build a smug luxury argument on it in order to make a peacock display of their well-honed social conscience.

I talked about being proud to be both races to my new tutor group. They took it in and we discussed how we racially defined ourselves. I could see the mental cogs whirring in the mixed race girls who said they defined themselves as Black. We discussed with one girl who is mixed race, how she see's herself. I don't think that she had time to answer before another girl said she looks white. (She is quite light skinned. She could be mistaken for Spanish.) She  quickly said that she wasn't sure how she saw herself.  I shall see how this goes and where it leads. I only have one white girl in my tutor  group and she is virtually silent. I am glad to get these subjects up for discussion.  I am aware that it is important to tread carefully, but it is important to keep treading. Too many people are covering their arses with the 'silence is golden' technique, the Queen Victoria famous line to her court:" We shall pretend we haven't smelt the fart". If you say nothing, you cant be condemned. Though neither can you advance your understanding.

Anyway, back to our INSET training, in which we were lectured on use of language towards students. This was defined into 'inviting language,' 'intentionally inviting,' 'uninviting 'and' intentionally uninviting.' We were also told to smile more at students and be more welcoming of them into the class room at the begginning of the lesson. 

This type of training is what really gets up the noses of the staff. Loads of cutting edge researched new ideas into how to get the students to learn more et'c, but all the time refusing to address the screaming emergency of how we dont have a working system to deal with our disciplinary problems with consistent consequences.

I don't disagree with these marvellous theories. I just know how damn hard it is to use inviting language, after a couple of weeks into the term, when the eight girls at the back of the line refuse to stop talking and recognise that you are their teacher.

It's like I am being ordered to mix more cocktails instead of launch the life rafts as The Titanic goes down...hence the title of my blog. 

Later we have an NUT meeting. The local rep informs us that they field more calls from our school than all other schools in the borough put together. Speaks volumes. I think we also have the highest turn-over of staff.  I guess that when you cant change things, the only thing to do is to get out.

One of the girls in my tutor group finds me at lunchtime. She is in tears because she is being followed and verbally abused by two girls who used to be her friends. I go outside the door to confront them. I ask if there is a problem and why are they standing there,  when they should, by that time, be in their form room. One is clearly a nasty piece of work. They are aggressive and sarcastic to me. I control myself from returning the same. Experience tells me that this strategy leads no-where. It just escalates things. I hate backing down to bullies. I hate to lose face and I have a hell of a temper and bottle of acid repartee to throw at them. I know I could severly verbally wound these girls within the blink of an eye, but then I would end up being in the wrong. I make the professional decision and call for other staff help.

I wonder why the Head doesn't start the term educating the students about inviting and uninviting language, instead of us. I think about about how this poor girl is being harrassed and has to leave the school early and accompanied to avoid them. I wonder how 'intentionally uninviting' the language of these bitchy bullies is on a scale of one to ten. The answer is 36, which is the number of  abusive phone calls the girl received on her mobile later that day within one hour, including one that threatened her with being a stabbed.  

Monday, 1 September 2008

Day 1. Induction.

First day back. Im trying to remain positive and open minded about the prison sentence ahead.  To hang onto my relaxed state following a month holiday in France, I greet other staff members by kissing them on both cheeks. I kiss the deputy head. It is a mistake. She returns the kisses coldly, even tho she is French. Then I remember the end of last term and that she basically despises me. It sums up my presence in the system. I am the walking personification on " inappropriate"ness. At the end of last term I could barely stop myself swearing in my sentences. Im glad im a member of the NUT. One day im really going to need them.

I meet my maths teacher friend on the stairwell. She has just got her exam results. She has an 82% pass rate. She vows she will work even harder this year. She wants to achieve at least 95%.I suddenly really saw the Cambridge graduate in her. A 'B' is too average. She wants an A*. I have to hand it to her.  She is amazing. She held weeks of after school extra math session last term. Those girls were so lucky to have her.

Today we are just easing in to it all. No kids in yet. Its almost bearable. I clear out the office and rearrange the stock cupboard. I see some class lists and crow over the fact that some of the most hideous girls in the top set of year seven have this year been dropped to the bottom set. Thats quite a way to fall.

We have a big meet with the Head. She tells us the school got 48% A-C's this year. I dont think this is that great. I think Roedean got about 92%. 

We discuss the new house structure for the school. I ask if we are going to have a head girl. I read a lot of Mallory Towers and the Chalet School series as a kid. I always wanted to go the either of these girls boarding schools. The latter seemed to be a lot of ski-ing in the Austrian Alps before 'frustuck'.  I am living in la la land. 

Then we go over the classic teaching jargon. ECM is my favourite. It stands for Every Child Matters. It is a government directive on the Educations systems pledge to include and teach every lovely/clever/stupid/nightmare kid. It will be a great shock for them when they reach 18 and they find out that no body gives a monkey's anymore. Why not Every Adult matters? They will spend more of their  life as one.