Sunday 30 April 2017

Diary of a schoolteacher: A memo to the inspectors -- the bullies impose their own rules

E Grade

I've decided to analyse my third years to see how they are interacting with our curriculum.

Out of this group of around 24 taking my subject, I count five who are moving on through the syllabus at a good rate and can score a high mark on ordinary level or a D-C on the higher paper next June.

Amongst this elite group there are two kids from the Ukraine, one each from Poland and the Philippines, and alas only one from Ireland. These five learners generally refrain from being rude to me, arrive on time for class and nearly always hand up homework.

So how do the statistics pan out? Three to two in favour of the girls; the single Irish pupil bothering to make an effort to learn being a girl. That leaves 18 others who are either failing every test I give them or just barely scraping through, thanks to some creative and very flexible marking schemes on my part.

Now I don't just spend my working days living up to my hard-earned reputation as a caring and very handsome professional. Just like everybody else in this business, I'm looking over my shoulder for the day when the sinister shadow of the department inspector falls across my whiteboard. God help us all when the inspector calls and sees what's going on in this place; the number of kids with no books, no copies and no drive.

They'll observe the boys in this class putting all their energy into chasing the foreign kids out of the yard and into the corners of the school grounds where they can be more easily corralled and attacked.

They're organising the younger kids into flying columns that terrorise anybody passing along the corridors; they're researching kids' backgrounds and analysing their accents and diction for fresh bullying campaigns -- and all of this requires a lot of dedication.

Some of the girls are similarly involved in this time-consuming business and, as has been well documented elsewhere, they tend to specialise in name-calling, texting and cyber harassment operations, although there are always a few who will be just as at home with throwing punches as the boys.

I'll be able to explain to the inspector that our staff has investigated and tried to put a stop to all these activities, but that unfortunately we draw a blank thanks to the omerta of the schoolyard and that we invited an anti-bullying expert in who spent a whole day facilitating in the library.

When he was finished, the bullied boy in question never came back and enrolled at another school.

Which brings me back once again to the curriculum, or the 'official curriculum'.

You can look it up on the Department of Education and Skills website, but don't forget that that's just a guide to what we teachers try to teach them. The truth is that the kids create their own curriculum on the streets; one that is equally accessible to girls and boys and they impose this on the school.

Irish Independent

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