Diary of a schoolteacher: Why risk burnout when the brats won't remember you?
Published 13/04/2011 | 05:00
Like everyone else in teaching, I have a rogue class that I cannot teach anything. The first time I encountered them they refused to give me their names.
No point on calling the deputy principal for help as I'm not allowed to leave them unattended, and if I send one of the retrogrades out to fetch him, the brat will either disappear for a smoke or the DP won't be anywhere to be found.
There's always at least one nice, polite, gentle kid in these criminal fraternities. Maybe a kid with a learning disability but who is smart and decent in every other way.
He or she often wears really thick glasses, has an English accent or is Polish.
You want to scream at them, no, you want to switch on the fire alarm and jump out the window and head for the hills on this glorious sunny April day as they tell you their name is Steven Gerrard or Jessie J and then they fall around laughing as if this is the wittiest thing you will ever hear, but you decide to stay put.
That innocent kid with the English accent who has been to elocution lessons because she was born without a soft palate, she's sitting there in a clean and complete school uniform, book open on the right page, waiting for you to impart knowledge onto her.
She seems to be unfazed by the anarchy around her -- anarchy that it is your job to suppress and then sweep onwards towards enlightenment for all, and you know you have to get through the next 40 minutes for her sake, so you stick around.
Getting started is the problem with this kind of class. This is their third year in this place and they know full well that they're in the driving seat regarding discipline.
Most of them haven't brought in a book or copybooks and pens, so bang goes the seating plan as you're obliged to put kid without book beside kid with book.
On principle, you're not going to spend hours every day doing up worksheets and downloading material for this lot because they have books (somewhere) that say all the same stuff anyway.
My colleague Finnegan, a committed and skilled educator (unlike me), actually provides them with pens and stapled sheets of paper so that they will get through the syllabus and maybe pass the Junior Cert.
He'll collect the pens and sheets at the end of class, throwing some in the bin because they're covered in primitive scribbles that a snake with a pen stuck in its mouth could do better.
The good stuff Finnegan keeps in folders for the good of the pupils and will later use for revision.
He obviously succeeds where I don't and I admire that, but at what cost?
All you Finnegans out there, take note: they're not worth all the extra work.
I've seen too many teachers burnt out at 45 while these kids leave school and don't even remember your name.