Sunday 19 November 2017

Diary of a Schoolteacher: Respect for teachers? It's been taken off the curriculum this year

E Grade

I'm on a free class so I decide to check out the action on the corridors. It's like walking a back street in Naples -- all the usual unsavoury characters are there, from the girls who were let out to go to the loo because their male teacher was too embarrassed to say no, to the boys who hide behind the lockers waiting for them.

Being a coward myself I decide to leave the girls to their make-up and cigarettes and tackle the only boy stupid (sorry, not allowed to say 'stupid'; I mean 'mistaken') enough to get caught in my headlights.

'Hey!' I shout, 'where do you think you're going? Class started a full 10 minutes ago!' He keeps on walking at a fast pace past one classroom after the other, not even pausing as he snarls a, 'Go away, you! Miss Potter gave me toilet permission.'

This is how a first year addresses me when I catch him prowling the corridors instead of being in class, and he's only been in the place for three weeks! I know Miss Potter did no such thing, having just seen her checking out the rugby scores on the computer in the library.

Next I follow him down to where he is meant to be, in Róin Shine's Irish class. He flings open the door and marches in as I give Shine the rundown on the events of the last 30 seconds. 'Apologise to Mr Grade!' Shine helpfully barks at the errant first year who again flings a few snarly syllables at me.

I advance menacingly on the 'mistaken' scholar and suddenly he manages to articulate a recognisable apology.

The bad feeling carries through to the next class with my sixth years.

I walk in and fling out the question, like John Bowman at the height of his Questions and Answers powers: 'What ever happened to deference?'

From the back of the class comes a groan as Antoinette McHarpie buries her face in her hands and hisses, 'Jaysus! I'm not in the mood for him!' I don't give in that easily, so I ignore her and turn to Kai Rülps, the new German kid who you might expect to get the concept of deference, and rather cleverly decide to use a bit of German that I remember from the Eurovision a few years ago, 'Guildo hat euch lieb!' believing this to mean 'A little peace!' and then I add 'bitte!' for good measure.

But instead of approval he too just reacts with a contemptuous snort saying, 'He's a looper!'

Seems he's already lived here long enough to go native and ditch teutonic high standards. Even if I used the wrong phrase, he could have been polite!

All of this makes it harder for teachers to get any work done and what can a teacher do?

My advice, with the Teaching Council looking for something to do and parents ringing in to complain, is 'just let it go'.

Deference? Respect? They're off the curriculum now.

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