Getting the Balance Right

Teen Power, has it all got just a bit too much?

Getting the Balance Right

Hi. I'm Sue, a professional actress and cover Drama teacher, working across Essex on a daily basis during Term Time.

Over the last few years I have been working as a cover teacher covering just about every subject known to man in both Secondary Schools and Primary Schools.

I have discovered that unfortunately there is a general decline in both the ambitions of pupils and the respect for their educators.

At any given day at 7 AM my phone will ring and I will be asked to attend a certain school.

Having worked for so long now for my lovely agency I can really pick what work I would like to do, if there's work available or if the job suits me, I can also be teaching my own specialism drama.

I love the job, however, I have noticed that in some of the schools, I have witnessed a general chaotic uprising in what I would term Teen Power.

Some teens, have developed their own rules to get through the school day by displaying extreme rudeness or bad behaviour.

They have taken to using delaying tactics, along with bare faced cheek which staff, particularly cover staff sometimes feel powerless to deal with.

Examples of this are as follows:

  • Corridor passes.
  • Time out passes! Staff would love to have one of these!
  • No books or school equipment.
  • A lack of empathy for other students or staff.
  • Their own in house network system.
  • Disrespect for equipment.
  • Ignorance or lack of knowledge about personal space.
  • A feeling that they have the right to be taught just how they wish.

Now don't get me wrong it's not totally down to the pupils, in one school I attended, the students asked me if I was a science teacher or indeed had any knowledge of science

I replied politely saying that I was genuinely sorry and that I was in fact a drama teacher, however, I did have a cover lesson for them and that I did have some very basic knowledge of this subject.

Luckily it was genetics, so I gave them their cover lesson which was totally inadequate for the time period or indeed the level of work that one would expect the class to do.

The absent teacher just hadn't bothered to prepare, it's really easy if you are sick just send an email.

Therefore, we had a debate afterwards about genetic therapy which I knew a lot about as we have a family member who has Cystic Fibrosis.

I then discovered that the class had experienced 18 cover teachers instructing them for science over the past year and I was totally horrified and saddened for them.

I have encountered pupils who ask me my shoe size ,enquire what car I drive, pupils who inform me just exactly what they are allowed to do and who tell me in no uncertain terms that they will only acknowledge their parents to discipline them.

When asked by a female pupil my height once , I am only four feet ten I replied what waist size are you?

Strangely enough she was furious, yet as staff we are expected to have this kind of interaction with students?

So I started to look at things a little differently and calm down in school myself as they are only kids right?

I started to think about what can be done to help both staff and kids in schools today to get the balance right between pupils and staff .

So I have written my own pilot project and one school may just be about to offer me some funding to support it.

Detentions are now seen as nothing , they are no longer a deterrent in my opinion , what would be better to do from a cover teacher point of view would be to take away social networking or privileges of any kind.

This would be mobile phones , friends, replace with isolation, and working in school on other things and rewarding pupils for genuine trying and not just to get out of detentions.

Disruptive behaviour has been allowed to escalate by pandering to children more I feel.

My worst day ever was just simply asking a young lad to hand me his phone in a local school, it is not allowed I indicated to him, come on you know this.

In front of the entire class, he asked me to return his phone with such venom and threatened to cause me real harm, in fact to stab me.

I was quite frankly terrified to be honest and I reported it to the school he was expelled by the following time I returned to the school but very little was done on that day .

Its always difficult to get the balance right, but we must as many of our really great teachers are leaving the country for Dubai, where the pay is excellent and discipline is paramount .

I am all for empowering kids, however in my class alone I often have twenty nine or so pupils and perhaps six of them will wish to fill up a water bottle, five of them will need time out, two will need the toilet pass and one will nearly always indicate that they do not feel well.

Couple this with fidget toys that they simply must have, standing up some fifteen minutes before the end of the lesson to depart to another, the constant noise and the local in house beauty department from the girls, its a wonder that they actually learn anything!

I love my job, so much so that I am starting a new project to help kids and staff redress the balance of discipline and general behaviour towards others through the arts.

I'm also trying to encourage children to see that cover teachers can help them we work just as hard as the main body of teaching staff.

Watch this space folks!

What do you think?

Have we gone to far in school to keep children happy or in the class?

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