Monday, June 19, 2006

Bollocks

Apathy Jack writes:

See, over the years, all of the good English teachers have left my school. It's not the most problem-free of educational institutes at the best of times, and the Head of my particular department is corrupt and unprofessional to a degree that boarders on cartoonish supervilliany. Now, I'm not without my merits, but at a Real School™ I'd be exposed as a fraud in pretty short order.

For a while, I was the only one worth half a damn. That may sound like bragging, but you'll notice I didn't say I was any good – just better than the alternatives.


We got a few good ones, though. Most of them left after a year, or a month, or - in a record that has yet to be broken by any of the other departments - slightly under twenty-five hours. But a few have stayed.

So last week, the best of us left: headhunted by a decile ten carnivore – the same one that has had its eye on our land for a while now as a satellite campus. (I believe their plan is to rename us Hoodrat Academy for Higher Learning.) At the same time, the second best teacher announced that, while she'll see the year out, she won't stay any longer.

Concurrently, the aforementioned supervillainous HOD has decided to change the English course. Too many of the students are failing, so rather than talk about the staff retention issue, or the third-world lack of resources, she's decided to change the criteria on which we mark assessments. It would take too long to explain to an audience unfamiliar with the vagaries of NCEA, but the short version is this: A student who reads at an eight-year-old level will now be able to pass fifth-form English so long as they put in around twenty minutes work each fortnight.

And while I know I possess a gift for hyperbole, this time I'm not exaggerating.

This is deeply offensive to me as a teacher. My standards are famously low, but not that low. For the first time, the bullshit issuing from my immediate superior is going to affect how my kids learn. I simply won't be able to teach them anything, because they'll automatically pass by turning up and writing their names on the test paper.

For the last week I've been spring cleaning. I've been improvising my way through lessons and putting off various official pieces of paper demanded of me, while I systematically go through five years of old files and resources. It's probably all a bit too metaphorical to be healthy, but as I've been cleaning, I've been thinking about whether or not to stay. Being the only good English teacher was hard enough last time. If I have to do it again, only this time constrained by departmental policy from teaching anything of academic merit, then the payoff is going to stop justifying the effort.

So today I'm watching my kids play soccer, talking to the ones on the sidelines, when the sports coordinator strolls over. This guy is an ex-student of mine, and has a bugbear about me becoming a lecturer, where I "will be appreciated". He casually mentions to the three students with me that I'm leaving to work at the university.

For no reason other than morbid curiosity, I don't correct him, just watch the kids' faces.

They look so dismayed. So disappointed. Shock mixes with sadness, and one of them moves to anger, confronting me about it. I tell her that it's not true, and the kids are visibly relieved, telling me I can't leave.

But here's the thing: I've never taught any of these kids.

One of them is the youngest in his family. I've taught both his sisters, and I helped him deal in some small way when a friend of his was killed in a car accident a few weeks back..

One of them is the kid sister of a girl I lend books to. The books get passed to the mother. This kid is confused by the fact that there are now family discussions about books. She doesn't think it's natural...

The one who got angry at me has been on the receiving end of my comedy routine for over three years now. She's been through a lot, and I've been trying to convince her that having hard time is no excuse to stop using her brain, that she is better than some of the situations she gets herself into. For the most part, she's been entirely unresponsive to my efforts.

The little bastards need me, damn them. I can't leave them alone, because they don't have anyone else to look out for them.

Damn it.

6 comments:

phats said...

Didn't some of your students offer to beat someone up for you a few months back? Couldn't you unleash them on your HOD?

* checks the post again and finds the HOD is a woman.

Ah, fuck.
Can't you just take over her job?

dreamer said...

That really sounds like something that should be brought to the attention of the NZQA.

With a claw-hammer.

Adonis said...

This could be an opportunity for you. If what they're required to know to pass the curricular is so easy to teach this could free up a lot of time to teach them what you think they should be learning - as long as your HOD doesn't get wind of you teaching beyond what the curricular requires of course :). Of course that only benefits your own students, the kids belonging to your colleagues may not be so fortunate I guess. I assume this won't actually result in a different qualification?

damian_nz said...

hrrm.

presumably someone higher up the foodchain than the HOD gives a fuck about this sort of stupidity. go over her head.

Miss T said...

Jack, doesn't NZ have some sort of hack journalist show a la "I am an ex real journalist on a government funded station, and now I have resorted to tabloid journalism about THE WORLD'S WORST NEIGHBOURS or TIMMY THE BOY WHO GOT HIS SISTER PREGNANT because the money is better"?

Why not drop them an anonymous tip??

Apathy Jack said...

Phats: I don't want the job - it's too much paper work and not enough teaching.

Dreamer: The new stuff being considered is kosher with NZQA. It's the stuff they built specifically for retards, that any real school wouldn't consider teaching, but it's all above board.

Adonis: That way lies madness.

Damien: We'll see. We'll see...

Ms H.: I can't dob my school in - I'd have to clean up the mess that would be left in the wake of a scandal. That would be like maing work for myself.