Monday, February 04, 2008

Bad Teachers.

Well now, about bloody time. According to the Indo this very morning...

"Bad or poor teachers will be given three months to 'shape up or face the sack.
Dismissal is the most extreme sanction outlined in confidential proposals drawn up by the Department of Education and Science.

The others are withdrawal of a pay rise, demotion and suspension.

These are the toughest proposals yet drawn up by the department. But disciplinary action will not be triggered by "sustained performance deficiencies" alone. Similar sanctions can be used in the case of misconduct, or where the teacher poses a threat to the health and safety of students.

Before it takes a final decision, the school board of management can ask the chief inspector to bring in a competent authority to decide on the teacher's ongoing suitability for the job. But the board is not obliged to do so.

The person who conducts the review will have "unfettered access" to the school, classrooms and teacher as necessary. Failure to co-operate with the review will itself be a disciplinary matter.

An independent appeals group will be appointed by the minister and the group's report will be binding on the board and teacher.

There are 55,000 primary and second-level teachers in Irish schools and the department says a "significant majority" of them discharge their duties in a competent and efficient way. Just a minority underperform and for some the difficulty can be transient and relatively short-term"

Bollocks. I've been to school, and believe you me, a good number of the teachers I had the misfortune to stumble across were absolute rubbish. They couldn't teach a fish to swim.
I think it is only fair and proper that poor teachers are now liable to be sacked. Why shouldn't they be held to the same standards as any other profession (except football manager- where it seems you can be utterly shite all you like then get a terrific settlement to go away and be utterly shite somewhere else)?
If a teacher knows they are being monitored maybe it will make them pull up their socks, stop looking out that window, take that look of their faces and get on with their work.
Who amongst us hasn't had the misfortune to be taught by a terrible teacher. Shit, I went to boarding school- no wait, two boarding schools(!) and a good percentage of my teachers were terrible, complete boobies. Malcontent hysterical under achievers, with neither wit nor charm who couldn't control a class room with a whip and a chair.
Here's the thing, to be a good teacher, as well as having an understanding of- and perhaps even a modicum of interest in- the subject you're trying to impart upon thick headed disinterested slightly feral youth, you must also be able to instill fear and garner respect in the class room. One whiff of weakness and pupils will sniff it out. That's what they're looking for, a chink in the armour. One cutsey personal story, one tired and emotional day, one stutter, one stumble, one SIGN that you are mortal and you're fucked, doomed, you have hung 'open hunting season' about your neck in neon foot high letters. It will no longer matter how much you shout or scream or threaten, all trapped animals snap and snarl, but rarely inflict damage before the baying pack.
You're screwed teacherman. You might as well go back to the teachers' lounge, have a shaky cup of coffee and call it a day.
The best teachers I ever encountered laid down the law on day one and never deviated from that law. Neither did they scream or shout, threaten you with the principal's office or plead to your better nature ( what teenager has a better nature). They didn't need to, the Alpha leader never does.
You worked for them in the vain hope that their beady eye might pass magnificently over your tattered copy and they might even let fall a hallowed and rare, 'Good, keep it up' from their lips. You were seated before they arrived, probably not talking to your best friend, you did you homework on time and handed it in, you tried your level best to stay off their radar. When you had double class after lunch, you did not droop or yawn. Christ no, anymore than you would climb over a fence to rub the top of a bull's head.
No no, with a good teacher you worked, you sought their praise, you upped your ante and, by default, you learned.
I was a terrible pupil, I freely admit it. I have always, my whole life, had a problem with authority. I don't like to be told what to do. If you ask me to do something and it isn't a stupid request, nine time out of ten I will be happy to oblige, but demand and it's a different matter. Ergo boarding school was not a place someone with my temperament would relish.
However I have the greatest of affection for some of the teachers I met. Solid people with a love of their chosen field and the chops to pull it off. My english teacher and my maths teacher in particular, make me misty-eyed with memory, two sturdy quick witted sharp tongued ladies who could strip the skin off you at twenty feet one minute and make you glow with pride the next. I respected them because they had my number. I respected them because they knew what they were talking about. I respected them because they were fair. I respected them because they were good teachers.
School of course isn't the be all and end all of anything I was to learn later in life. You can educate yourself if you have the will and the inclination. I'm 35 now and still learning. But the foundations of most careers lie with teaching children early and teaching them well. To do that the tools must be in place, and the biggest tool of them all (I"m aware of the odd terminology) is the teacher.
So here it is teachers, bad ones and middle to the road ones alike. You've had your warning, time to take the finger out, straighten up that tie, fasten that top button and sit up straight. Get on with your work. OI! you, geography, I'm looking at you.



Anonymous nonny said...

You are right, there is all this talk about teachers not been able to control the class but that is entirely down to their own failings and they should be held accountable. Last year I thought second level business and economics for a friend going on maternity leave, aside from the fact I was under qualified, (I have a degree and an MA plus I have lectured at 3rd level but I did not have a Hdip in education and I’m dyslexic/illiterate therefore, I was not qualified)This was completely different to my day job. I had no idea how to control a class, imagine 25 lads, most of whom taller than me, when the bastartds aren’t telling you your car is shit or you wear horrible clothes they are just ignoring you. My pal was like, “Nonny be the sarcastic, condescending and undermining little bitch you normally are and you’ll be the best teacher in all the land”. Oddly it worked and I had no problems. There was two other teacher and the noise coming from there room, they had been teaching years and had no control but, most importantly the lads did shit in her class, their leaving cert results where a testament to it.

10:05 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I don't think size has much it do with it either. The most feared and respected teacher in my old school was an honors maths teacher who barely made it past five foot nothing. She still wore the black school cape and if memory serves, she only had to stick her head around the door of an unruly class and all noise would cease. She was one of those people for whom the word despot seems most fitting.

11:53 a.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

The principal of that school was most petit little lady and ever so softly spoken, but, my God when she roared, it was pee in your pants stuff. I’d have thought you teacher material now. I would imagine you’d be very good at it. The money is so shit though. I loved the double standards of it, “Nonny did you watch Malcom in the Middle last night?” one little twirp would enquire, “I would not insult my eyes with such dribble” would be my sharp unimpressed reply. When really I had been sprawled across the sofa laughing my ass off at it. They should get some of the best, most feared teachers and pair the newbie’s up with them.

12:15 p.m.  
Anonymous Pinkie said...

My Irish teacher was bloody awful. A right wench. I was a brat in her class because she hated me . I walked over the threshold one thursday and I swear, she just told me to get outside the door since that is where I would end up anyways.

My English teacher now... trying to make us louts not only remember, but enjoy, Patrick Kavanagh -- ye gods. But he managed it. Oh stony grey soil of Monaghan.

I'm all for them doing this but I think it should be kept as distant from the pupils as possible. Teenagers are bastards -- they'll make stuff up to get their teacher into trouble ya know? Every teacher will be undermined if there is an inspector in a school, the good and bad ones

12:43 p.m.  
Blogger darkman said...

Bring back the cat o nine tails.

12:50 p.m.  
Blogger Conan Drumm said...

I had a psycopathic teacher when I was 8. She paraded around the class with a cane behind her back which she believed was invisible until she brandished it.

Then there was the history teacher in secondary school who was the worst teacher in all the world. He was worse for our education than there having been no teacher in the class.

Twenty five years later he was still in the same school teaching history. There a people under the illusion that it is one of the 'best' schools in the country. Hah!

1:01 p.m.  
Blogger Conan Drumm said...

... a = are...

1:02 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

We had a male History teacher who used to scream, 'Stop it girls, stop it PLEASE! I'll go out the door, I'M WARNING YOU I'LL go out the DOOR!!"

Honestly, what kind of bloody warning is that? Although once he started to cry and I will admit I did feel really really bad for him. The poor man just should not have been a teacher. It was like a lamb to the laughter.

1:30 p.m.  
Blogger Vic Barry said...

Well at least something like this will stop a selection of teachers sitting on their holes and going "Get out yer books and start reading 24"

At least the decent teachers have nothing to worry about!

1:48 p.m.  
Blogger Conan Drumm said...

I've heard so many scary stories involving male teachers in all-girl schools that it must be one of the toughest jobs on the planet.

1:54 p.m.  
Anonymous Sam, Problemchildbride said...

I wish I could still nominate this for best blog-post. Great stuff.

You're right - some people couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag containing instructions on how to be a teacher. So much of it is instinct, it seems.

Above all, that certain remove must be maintained. Teachers are there to teach, not be everyone's best buddy.

At least 3 of the teachers at our school smelled of drink all day long but, despite the obvious weakness presented to the class, two of them were among the best teachers I ever had. Neither of them put up with any crap and both soared in terms of inspirational love of their subjects and their desire to let you see exactly why. And why it mattered.

Most of all I wish we had had good English teachers. The number of people they turned off of recreational reading - one of the best consolations in life - would be depressing to know.

1:54 p.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

I think people who have had experience in another profession or industry can sometimes make better teacher. Not because I did it, they just seem to be more relaxed at it, they have better command of the class, in saying that I got a chair threw at me that was just one hiccup (I’m sure you’ll be happy to know it got me). But, they don’t seem to be as engrossed in “little” issues, like Mary has two rings on and should only have one kinda crap; they don’t waste time and just want the kids to learn. I think opportunities should be created for people like that to teach.

2:01 p.m.  
Blogger daisy mae said...

unfortunately for many a educator, our school district deemed it wise to keep a group of us together starting in middle school due to testing scores. it was a matter of months before we developed ways to sniff out weaknesses and work together to have people question their choice of profession. at the time we thought we were unstoppable - we had gotten 1 student teacher to change his profession, another teacher who had been teaching upwards of 30 years left the profession under medical leave, and we even convinced a religion teacher to go on sabbatical to "question her faith in god". we never questioned how this affected their lives, their families... and in retrospect i do feel a twinge of guilt.

however, my part in the whole religion teacher questioning god did get me kicked out of the catholic church, much to my delight.

2:33 p.m.  
Blogger Rusticissimus maximus said...

Hmm, history teachers...we had a male history teacher too. Once he dislocated some poor guy's jaw but that was before modernity caught up with my part of the world leading to many frowns cast in the direction of 'that sort of thing'.

On the other hand, we had a German teacher who used to constantly threaten that she was "raging" (a raging what I wonder??) and would have to "go outside the door to calm down". Now, to a class of 30 or so teenage boys who know that if they push hard enough this woman will start crying and go away for the rest of the class then that's not a great tactic.

Neither was the tactic employed by the junior English teacher who would just sit silently and glare (we knew her heart wasn't in it).

The only one we really respected was the senior English teacher who would come in and ROAR at us, delivering every withering comment using a rich vocabulary and grammatically perfect sentences. I have nothing but fond remembrances of that woman...

2:55 p.m.  
Blogger Medbh said...

The nuns loved me in primary school and I have to say that they were all good teachers. I do remember that they used to beat the fuck out of unruly boys though.

2:58 p.m.  
Blogger Dr. James McInerney said...

I teach in university and I HATE it. Not a single student is ever nasty to me, they all behave in a pleasingly deferential manner, but I still hate teaching. Unfortunately, there are very few research jobs in Ireland that don't require a person to lecture as well. I do try my hardest at teaching and I have good notes, I make websites for the students, all my lecture notes are given to them as printouts, etc., however, there are times when I would prefer to scoop my own eyeballs out with a rusty spoon than to go into another classroom to teach.

Why a rusty spoon?

It would hurt more.

3:41 p.m.  
Anonymous sheepworrier said...

Prince of Thieves Doc?

Was tempted to go into teaching a few years back, but I just couldn't handle the wee shites these days - no respect at all. Now if I could clip a few of them around the ear, that would be a different story...

3:48 p.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

James!! you'll get your ass sacked, Miss Cat delete that. What about independent colleges or down the country do they not have research positions. 3rd level is shit to teach but little dudes are fantastic if the money wasn't so shit, i'd do it in heart beat.

3:52 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I doubt he'll get sacked fro saying he'd rather scoop his eyes out with a spoon than teach. There' probably isn't a teacher in the land that HASN'T said that at some stage.
Anyone ever read Note on a Scandal? Barbara's the teacheriest teacher I've ever come across, and her deep LOATHING for 'mushy' liberal thinking on how to handle brutish louts made me laugh out loud-on a plane no less. Repeatedly.

Excuse me, I must go throttle the Bigger of the Cats, with my bare hands. He is pushing me to the limits to day with his in and out wants. I know he regards me as his fucking cat butler, but today I've had it.

4:27 p.m.  
Blogger Mairéad said...

Sorry to disappoint everyone, BUT:
1. The big announcement in the Indo is nothing new. Teachers could always be sacked, they still can be sacked, but it is very, very hard. Just as hard as it ever was. It's all bull.
Every primary school is inspected regularly (meant to be every 5 years). Recommendations are made and then bye for another five plus years. The inspectors have no real power. A warned teacher can improve for a bit.... In my experience, the "good" teachers work hard regardless of inspection and get plenty of extra work to do on top of their dedicated preparation - from principal teachers, other teachers, parents and inspectors. The useless ones (yes, there are plenty of them!!) don't give a damn about inspections, and no-one gives them an extra job to do because they'll make a bags of it!! It's a vicious circle. Parents get grinds for their kids, so grades in exams are good, so the teacher gets credit, so they don't get investigated and round and round it goes.....

2. Nonny thinks it would be great to teach smallies? Erm, not really. Dotey pets and all that, but LOTS of whining and me, me me-ing. Grand if all you had to do is play with them all day, but you have to teach them how to read, write, count, communicate, share etc... etc... from scratch. Class sizes of 30 plus five year olds is very, very difficult - for the child and for the teacher.

5:04 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

That just means the bad teacher get to continue riding piggy back on the good. The useless articles.

5:10 p.m.  
Blogger John Mc said...

We once had a chemistry teacher, fresh out of college, who was the spit of Beaker from the muppets. Always wore a white lab coat, a shock of unruly red hair and an Adams apple you could hang your jacket on. To top it off, his voice didn't seem to have broken properly and would warble ala Beaker. We were merciless, muppet voices would suddenly and anonymously be heard during his class, people would raise a hand and ask, "Whats Kermit like in real life, sir?". It was so bad that the head science teacher,(a woman not to be trifled with), approached my class and begged us the be kinder. Poor bastard I'm sure he still remembers us with a deep hatred. I can't imagine he lasted as a teacher.

6:29 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Ah the newbies, so full of promise, so fresh and enthusiastic, how quickly they broke, their earnest hopes dashed against the jagged rocks of teenage indifference.

6:44 p.m.  
Anonymous laughykate said...

Good teachers are worth their weight in gold. Absolute gold and they should be paid triple. God I was merciless on the useless ones, though. I would have hated to have me in the class. Our history teacher was a condescending Canadian who called us all, 'Lay-dies.' At a parent teacher interview he said to my mother, 'Mrs Laughykate, I really do not like your daughter.' To which she replied, 'Well Mr Condescending Man, I can assure you the feeling is perfectly mutual.' Bless her.

8:01 p.m.  
Blogger elizabeth said...

what is wrong with people? wanting to go around and make schools places where kids might do well. school is not a place to find out about great literary artists or that 2+2=4, it's where you go to master the art of seeming productive, doing just enough to get by, and how to appear compliant when really saying, "fuck you". you know, all the necessaries of becoming a member of the workforce.

8:16 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Snarf LK, what a woman! What a mammy! All mine ever did was bob her head up and down going 'I know, Oh I KNOW, you don't have to tell ME what THAT ONE is like.'

Elizabeth, I thought that just came naturally, are you saying this is something we needed to be taught?

If procrastination and lollygagging had been subjects I would have been a straight A student.

8:27 p.m.  
Blogger elizabeth said...

you and me both.
unfortunately, whenever i attempted to discuss what would actually prepare students for life outside of school, teachers tended to harumph and send me to the principal. odd.

9:03 p.m.  
Blogger Dr. James McInerney said...

Hi Nonny: I think it is OK to hate part of your job. Teaching is about 25% of my job, the rest is admin (which I hate like a fat kid hates broccoli) and research (which I love to do). I bet the cleaners in my university hate the toilet cleaning part of the job. There really is nothing wrong with hating part of your job. I suppose people find it problematic that it might be the teaching part. The problem might only arise if you didn't do it well, not if you liked or hated it.

The fact is that I cannot see any civil servant getting fired. This is focussed on teachers because this is emotive, however, very few civil servants ever lose their jobs.

Also, you don't get credit when you do the job well. Promotion seems to be linked to years of service, not quality of work. this is something that pisses off people that really are good. In my work, a good scientist might bring in half a million or a million euro worth of grant money each year and train a bunch of students and give excellent lectures and a crap scientist might bring in none or very little research funds, might never train PhD students and teaches badly. Yet, the person that is unproductive is not punished and the person that is a real earner for the university is really not rewarded. Bummer.

11:03 p.m.  
Anonymous Shebah said...

Like you, I have a problem with authority figures - it is a result of school politics, but manifested itself after I left school. At school I kept my head down and fitted in. One of our rather vindictive form nuns had three "pets" who used this status to push everyone else around. It sounds macabre, but a part of me understands those teenage nutters driven to extremes in those US school tragedies. In those days of raging early teenage hormones where everything is so black and white a kid can be damaged forever by a bad teacher. We had a few psychos on power trips.

10:11 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

We had plenty of the bastards too, one of the evilest persons I ever met was a nun. She tried to break me for years. Never succeeded either.

10:25 a.m.  
Blogger Mairéad said...

Don't get me wrong - I think that bad teachers should be sacked, and bad principals and bad Boards of Management, and bad inspectors and bad Ministers. The whole lot create the haven for the bad teacher. How are they going to be sacked though? A bad inspector inspecting a bad teacher isn't going to do much, is it? A bad principal is more likely to get a GOOD teacher (who is on to them!!!) fired than a good teacher!! It's all a cod. Our children suffer.... It's terrible.

6:38 p.m.  
Blogger dublinstreams said...

would it not be good to make them do (re)-trianing in that that time before they are sacked?

8:41 p.m.  
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7:43 a.m.  

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