"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

"And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6.8

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Leading a horse to water.

A mother came to see me after school recently. She brought her daughter with her. They were upset that I'd spoken harshly to the daughter about her attitude and progress in the lesson. This is a Yr 11 class one week before their final examination and I am afraid I showed little symathy: I'm taking no prisoners and showing no mercy at this stage in the term. The girl is a pleasant enough individual, and certainly has potential to do well but she won't because she simply does not concentrate and when she dosn't listen she does it quite ostentatiously so that I find myself competing for her attention and the attention of those around her.

I am cast as the baddie. I should have more sympathy and sensitivity apparently and telling someone to act their age when they back-chat for having been caught off-task (again) and to stop assuming they're going to do well just because they have a high target grade isn't motivational enough.

Do you know what? I'm tired of tip-toeing around the egos of some (a minority) of these kids - mainly girls. This class have been difficult all year - for two years in fact. Not because they are badly behaved as such, but because a significant minority have an arrogant complacency about their ability which I don't share. So I tell them. They are a high ability group but not so high that they can wing it and do well.

Not nurturing enough it seems.

A week before the exam and I am testing their knowledge. It is lamentable. I know I've taught the material but I also know they've not revised it. They have no sense of urgency and seem genuinely perplexed/dismissive when I express my concern.

Chill Sir. It'll be alright.

No, actually it won't. I know this is Religious Studies but I don't think relying on prayer or other forms of divine intervention is entirely wise at this stage. Why don't you know this topic by now? The exam's on May 17th. No pressure.

Well I don't need this for my job. Why do we even need to do it?

Now this is like a red rag to a bull to me. Even given the fact that exam nerves have made some contribution to this negative state of mind, one week before the exam is, perhaps, not the right time to be posing such existential questions.

Education, it seems, is only valued for what it can get you not for it's own innate benefits.

I rise to the bait every time. I can't let it pass:

There are a number of points here:
a) Given your grade profile in other subject areas I don't think you can afford to be so complacent that you can drop any grades in any subject.
b) Apart from English and maths and, in some cases, science, employers don't care what subjects go to make up the rest.
c) Employers are interested in the whole C.V. and in evidence of a balanced curriculum.
d) Around the room is a wealth of careers information about employers who like to see R.S. on a C.V.
e) There's no point moaning at me. This is a National Curriculum subject and if you don't like it, write to your M.P. Good luck with that. Parliament has resolutely stuck up for the teaching of R.S. since the earliest Education Act made schooling compulsory.

They remain unimpressed.

I can't revise, me.

Roughly translated this means I'm a lazy individual and I'm giving myself permission not to bother.

Trying to tackle this one is a waste of time in most cases because they "Yes, but." you at every turn.

No. I can't revise, me.

So on Tuesday a significant number of the 420 or so will under-achieve. That's not to say they'll do badly necessarily, but they won't do as well as they should. They'll come out with a C grade, for instance, and be happy with that even though they could have got a B.

A few weeks into September, a member of the school's Senior Management Team will make an appointment with me to discuss my department's performance in this summer's exams. The A-C profile will probably be quite reasonable but when it comes to Value Added - what they got (or didn't get) in relation to their predicted grades - it won't look quite so good.

I'll be asked why they didn't do as well as predicted. I'll talk about the after-school and Easter break catch up sessions I offered but which they largely declined to attend. I'll talk about the letters I wrote to the parents of those I was particularly concerned about and I'll refer to the significant numbers of parents who aren't interested in seeing me at consultation evenings. My conclusion will be that you can lead a horse to water ........

What are the chances that they'll understand?


  1. Slim to none, I'm afraid. It's interesting that a rise in calls for "teacher accountability" has occurred on both sides of the ocean during the same era in which "parental accountability" and "student accountability" have sunk to negligible proportions.

    Can you say "scapegoat"?