There’s no such thing as a stupid question

Let’s play a little game. Sounds like fun don’t it? First, let’s see if you’re tall enough to be admitted onto the ride:

Question:  Are you, or have you ever been, a teacher?

If the answer is ‘yes’ then please move onto the next question.

Question: Do you use Twitter for self-elected professional development?

If the answer is ‘yes’ then you may be a little too high-brow for this game.

If the answer is ‘no’ then please move onto the next question.

Question: Do you use Twitter believing yourself to be more cleverer and amusing than the average tweecher?

If the answer is ‘yes’ then OH BOY is this the game for you!

Are you ready?

Ok, here it is (this is so funny, clever and exciting I can hardly swipe straight!)

Question: What is the worst behaviour you’ve encountered where the student involved was not permanently excluded?

*sits back and waits for all the funny and outrageously unacceptable replies that are going to prove my point, if only I was actually declaring the point I was trying to make before posing my question.*

Answer: A pupil tried to burn down the curtains.

*snigger* OMG that’s unbelievable! And they weren’t expelled? That’s mental!

Answer: A child punched, spat, scratched, swore and stabbed me.

*splutters with indignation* And they weren’t chucked out on the spot?

Answer: A child lunged at me and then threw a chair at my privates.

*reaches for the ‘like’ button* This is exactly what I’m talking about!

Ahem… Excuse me for interjecting, but…

I can only presume that you are attempting to raise the tragic, and depressingly inevitable, point that there are indeed some incredibly damaged young people trying to cope within the education system. And, I can only imagine that your motivation in asking Twitter for examples of behaviour committed by young damaged human beings, was to highlight a simple point: damaged children are not getting enough support.

Obviously you’re not asking the question in order to suggest a contrary point of view that these children are beyond the compassion, empathy, hard work and behaviour management skills of regular teachers. You wouldn’t be suggesting that children should be expelled and excluded for matters that are out of their control to serve the convenience of trained professionals who would rather not try something beyond their normal routine. You certainly wouldn’t be trying to hint that leaders are spineless worms who care more about exclusion rates than developing a professional body who works tirelessly to support the damaged and disenfranchised.

Of course not.

It could be that, through your glib questioning, you are publicly lamenting the lack of specialist provision that may be able to support and nurture the individuals who have suffered – through no fault of their own – incredible trauma and tragedy that has rendered them unable to function in a socially acceptable way. It could be that you are trying to highlight the plight of these children through the probability of a teacher not being able to get through their 40 minute geography lesson that took them all of the weekend to plan. (Although that weekend was five years ago, but, you know, facts and direct instruction don’t require updating so there’s no reason why the teacher should have to do anything different.) Or possibly, you’re depressed that social mobility has not happened at quite the pace you thought it should have by now, and you’re irritated that your brethren have got to try and teach a plethora of poor and thick chavs who would rather spend the lesson mimicking their feeble voices rather than listening to them?

If that’s the case, I get it. I hate the fact that there is not enough specialist provision too. I agree that the future for these children does not look bright. I’m angry that thresholds have risen whilst early intervention provision has been squeezed to frighteningly low levels due to a case of ever decreasing funding. I concur that it’s a right pain in the Goves that poor people are going to remain poorer for longer despite the wonderful lessons we try and plan for them.

And, if that is why you asked the question, I’d really like your thoughts on this one, where are these children – who display socially unacceptable and disturbing behaviour – going to end up if we just exclude them? Somewhere? Nowhere? Or does it not matter as long as you get to teach the way you were promised you’d be able to when you graduated?

Judging by the snide and witty comments that accompanied some of the answers to your question I’d guess that none of your answerers care about the complexities your question raises. Well, they care that life in the classroom is harder for them with these kids in tow, but not so much that life itself is hard for the children that dare to ruin their day.

To those people I say: Oh I know their behaviour is scary. I know their attitude is aggressive. I know they can wear you down. I know it can sometimes feel unsafe and, of course, ‘what about the other children?’ All I can say is that if you dare to empathise you’ll be a step closer to understanding. And then, you might be able to do something that makes a tiny, almost insignificant, difference to the way you interact with them. And that might not make every minute of your time with them a disaster. It’s hard work but, sometimes, it works. Most of the time it won’t. Over time, it probably will. When it really doesn’t get better, they will get excluded. When this happens you’ll feel a great sadness instead of relief. Trust me, having been there: sadness feels better.

So, Mr Clever Question Master, develop your professionalism and go through all the responses to your question that sought to blame the child rather than admit their job was hard and let them know the real reason you set the question: To raise the issue of the difficulty of teaching complex human beings who have had a horrendous start in life. Clarify that you didn’t ask the question to give tired/knackered/incompetent teachers an easy ‘get out of detention free’ card by flippantly responding to your question under the delusion that it erased all professional accountability and compassion. Maybe, for some of the people that then hilariously insulted damaged children and/or the teachers who believe that this is a fight that can be won through pedagogy and classroom management, you could block them, permanently, for being unprofessional.

Or, you could just save this in the ‘one where the Headteacher thinks I was wrong for asking the question in the first place’ file.