After allowing myself to let go a little and not ‘burden’ myself with the task of writing a blog every day I feel a little freer. Over the last few days I still think about what I might write about but don”t have the pressure of forcing myself to actually write every day. Anyway, after yesterday’s events and thoughts from my reading I’m happily tapping away now.
So yesterday I resumed my watercolour painting after a 3 week hiatus. I wanted to do something about our Budapest trip that also develops my highlighting skills so I took photos I’d taken of the two tea pots we had tea from in a lovely tea house we discovered, like no-one else had ever been to this place, you pompous middle class Westerner. I did the terracotta one yesterday with ‘typical’ highlights which I think I did quite well, except their positioning was a little haphazard. I’ve convinced myself that I’m not trying for photographic reproduction but more abstract representation! Next week I’ll do the other tea pot and try creating more of a ‘gleam’ effect. Gay, the teacher, keeps telling me I’m a ‘natural’, which is flattering but I can’t quite believe.
So then on to school to say goodbye to my class. The classroom is set out as we typically do for our parties, most of the students say hello and some bombard me with questions, I answer them all as best I can. The classroom was still recognisable as the one I was nominally in charge of but already there were changes and subtle differences which I’d obviously not been part of. This is as it should be and I felt OK with it, time waits for no man and it won’t wait for me. Faisal keeps asking me questions like ‘what is a condom’, ‘what is a whore’ and ‘how can I build a time machine’, I will miss all this apparently random behaviour but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that this ‘autistic behaviour’ has meaning for each individual and it is beholden on us ‘neurotypicals’ to respect this, to try and understand and even enter their world a little before we even begin to think about how we best work with them.
They put on a recorder recital, dance to music (even Jason), have some arm-wrestling, give me a very thoughtful collection of laminated goodbye cards, not so little Albert asks again which operating system I’ve got, James gets ever closer to me until they’re gone, back to their respective houses and I’m no longer their teacher. I didn’t feel sad yesterday as being in their midst it didn’t feel so, writing this now I do feel sad and I will miss them and the staff I’ve worked with, especially Jo.
But will I miss being a teacher? After saying goodbye to the students I went to the chapel which is used for many things and this time for a ‘meeting’ of staff with the still relatively new director of education for a questions and answer session about working at the school and for the company. It is good to see people I’ve not seen for a while, I sit there thinking this is the last time I’ll be in this position as a part of the school, will I miss it? There is also the realisation that I’ve overdone things, that I’m tired and I doze off a couple of times. Many say how good I look, makes me partly think that maybe I should be back at work but my fatigue tells me otherwise. I look at my legs and think how thin they’ve become. I am a different person.
The discussion is almost entirely about working conditions: pay (or lack of it), disrespect of the company directorate towards it’s schools and those who work in them, structural changes that increase pressures within the classroom and the like. Some teaching assistants talk eloquently and passionately, it’s so clear how much they feel about working within the school, how committed they are to the students but feel abused by the company. Probably a scenario recognised by so many nowadays. The director and head talk of changes and how things will improve. How, for example, they will revert to monthly salaries and no longer have the weekly time sheets that the company introduced and in doing so massively increased bureaucracy and staff resentment. There was admission that this had been a disaster on so many levels. But curiously the financial bosses refused to allow the use of the term ‘salary’ for the payment of care workers, teaching assistants and others who had been subjected to the disastrous changes. I made one brief comment about having a teaching assistant on the board of directors. Fat chance while the kleptos are ‘in charge’.
It saddened me. All the directorate of the company had achieved was increasing anger and alienation of their staff. I just thought I’ve experienced this many times in various guises over my teaching career as schools and education, like other public services, have been run increasingly like corporations and increasing bureaucratisation. It brings back a memory of a conference I went to many years ago about the introduction of something the government called LMS, the local management of schools, or in other words individual schools having to do a lot of the boring bureaucratic bollocks previously done by local education authorities. There was a presentation by two heads about what this meant in practice, they were very pleased with their presentation. The first question from the ‘floor’ was: “are you government tools or government fools?”. The two heads slunk small in their chairs. So no, I felt I would not miss this BB about teaching.
I wanted to ask about whether the education director had thought or there were any plans to think about how and what we taught. As the company expresses it’s corporate aim to be a ‘brand leader’ then one might think that teaching innovation might be considered. As I contemplated this I stared out of the window at the porcine flyers being buffeted in the high winds. No, I think that there will be little beyond tweaking assessment yet more to ‘evidence pupil progression’ or some such management bollockspeak to mirror back to ofsted what they want. So, sadly, there is much that I will not miss about modern teaching except true teaching itself.
Hey, Monbiot used the term ‘klepto remuneration’ today, has he been reading me?
Keep on keeping on, love Duncan.