"english teacher going mad"

The state of education across the world

"english teacher going mad"

Postby Elliott » 05 Apr 2013, 21:59

Here is a video of a teacher in a British sixth form college, presumably somewhere in inner London. Its being a sixth form college means that the kids are there by choice, yet they are clearly just a bunch of insolent layabouts who have been testing the teacher for ages.

The teacher is probably a Guardian reader, but he strikes me as very dedicated to his students (it's the right word; they're 16 or 17) and simply frustrated that they are such boneheads. One of them filmed him trying to reason with them, and thoughtfully uploaded the video to Youtube, giving it the caption:

nigel sends out 1 girl then nearly cries trying to tell us all off!!

The uploader also put annotations over the video which mock the teacher as he speaks.

The reassuring thing is that most of the comments beneath the video are in support of the teacher. I especially liked this comment:

ThePhan7em wrote:God I wish I could go back and tell myself you work harder, and I wasn't even that bad. Its so funny how disrespectful some foreign kids are, they know they can get away with shit here because the british are way too tolerant. Back home some of those girls would have been lucky to even set foot in a school.

That comment is referring not just to the black girls but a Muslim girl, who (if I understand her mumbling correctly) says the teacher is "patronising" them.

What a disaster when a bunch of Third World immigrant know-nothings can say that a (extremely) well-spoken Englishman employed to teach them is "patronising" them! What else do they expect? That he should pretend their culture is equal to his? That he should pretend to respect rap, voodoo and FGM? Through a series of utopian mistakes, these kids have been gifted with civilisation and haven't even the sense to be grateful for it.
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Re: "english teacher going mad"

Postby Gavin » 05 Apr 2013, 23:53

I felt very sorry for the teacher there. I suppose he is on a "journey of discovery" and, I hope, we might find him on this forum some time.

He probably wasn't strict enough, though. He shouldn't have to reason with or appeal to these people. The saddest - and most disastrous - thing by far is that he probably will not receive the support of his bosses.

I have a very civilised and cultivated French aunt (actually just a very long-term friend of the family) who must be despairing about the state of France now. I have almost pointed her to this forum actually, as she speaks and reads English far better than most English people do today. She was a comprehensive school teacher in France so saw it all degrade over the last 30 years as classrooms held more and more Moroccan and Algerian Muslims. She's a really nice person with a great sense of humour, but she told me the way she works it at school is to have a very strict persona. She was known as the strict one, the one who wouldn't give an inch. They had to work in her class. They probably got better results in her class too.

A friend of her family - almost like a younger version of her - came over to the UK for a year as she also admired classic English literature much more than most English do and wished to teach the language. She spent a year at a school in Liverpool where she could hardly understand what the students were saying (which is probably just as well). She has not, to my knowledge, returned to the UK since.
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Re: "english teacher going mad"

Postby Caleb » 06 Apr 2013, 03:40

Gavin: It may or may not be a matter of him being strict enough or not strict enough. You don't know what transpired between the scenes there. For instance, I could almost guarantee that the girl who was ejected from his class would have returned to his class the very next lesson and probably been ejected again. If not her, then someone else. As much as it annoys him, that teacher probably understands at some level that he has to cede fifteen minutes each lesson to idiocy.

I taught at one school in London for more than half a year. I exclusively taught students in the final two years of school. We had our own separate building. The students in my final year classes were fairly good (I say fairly because they were still slightly slack with manners at times, and generally slack with their work). The students in the year below them were simply awful though. It got to the point where one or two boys actually took it as an honour to be ejected from class. With one boy, I reached the absurd situation where one lesson, he started to chat and I began to talk to him. He said, "Should I leave?" and he was gone within the first twenty seconds. That's how we began each lesson. It was a ritual that never failed to elicit hoots of laughter from his classmates. Yet what should I have done? Kept him there to totally dominate the class with his idiocy? Yet by leaving he then became someone else's problem. I tried to address these issues a number of times and at best there would be a one lesson improvement before things went back to normal.

My superiors were not only unhelpful, they were part of the problem. Beside one of my classrooms there was a common room. Students (from the year below) would always come in five to ten minutes before the end of my lesson (it was right before recess or lunch). I don't know the reasons for that. Some students did take classes at another school, but it was always really difficult to pin down who should have been where. Maybe they'd been kicked out of their classes. There didn't seem to be a clear way that the school dealt with such students and the higher level teachers weren't always in their offices to deal with students, so the students would inevitably gravitate to the common room. At best they would talk loudly. At worst, they would actually play music on a radio. One day, I'd had enough of trying to reason with them and I went next door and confiscated the radio. Ten minutes later, the coordinator arrived and asked me to return the radio and give them one more chance. It was by no means the first battle I had lost. At that point, any shred of remaining authority I had disappeared completely. It was also extremely frustrating to the students in my final year classes and on one occasion one of them went next door and launched into the other students with some fairly choice words. Of course, I would never have been able to do so.

So, maybe that teacher in the video had already fought, and lost, many, many battles regarding those students and his hands were tied long ago. It's actually a really horrible working environment and I think it's really psychologically damaging. The whole time you're in survival mode and on the back foot. It's really easy to lose your cool and say inappropriate things, and then it's a game of gotcha, which the kids just love. They're just waiting to see you break down or say the slightest thing to them so they (or their parents) can report you. You can't say the slightest thing even, such as them being lazy. So you either end up tacitly surrendering authority in your classes and lowering your expectations in order to lessen your stress (so you don't lose your cool) or you put yourself on the line all the time, with predictably bad results in how you react both externally and internally.

As for the French situation, this movie seems fairly indicative of many French schools from what I've heard around the traps. The suburbs of Paris sound like they're no different from those of London. I suspect the same is true of those of Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid, Stockholm, etc. it's just that no one has made films about those places. It's also worth noting that in my experiences in London, the white kids were pretty much as bad as the foreign kids. Britons, Jamaicans, Turks, Pakistanis...they were all the same in those schools. It's not just a foreign thing.

At a number of the schools I taught at in London they had French, Spanish or German girls teaching their languages there. From what I could gather they weren't actually teachers (because they needed me in the classroom for legal reasons), but were simply young ladies (perhaps no older than 22) who had been recruited for a year. They probably set out from Barcelona or Munich with high hopes, romantic notions of Shakespeare and all the rest of it, plus hoping they could improve their English and maybe save a little money. They were literally fed to the wolves and completely out of their depth. I would go in and try to drop fire as much as I could and take the pressure off them, but it was still a losing battle. One Spanish girl expressed her exasperation to me at the end of one lesson. I told her that probably the only advantages I had over her were that I was male, taller, and older. It really was a case of being the biggest, ugliest baboon on the savannah. There was no reason involved. It was pure law of the jungle, and even that only worked with students up to about the age of thirteen or fourteen (sometimes).

Like me, I doubt many of those girls returned home with good things to say about Britain. Teaching in London really ruined the UK for me. Other things did too, such as general daily interactions. I had friends I had known in Australia who went there. They didn't work in education and they moved in different circles. They couldn't understand where I came from with my attitudes towards the UK. That I experienced a place that had so much to offer in other ways so negatively is one of my greatest regrets to this day. I'm someone who, when he travels, likes to get right into things and go out and see all sorts of stuff, and yet I saw hardly anything in the UK. I was so traumatised by the whole experience of working there that I mostly hid away by myself, read a lot, and saved my money so that I could see other countries extensively.
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