Friday, February 02, 2007

Attack the teacher...

A report yesterday highlighted a growing trend in UK schools - pupils attacking schoolteachers, its not new of course, just on the increase, apparently, or maybe its a union wanting to draw attention to something that frankly should be controlled at source by use of the many tools that were available to teachers when ah wor nobbut a lad.

It does shock me to read that 221 teachers were attacked by their own pupils last year and I'm quite prepared to believe a teachers union representative that I heard last night talking of the fact that these were only the reported incidents, you could probably triple that number if you knew of the unreported incidents.

The same union representative (who was also a teacher) went on to discuss how children who attack teachers often have undisciplined, disturbed and disruptive homelifes where violent outbursts are seen as the norm, in other words its often not a pre-planned attack but a violent loss of temper - I can believe that too.

And now, like an old fogey, I shall recount my own experience of school life, just for comparison.

(Sits back in easy chair, crosses legs, put newspaper on floor, picks up pipe, tamps down some new tobacco, lights up, puffs a few clouds of smoke through corner of mouth and gazes wistfully at ceiling before starting)

When ah wor nobbut a lad...

We were fekking terrified of our teachers, especially at grammar school (high school).

They weren't called teachers, they were "masters".
When they walked in a room you shut up and stood up.
If you didn't they could beat you.

When they spoke you listened.
If you spoke when they were speaking they could beat you.
If you spoke without a master inviting you to speak, they could beat you.

In class you sat up straight at your desk, if you didn't they could beat you
In class you did not chew, if you did then they could beat you.
If you didn't do your homework and hand it in on time they could beat you.
If your handwriting was ropey, they could beat you.
If you were just plain useless at their subject then they could beat you.
If you got a bad end of term report the headmaster would beat you.
And when you took the report home your father would beat you.

I spent most my childhood examining some impressive bruises.

But it didn't do me any harm.

Actually at our school they had stopped beating kids by the time I arrived (1968), but only just - just the year before someone has told me that they were beaten by the headmaster for having the temerity to ask him for extra maths tuition as the maths master was not explaining things properly to him.

So instead of beating us the masters had invented ingenious ways to punish us with pain.

Its was the tail end of the trendy sixties and the trendy thing to do as an 11 year old was to grow sideburns, except of course they weren't proper sideburns as we couldn't grow hair on our faces yet, so we let the hair on our head grow down past our ears, and sometimes over our ears, in pretend sideburns - an absolute crime in some of our masters minds and the pretend sideburns became an ideal method of picking up a boy from his chair when he had transgressed some imaginary rule - boy did that hurt.

The blackboard rubber was another favourite punishment tool. A hard wooden slab the size of a housebrick with felt on one side to scrub the chalk off the blackboard, the rubber could be flung from the masters location at the front of the classroom with amazing accuracy at the head of a boy who had trangressed some imaginary rule. Of course if the boy saw it coming he could duck and let some other boy take the brunt of the punishment tool, so the favourite way to administer this weapon was if a boy had turned around to a classmate behind him, presenting the back of his head as a target.

To be honest we always thought that this punishment was as funny as the masters did and if we saw a classmate with his back to the master while the master lined up his shot then we'd never warn them, the blackboard rubber would cartwheel through the air at an impressive speed, shedding chalk dust in its wake and with a very satisfying "clunk" would strike its target plumb in the middle of his crown with an accompanying huge nuclear balloon of white dust which would envelope the victim and be impossible for him to remove so that he'd walk around all day with a white head and white blazer shoulders, to much mirth from his contemporaries.

Did we ever respond ?
Did we ever attack our masters ?
Did our parents ever come to the school and attack our masters ?
Did they hell as like.

If you were picked up by the sideburns or hit by the rubber then you did not dare mention it at home or you'd be "cracked one" by your father, just in case the master didn't hit you hard enough.

Thats what we've lost, a joint strategy of instilling the fear of god into children who do not respect adults enough, and we've lost it because we don't beat them with canes often enough, "spare the rod, spoil the child" is an old victorian saying and educationalists all over this country must be pondering this morning on whether its time to get the rods back out of the cupboards.

PS - I was never beaten as a child, I was a good boy, me.
PPS - The school reports do not bear out the truth of the above statement

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