Thursday, February 28, 2008

Back to the drawing board

Following the President's wizard wheeze that I blogged about last time, a working group of educationalists and Shoah historians (i.e. specialists in the field who know what they're talking about) have unanimously rejected the proposal in its present form

Maybe now Sarko will stop telling us how to do our jobs and stick to what he's good at: insulting members of the public.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another bright idea from the President...

Regular readers will remember that last October, the President decided to inject a dose of emotion into history teaching by making teachers read out Guy Môquet's final letter. Now he's decided that ten year olds need to learn about the Shoah by "adopting" one of the 11,000 French jewish children deported to the concentration camps in WWII. Less than a year ago, during the election campaign, he was saying that schools needed to be freer, now he's telling history teachers how to do their job. Not only are the teachers up in arms, but historians and child psychologists too. According the the Education Minister, one in every two high school students haven't heard of the Shoah but I hardly think that this is the best solution. And this isn't the first time that he's announced an initiative before the debate. I wouldn't run a languages department like that, never mind a country.

While collaboration during the Occupation needs to be talked about, it might also be worth pointing out that 75% of France's Jews survived the war, hidden away by ordinary people at great personal risk. How about getting some of them to come into class and talk to the kids? Now that really would personalise history teaching.

An incident (follow up)

I got a note the other day from the mother of the boy I gave lines to. Basically it read "My son apologises but I don't see why he should have to do lines when the girl who insulted him wasn't punished. That's not fair."

My reply: "If he had brought the incident to my attention instead of taking personal revenge, I can assure you that she would have been punished, not your son." In my book you either dish out vigilante justice or go running to the cops, not both.

Teachers have enough trouble maintaining discipline as it is without the parent backing their kids up when they misbehave.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

An incident

In a class of 11-12 year-olds on a Friday afternoon:

Girl: (Screams)
Me: Why did you just scream?
Girl: (Pointing to Boy #1) He just pulled my hair!
Me: Why did you pull her hair?
Boy #1: She insulted my mother!
Me: Why did you insult his mother?
Girl: (Points to Boy #2) He told me to.
Me: If he told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?
Girl: (sobs)

Boy #1 got lines, Boy #2 got 10 minutes sat in the corner, girl had already got her hair pulled so I let her off.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Love hell

My local council has put up pink bunting and set up a PA system to play love songs all day in the street, while local businesses are putting up teddies and heart shaped cushions in their shop windows. I don't want to be churlish, but:
  1. Anybody who's ever really been in love knows that true love isn't pink, fluffy and heart shaped. If I bought Madame le Prof a teddy bear with a heart on to celebrate our love, she would, quite rightly, smother me to death with it.
  2. Anybody on their own probably finds Feb 14th hard enough as it is without the bloody council ramming it down their throats.

Local elections are next month, and as an EU citizen I'm allowed to vote in them. My vote goes to whoever promises to tear down the pink bunting and use it to hang the current mayor from a lamp post. With a pink teddy stuffed up his arse.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I've still got it

Today I saw my note administrative, which is a bit like an annual appraisal - you have a few grades and comments on your work, which you have to say whether you agree with or not. If you don't agree, you argue until you've negotiated something you do agree with, then sign it.

My comments section said something like "This young teacher from England has applied himself with enthusiasm and energy". I suppose I've been getting enthusiastic about giving out lines and have thrown kids out energetically, so I guess it's a fair reflection of my first few months in the job. And it was nice to be called a "young teacher" when I'm in my mid thirties!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Well it never did me any harm...

Real life has been keeping me from blogging, including two weeks of teacher training (during which the kids has no English apart from the homework I gave them - how are they supposed to take the subject seriously when teachers aren't replaced?).

Regular readers will remember how last December I set a new personal best for exclusions, detentions and lines. Today I set a record for fastest exclusion - two minutes before the lesson had even started. But I'd rather do something like that than end up like this poor sod, who is up in court for slapping one of his pupils.

For those of you who can't read French, it seems that the 11-12 year-old pupil insulted his teacher, who snapped and slapped him across the face. Even though he owned up straight away, and recognises he went too far, he spent 24 hours in custody and is up before the judges in March because the kid's father decided to sue. The teacher also admits to "slight" drinking problems; he tested positive for alcohol when arrested, but we don't know if he had a drink before or after the incident. Most commentators agree that it was wrong to hit the pupil, but the reaction is going too far. There's also a certain amount of insinuation that the fact that the father is a policeman has led to the case being taken more seriously by the authorities.

There's been a lot of talk in the staff room, and the general feeling among my colleagues is "there but for the grace of God go I". Though we'd all like to think we'd never hit one of our charges, everyone I've heard recognises that if they might do the same if pushed far enough. I've already seen one colleague reduced to tears (in the staff room afterwards, fortunately) and the general feeling is that while we don't want to bring back the cane and send them down the mines, some kids have a feeling of impunity which is only reinforced by a culture of rights with no corresponding culture of responsibility.

It's interesting that the Education Minister, without actually siding with the teacher, has said that he doesn't want the kid to go unpunished and has pointed out that teachers are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Not that it makes it OK for us to slap the little sods, but who knows, maybe the kid will finally learn that when you insult people, you risk getting hit. If that means he avoids getting his head kicked in when he's old enough to go to bars, some good might come of it. But if he doesn't, he'll get no sympathy from me.

Edit - the teaching union snes have set up an online petition in support of the teacher concerned.