Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Groucho and Me

I thought it might be humble pie time because ‘Teacher’s TV’ e-mailed back to say they’d be putting my article on ‘Stress’ on their web site, they promised to “get back to me”, those fatal words, a week on and I’ve heard nothing. I don’t know anyone that actually watches ‘Teacher’s TV’ certainly not the programmes on stress, the main five programmes attracted 12 votes and 0 comments.

One thing writing my book and this blog has taught me is just how difficult it is to get your voice heard – by anyone.

I approached the Teacher Support Network, the charity that helps and advises teachers with problems at work. Back came a gushing e-mail and a promise to offer my book as a prize in one of their on-line surveys… a few days later another e-mail, 'Er, I’ve consulted with the bosses, they don’t want to upset the sponsors, we’ll get back to you.' They never did. Strange that, I thought TSN got most of their money from teachers not sponsorship. In a fit of pique I cancelled my subscription.

It probably just confirmed my views on charities, not that I’m trying to attack the motives of people who donate. It’s just that charities are very good at presenting individuals as grateful supplicants or helpless victims, but as soon as they speak out or worse still organise together, the charities are nowhere to be seen, they don’t want to upset the sponsors.

I tried that fearless ‘voice of the teachers’ the General Teaching Council, but no they didn’t want to carry any articles by teachers in their boring, colourless magazine because they wouldn’t be ‘objective’. The GTC does have a discussion forum on its web site, since its inception in 2000 it has attracted 853 comments (current forums non existent), the TES forums had 3,773 comments in 24 hours.

The Socialist Teachers Alliance is the main left grouping in the NUT. I sent a piece in to them, heard nothing, tried again, heard nothing. After moaning and complaining they put a piece up. When my book was published I sent in a second piece, heard nothing, tried again, heard nothing, this time I just cancelled my direct debit.

As you’ve probably gathered by now I’m a bit of a contrarian, a fully paid up member of the awkward squad, I probably subscribe to Groucho Marx’s theory that he would refuse to belong to any organisation that would have him as a member.

It’s quite scary the way that discussion, debate and certainly dissent has been closed down. In response you either get sullen acquiescence from teachers, denial or displacement activities – teachers rattle on for ages about dirty cups in the staff room but just ignore the larger issues.

There’s always plenty of “consultation” whenever councils want to trash education. They hold meetings, pretend to listen, look interested and write down everything that people say. But you know that even if 99% of opinion is against they will bin everything, do it, and if anyone asks them, they did “consult”. Their favourite phrase is, “I hear what you say”.

Most of my early blogs were just my articles from the TES (the one organisation that is willing to print “controversial” comments). I’ve tried to write about life at school but also the wider issues. There are some great “resources” blogs out there, but surely when Unicef says our children are miserable you’ve got to go beyond the cheapest laminating paper and day glow stickers. Or maybe resources are another displacement activity.

At times you feel like a lone voice ranting away in the wilderness of cyber space then someone stretches out the hand of friendship, so thanks to David Osler the writer of the award winning blog Dave’s Part for mentioning ‘How Not To Teach’.

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"I hear what you say" should always be understood to include the unspoken second clause "but I don't give a fuck".
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