Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The yoof of today...?

What has been in the air the past couple of days? Working in an all boys school is lively at the best of times but since the beginning of the week something has gotten into them. At lesson changeover, it has been impossible to take more than 10 paces along the corridor without tripping over boys wrestling with each other. I have lost count of the number of seasoned teachers who have verbalised the desire to pack it all in and do something less stressful. The mess above was left in a classroom after lunchtime registration. Three tables were completely upturned. This was done by the Year 10 form, a largely pleasant and amiable bunch spoiled by a small group with mildly thuggish tendencies. Unable to find any pastoral staff at that moment (our school is quite big - roughly 1500) and with a class outside waiting to get started, I took this photo on my phone for evidence. This picture may surprise those who haven't been into a secondary school since their own school days, 20, 30 or perhaps even just 10 years ago. Is this an accurate reflection of schools/young people in the UK in 2007? I don't know, I have only this to go on. I know it stands in stark contrast to my own experience of school as a pupil in the 1970s. It is not uncommon for boys to drop litter on the floor and when challenged about it, say "No, that's what cleaners are for." It is even less unusual for the polite request of a teacher to be met with a blatant refusal. I remember hearing a supply teacher address the class she was taking (and she was a very good teacher) "I know I don't deserve your respect but I hope I can earn it". This differs somewhat from my own view. I have always felt that everyone I meet starts with a credit in the respect account. Whether that credit grows or diminishes depends on subsequent experience. The saddest thing is that my own reflections lead me to believe that my own generation is to blame, wanting to give our children the things that we never had and in so doing creating self-obssessed, shallow individuals who are oblivious to the fact that anything worth having is probably worth waiting for and that everybody should be valued irrespective of the role that they have in society. We seem to live in an age when nothing less than instant gratification will do.
I'm sorry if this sounds rather negative. Let me redress the balance somewhat. When you feel terribly let down by youngsters, it is usually -no, it is always their peers who redeem the situation. It's the chirpy little individual who doesn't know the value of his "hiya Miss". It is the vast, vast majority who, though some may need their rough edges smoothing out a bit, win the day and will grow up to be fine citizens. You always have to keep that basic fact in mind.

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