Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Teenagers and self-awareness

Teacher David Buckley, writing in the Guardian's education supplement yesterday, tells the rather sad story of how he visited the Facebook site called 'The Dave Buckley Appreciation Society' and got a bit of a shock. Perhaps we could have done more to warn him.

He found himself described as patronising, disorganised with ill-fitting shirts and coffee stains on his clothes. This appears to have come as a shock to him after thirty five years of teaching.

He's had the site closed down, arguing rightly, that he signed up for scrutiny from a small audience not an international one. Fair point.

My concern is this. How did he fail to notice his standards slipping over thirty five years? What systems were in place to allow that small audience to gently let him know these things. Not for nothing does the old (therefore non-inclusive) bumper sticker say, 'Ask a teenager while he still knows everything.' Anyway, did his peers not notice the stains?

In another piece in the same paper Peter Wilby profiles Ruth Miskin, phonics champion, who says that her choices in later life were limited by teachers not intervening to pull her back when she opted out of learning. Her photo suggests she is not of a very different age to me. I can think of no intervention by a teacher at my school that made, or would have made, the slightest difference to me. At school meaningful contact with teachers outside lessons was non-existent. If bollocked I simple stood through it and waited for it to end, then took no remedial action. I was far more bothered by peer recognition. I learnt in lessons from teachers; not outside.

My own motivation to behaviour correction, discovered after I left school and through a church youth group, was the only thing that worked.

Facebook sites for appreciating teachers may contain demotivating content but the useful parallel, 360 degree feedback, is to be encouraged. If you are working with people, find out how to find out what they think of you.

Read David's piece here and Peter's here.


Ali said...

Please don't start me, please don't start me .... too late!

I think this piece is horrendous. Personal attacks and incidents like this are why good people are leaving the teaching profession, in their droves.

There are, in teaching as in most other jobs, proper structures in place to evaluate the effectiveness of staff, and procedures for correction where appropriate.

'My concern is this. How did he fail to notice his standards slipping over thirty five years?'

My question is this ... who says his standards DID slip?? Where were his exams results or OFSTED reports published that can justify that comment, or do we now judge teachers on the quality of their wardrobes rather than the quality of their teaching outcomes?

Of course, this is all a bit close to the knuckle for me, but rather than hijack your blog completely I think I'll continue my rant over on Workaholic

St said...

I'll pop along and read it.

Simon said...

Its very easy to find out what people think of you, you tell them what you think of them.

Theological question:

Does your spirit contain memories?

If not, how will you know who this bloke with the beard and the strange taste in headgear is?

If it do people with damage to the appropriate part of the brain lose thier memory? Does an Alzheimer sufferer suddenly remember who Jesus is when they die?

Ali said...

Oops, clarification needed!

I don't think YOUR piece is the horrendous piece, I'm referring to the original story as told by Mr Buckley himself.

Sorry Steve, hope no offence was caused by what could have been perceived as unreasonable criticism ;-)

Simon said...


Let me write that last sentence again (dementia setting in already)

If your spirit does contain memory why do people with damage to the appropriate part of the brain lose their memory? Does an Alzheimer sufferer suddenly remember who Jesus is when they die?

St said...

Thanks Ali. I wasn't offended, just felt you disagreed rather vehemently, which was fine. I thought it a good test of our virtual friendship.

Now then Simon, dear Simon, who is this bloke with the beard and strange taste in head gear you're so worried about? And if you are losing your marbles so very rapidly then your interview with the boss may be sooner than you aren't expecting.

Simon said...

I can't remember.

But I do have a vague sense he wasn't in any way flippant about his beliefs and if he had been this human world would be a very different one to the one we have today.

It's just something I feel in my waters. (another sign of old age)