Yesterday I overheard a conversation which bugged me. Two teachers were discussing how pupils from a specific family were often condemned by association with the eldest sibling, long before the children started school – tarred by the same brush. Slow learning eldest sibling, slow learners expected to follow. Disruptive eldest sibling, disruptive followers…All cut from the same cloth….etc These two teachers were saying how wrong that attitude was and how unfair on these unsuspecting future pupils.
I agree with that.
As I moved behind them in the coffee queue they shook their heads at the injustice of it all and then eyed up the muffins before declaring that they SO earned it after their day with the Looked After Child from hell. Impossible to work with. Never going to achieve anything. Doomed.
Now quite apart from the unprofessional, confidential nature of the subject I objected to the bias against this child. As the teachers strolled out with their lattes and muffins I was baffled by the incongruent nature of their thinking. How could it be that they understood and upheld the principles of justice for their first ‘client group’ yet not the second?
Surely, each of those children deserves the right to the concept of potential? Surely every child deserves to be seen as a human being and not a category? For me, our duty is to enable everyone to be the best they can be. I’ve taught my share of challenging children and know how exhausting they can be but I remain resolutely committed to them and their potential. They NEED us more than most. We would not blame a puppy which snapped after someone trod on its paw so why curse the child who has been damaged or hurt? No matter how hard it is, we are the adults, we are the professionals, we must search for the potential that is hidden away in those pain–filled walls. If we chip away from the outside , we help them claw their way out from within.
Here’s a poem chipped out from just such walls:
one stone dropping in a well
hot smoke rolling round your mouth, choking your throat
sour milk on everything
jaggy nettles in your bed
no-one on the swings
What are you going to do about the LAC of potential in your school?
I’m from and still reside in a traditionally working-class town; it has shaped me and given me – what I truly believe – is an outlook on life that values education, is respectful of all and has imbued an incandescent desire and motivation to excel – encouraging others to do so too.
In the past (prior to teaching, and whilst in a highly lucrative profession) I had to ‘sign on’ for six months: fret about the mortgage, watch my food bills, volunteering for every possible avenue that would lead to re-employment. Many teachers – I believe – cannot empathise with this: school -> uni -> school.
And I do NOT promote a political point here: the poor response to the EIS ballot evinces a certain aloofness within a middle-class profession that often appears as hermetically-sealed from the real world: broken homes, poverty and exclusion. The very children who are often the most challenging are from the families who sometimes contribute the most, and inhabit the very worlds where blood and sweat – quite literally, historically – maintain the very society that provides us with one of the most important and fragile professions to which I find myself continually humbled and grateful to be a part of.