School Experience Days

Korea, Over and Out!

Last week I returned from Korea with the job up and running. At least from my side of things. Despite this I have become persona non grata with the company that employed me. My “crime”? Getting the job done ahead of schedule it seems. More on this later however…

One reason I wanted to get back to the UK is that I had (kind of) planned to spend the week in a local school. It was, dare I say it; educational.

Career Changer

I have been looking at the possibility of a complete career change and the chosen path could not be more different from what I have been used to for the past 30 odd years. Teaching.

I can still recall how certain topics of my ‘O’ Level Physics course had inspired me to go into engineering. Surely, I thought, I could inspire kids to follow a similar path after their schooling?

There are also selfish reasons of course – aren’t there always? If I become a teacher it means that I can have the same holidays as Dani. It means I could even try for a job in one of the so called “international schools” in Madrid which all teach through the medium of English. (Apparently, they prefer someone with a British teaching qualification – Post Graduate Certificate of Education or PGCE. That remains to be seen.)

The long path to Teaching begins here…

It is a complicated process and there are many hurdles to cross. For me the first one was completing the “school experience days”. You need to complete 10 days in school(s) observing – and when possible assisting – the science classes. Finding out if this is something you genuinely believe you can do. It is compulsory and the colleges will not allow you to apply for the one year teacher training course (PGCE) unless you have completed these experience days. The theory being (I guess) that if this is really not for you then after two or three such days you will probably know it. You will probably not bother completing the rest of the required days. On the other hand, if you still think it is the right career for you then you will happily complete the rest of your experience days and move on with your application.

This works both ways. First of all, it should tell a person who is honest with themselves whether or not this is something that they really want. It also means that the colleges are not wasting valuable time and resource (i.e. money) on a person who is not 100% sure they can or even want to do it.  After that first week of school I can tell you that I saw nothing to put me off. I still think I can do it and I still want to do it.

What’s in a Name?

I often hear it said how children today grow up or mature faster than when we were in school. How much more aware they are at an earlier age etc… Well; if ever there was an example of how kids today are definitely slower than when I was in school it is this little tale…

I soon discovered that within the school database each child is registered not only with their given name but also with their preferred name. This means they can be called whatever they want. Incredible right? Even more incredible is that the school (i.e. the teachers) are obliged to call them by that name. Seriously! They have to use that ‘preferred’ name.

There were only a few examples of this that I came across. A few preferring to be called what seemed more like a nickname or alternative (real?) name. There was also one gender identity related name change – something like a boy called Robert preferring to be known as Natasha (not the real names).

I will not name the school but it hardly matters. It is my understanding that this is now official policy in all state run schools in the UK. I could not believe how this system has not been totally abused by the kids. Where were these smart-arse street-wise kids? Where are the jokers? The class clowns? Have they really become so dumbed down?

Oh what fun WE would have had….

If you are of a certain age then this will be easy to understand. Cast your mind back to school. Imagine the headmaster announcing in morning assembly (the usual start to every day back then) that pupils can now be referred to by their chosen and preferred names.

Myself and everyone I hung out with would have looked at each other with eyes widening. Grins growing into huge smiles until we could barely stifle the laughter. And then, after assembly, the fun would really begin….

“Right. I am going to be Ozzy Osborne”
“I will be Floyd. Pink Floyd”
“OK. I will be Johnny Rotten.”

“I ‘m Batman and you can be Robin.”

“I can’t decide if I want to be Bruce Lee or Jimi Hendrix.”
“Steve is already gonna be Hendrix so you will have to be Bruce Lee.”

“You can be Cassius Clay. But if you want to change your name again later to something like Muhammad Ali then that’s fine. And there will be nothing to stop you doing that cos it’s already been done.”

“Excuse me Sir. I am Darth Vader and this is my friend Chewbacca.” (Laughter)

The possibilities are endless. The scope for schoolboy pranks enormous. A school kid’s dream. We would have got it immediately. And yet, right here, right now, they just don’t seem to be able to see it. It’s right there in front of their noses. An ideal opportunity to completely take the piss and they are not doing it. “Why?” you may ask. Are they really that well behaved now? Clearly this is not the case from some of the other things I heard last week.

No: I honestly believe it is because they are so used to being pandered to like this. It is all part of the ‘new normal’ for these kids. They have come to expect this sort of thing too easily and in so doing they now more or less ignore it. It is as if they have been so over indulged that it has killed part of their sense of fun. That mischievous gene – once present in most school kids – is on the verge of extinction. That is only my take on it; but whatever the reason, it isn’t good.

A Typical Day in Class?

“Ziggy Stardust! What are you doing?”
“Sir. Bob Marley and Tina Turner are throwing things at me.”

Then – and this has to be the best one – a blonde girl (probably Marilyn Monroe) enters class with a message from the Head.

“Sir. The Headmaster wants to see Spartacus.”

Then, right on cue…

“I’m Spartacus.”
“I’m Spartacus.”
“No. I’m Spartacus.”

And so on…

That little social experiment would not have lasted a single day.

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