Anything That We Want Them to be

It might be my memories of reading Graham Greene novels, Brighton Rock springs to mind, but I have this image of nineteen forties Britain where young boys left school to enter the world of work and immediately began to dress like their dads. Proper suits, nice shoes, possibly even a fine trilby, sir. Safer times, happier times. Thank god we have moved on from that. Your spotty youth of today might have a hairy fit at the thought of sharing their dad’s wardrobe these days. Those baggy jeans; that checked shirt. Shudder. A relic from the past in more ways than one. Or is it?

I watched Junior Apprentice the other night with my mouth agape; my God, they were dressing like their rich parents. The pin stripe is back, the pearls, the swagger. These kids were acting more like the adult apprentices than the adult apprentices; and it wasn’t comfortable viewing. In fact, here’s a challenge. Watch it on iplayer after reading this and turn the sound down. Ready? Okay. Now imagine the soundtrack to Bugsy Malone playing over it. Does it fit? Course it does. Surallan is creating a race of menchildren and ladychildren. And unlike the cheeky wee scamps down at Fat Sam’s this lot are really scary. It’s Enterprise Education gone bad.

Enterprise education has rightly become a central focus of the Scottish Curriculum and there are some wonderful examples from all over the country. Pupils organising themselves into small businesses, developing problem–solving skills and working in environments which help promote positive learning experiences. Transferable skills which are truly preparing them for the world of work. These things have been happening in our primary schools for ages and the secondary schools are only now catching up. But it is happening. With not a pinstripe suit in sight.

Of course, the ideals of enterprise are exactly what we want for our students if they are to become ‘successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society and at work, with a clear understanding of their roles in the world.’ But the Alan Sugar/ Apprentice version of the future should not be dismissed as TV fluff. These ‘kids’ are modelling themselves on their adult equivalents like the kids of the forties but without the wheeling and dealing. Like the X-Factor, there is a really damaging lesson being taught. That money is the only judge of success. Those who make the least get fired and that disguises any entrepreneurial spirit the competition may engender.

Perhaps I’m taking it all too seriously. Perhaps not. I’ve nothing specifically against Alan Sugar but if we set him up as a role model for our children then it needs to be for the right reasons. Dressing them up in adult clothes is risible. Humiliating those who don’t fit and don’t help to make the most money is worse; especially when they could be the best at being good guys.

Teachmeet – yes, there was a point…

Another Teachmeet down the line and I’ve survived to tell the tale. As always, the evening was great fun and I met some amazing people throughout the night. However, the whole experience becomes such a blur, you forget all the great things you want to say and go home questioning whether you really got your point across. Well I did any way. This is what I had hoped to say:

Let me tell you a story. There are two cars, speeding through the countryside, not a care in the world. The drivers – one woman, one man – are carefree, happy with their lot, ignoring all speeding rules or even looking in their mirrors. They come to a small village and are unknowingly heading towards each other, not even thinking about slowing down. As they fly round a corner, missing each other by inches, the woman driving one of the cars screams, ‘Pig!’ through her window.  The man driving the other car screams back, ‘Cow!’ as he flies round the corner and crashes into a pig.

Now I’m not too sure what that story means or where I heard it but, if any of you have read my blog you’ll know that I’ve never been one to shy away from a tortured educational metaphor, so here goes.

Until about a year ago, just over, I wouldn’t have recognised a blog if it came up to me in the street. Then, they introduced a Writing Folio at Higher English. I started a blog because I was getting into Twitter and reading about and hearing about what some great English teachers were doing. Blogging seemed to be the way forward for writing and I wanted to make writing more real to the students, provide them with real writing and a real audience. What happened was amazing. They started sharing, commenting on each others’ work, encouraging and supporting each other. As a result, we had superb class morale and they went on to do really well in Higher English. Since then, Twitter and Blogging have changed and probably saved my career.

But getting back to the two cars. Perhaps the moral is that the times when we don’t think we need to listen are when we really need to listen even more. We should be listening to each other and helping and encouraging each other more. Teaching as you know is an isolated profession at times and it is only when we listen and do something about what we hear that we are made to feel a part of it.

And that, I think, is really the root of Pedagoo Friday. A bizarrely simple idea which opens wee windows into other people’s classrooms. (copyright @carolinebreyley ) Pedagoo Friday on Twitter asks educators to share one great thing that happened in their class that week. Every week. And we need more of that, every week – a wee space to share great things and to appreciate that we are all pretty special people to be doing this job every day.  When I suggested a sort of school based Teachmeet a colleague said to me that she didn’t think she did anything great in the class, which is a tragedy. If she really doesn’t maybe she shouldn’t be a teacher any more but the reality is she probably has never been told she’s any good or never had the voice to do so. Small simple ideas like Pedagoo Friday might help change that.

If not, there could be a hell of a lot of dead pigs on the road…

End of tortured educational metaphor. Perhaps I should have thought more carefully about the ending…