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School (some venting about pedagogy and the like)

There is a wind now. Constantly. At work our mood is torn between resolution and despair in between the hope or certainty that things will improve. We are moving within a ridiculous education system which is nothing to do with real learning and everything to do with memorising the necessary irrelevant facts to pass the weekly and periodic tests. It’s not just a cliche to say it is soul destroying to teach in a way that limits perspectives rather than opening them. Everyday we have to compromise something of ourselves and it feels like destruction. I constantly find ways to sneak in real learning but this is difficult when one is criticised for doing group work and any interactive learning. I have to hope the supervisor isn’t listening outside when I’m telling students that their interpretation of this symbol or other in Jane Eire or another of the classics we ‘teach’ is valid, though of course they should write X in the exam. I am supposed to stick to the script, which, by the way, does not allow for interpretation or imagination or creative thinking of any kind, or Jews. Yes, you read it right – Jews.

One class reader I am covering with a class has the word blanked out in every copy with white stickers along with any mention of any catastrophic event that might have involved them. How are you supposed to deal with a situation so politically laden as that?

I have always tried to teach students, in the past, that studying English is the most important subject (in an English language curriculum) in that you learn skills rather than just information: you learn thinking skills. This is not the case here. Thinking is actively discouraged. Teacher centred learning where interactive learning is a no no.

I believe, despite recent experiences, that children and young people are generally lovely. Of course individually this is true. Take a group of 36 teenagers who have everything and know the value of nothing’ (a recent grade ten essay title which students were required to write to a particular formula) and who have been sitting in their same individual rows on their same wooden chairs staring at the same smudged chalkboard for all nine periods of the day after having had home tutors the previous night who coach them on everything they need to pass their exams and who think you work for them directly in the same way as do their maids and their drivers, however, and a person might feel differently. But, they are still young people and we are building relationships with them.

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