I know so far my posts about teaching have been mainly amusing and/or heartwarming stories about kids, but I think right now I need a rant.
I've so far been back to the Primary Referral Unit (PRU) where I started out three times, and I've got to know it and enjoy teaching there, but some of the things you see and hear damn near break your heart, and make me so angry I need to vent.
Like the kids who are probably bright enough to get As in their GCSE science, but at best are only going to get a C-D grade because they can only be put in for the bottom tier exams because of gaps in their subject knowledge caused by being bounced around through the school system.
Or the teacher confiding in a colleague how sick it makes her feel that, to one kid, she reminds him of his mother who abused him. And how worried she is that this boy is going to go through his life hating and mistrusting women but there's nothing she can do about it.
Or the kids who aren't shy to let you know that they know this is the dumping ground for them.
Or (in a different PRU) the kids who tell you that they feel like they're in prison.
Or the way that the aim of these centres is to get kids back into mainstream education... but the fact that they get excluded from mainstream schools, then bounced back to a PRU which feeds them back into ME which kicks them back to the PRU just feels like a cycle of rejection for the kids, and it seems almost inevitable that they'll get institutionalised by the system.
Or the one kid who confessed to me and her teacher that she used to be the kind of girl who never imagined she'd touch drugs, but for the last year and a half she's spent every weekend stoned out of her mind on amphetamines. And she knows every come-down is worse than the last, but she gets so depressed, and she can't see a future for herself, and she needs something to make her feel good sometimes. She's fifteen. She's not the only one in that school who self medicates like that.
Or the kids who, when you ask them if they want to try putting some herbs in the cottage pie you're teaching them to make, automatically assume you mean Marijuana.
They shout, they swear, they bully, they're violent, but they can be capable of such acts of compassion - yesterday one of them offered to let me have the last caramel in a box of chocolates, even though they're her favourites as well, and later on was mentoring a new kid and showing him round, helping him settle in. They're good kids, they've just been ignored and beat-down so much that they act out because they can't find a way out of the terrible situations they find themselves in.
But what makes it worse is that I can't see a way out for them. Best case scenario, we manage to get them through their exams - most of them can't get top grades because they can't be put in for the top tiers. But even if they could, they couldn't afford to go to university. And when even graduates are finding it hard to get jobs these days, the chances they'll find work at the end of it all are slim. The chances of them finding good work are almost nil. The truth is, PRUs are dumping grounds. And no matter how much we teachers kid ourselves, we're treading water here. Yes, we teach them life-skills, like Home Ec. and basic maths and literacy. Maybe that'll be enough for them to get by. But how the hell do you get kids to aim high, have self esteem and ambitions when you know what's waiting for them outside the school gates? How can they plan for the future when they know they haven't got one?
They deserve better than this.