Friday, January 2

Poor teachers fuelling 'loathing of books'

Just read some excerpts from this story.

Susan Hill, who wrote The Woman in Black, Strange Meeting and I'm the King of the Castle, told how she has been flooded with "desperate" emails from pupils struggling to understand her novels. Miss Hill said that the demands of mixed ability teaching meant pupils at the "bottom of the heap" failed to understand books while the very brightest were no longer pushed.

She said "rudeness and even abuse" were common among emails. Many failed to reread or check spelling before sending messages, teenagers often used informal phrasing and many addressed her as "Sue". "I don't require deference, just friendly politeness. But it is not their fault," she said. "They have not been taught. Manners are not automatic, like breathing. Nor is grammar. I suppose I could correct the spelling and grammar errors, but if I did so, replying to their desperate emails would take me twice as long."

Miss Hill said students wrote asking her to complete coursework and provide information in bullet-point form that teenagers could "cut and paste" into essays. She told how she refused to write an essay for one pupil, only to be met with the reply: "Why not?" Another wrote saying: "But you've got to know the answer, you wrote the ----ing book didn't you?"

"It has become distressingly clear to me that too many school pupils are taught badly, lazily, unintelligently and cursorily," she said.

"They are not taught how to read and understand novels or to write essays and coursework and answer questions about them. Judging by the evidence of their emails, many should not be studying English literature at all, but with guidance, understanding and above all enthusiastic teaching they could certainly be helped to get more out of books - any books - than they are."

Now, let me relate a story about my own son. He hates English literature. On being asked why? He simply always points to rotten teachers who do not speak to him with good intentions or even with skill. What do kids of his age like? They like fantasy, computer games, PE, football and the like. So the books they would like to read would relate to science fiction, adventure and the classics as well. But when their responses are like the following:

"Hi Sue, I'm doing your book, we have to read it and just wanna say it's the most boring crap book I ever read, so thanks a lot for ruining my life. Cheers."

"Hi Susan, we're doing your book, I've gotta do coursework only I don't understand about context, what is it, and I don't no any other gothic writers and we've got to compare you, what's gothic anyway. Pleeeeze reply asap."

"Hi. I've got this essay to do for tomoz, it's about I'm the king of the castle and does the setting play an important part in the story. Can you reply tonight and do it in bullet points so I can copy and paste it straight in. thanks you're a star in advance, cheers..."

"Hi, we have to do this essay on context with your book, and cultural context so what are those please, please explain carefully, I don't get it."

When the student has not learnt, the teacher has not taught. And no, you cannot blame the parents in this case, we make sure that he reads and loves reading. Will teachers get the passion to teach? To Sir with Love? Or will political correctness destroy the lower ability kids and kill with boredom the kids with higher abilities? Yes it will, lord help this education system...No wonder the teaching unions do not want to be paid by performance, who would wish that, eh? after all, the other way is better, no?

Think about it, Goldman Sachs, a premier Investment Bank, fires 10% of its people for underperformance every year. Without fail. So lets say that we do ascribe the crime of under expectations to the teaching profession (which is shameful anyway, the teaching profession should be highest) and say 1/10 of the standards is something to ascribe to. Does the education system in the country remove 1% of its teachers for underperformance every year? Or even 0.1%? no, lets ask the teaching unions and the ministers for schools (those idiots). And they have no answer and I refuse to believe that every teacher is so amazing that there is no failures/underperformance.

Look at the annual report, objective 3, Achieve world class standards in education

  • In September 2007 a new programme, Every Child a Writer, was launched which will provide intensive support for writing in primary schools. The Department is working with a group of local authorities to develop pilots, beginning in September 2008, that will include one-to-one coaching
  • Commissioned Sir Jim Rose to conduct a root and branch review of the primary curriculum. He will issue an interim report in October 2008 and is due to report his final recommendations by the end of March 2009.
    Publication of the revised secondary curriculum in July 2007.
  • Announced the expansion of the Young, Gifted and Talented programme, run by the CfBT Education Trust; and appointed a new champion for the Young, Gifted and Talented programme, John Stannard.
  • Announced a new strategy to educate the next generation of scientists and mathematicians which includes resources for teacher recruitment and retention, continuing professional development and science and engineering clubs.
  • Continued to provide support for the on-going development of extended schools so that they enable access to services for pupils, families and the local community including childcare, parenting and family support.
  • Launched new guidelines to ensure effective and early action is taken to improve weak and failing schools in May 2007

Is there anything that says here which gives you confidence that underperforming teachers will be addressed? No. All this pap means that it will simply be swept under the carpet and authors/parents will be sighing and moaning that their kids are not learning about reading literature.

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