The Behaviour Police, and other spirits

28th December 2013 at 14:05

There's a special constable who has done more to calm riots, running battles, and public disorder than any other. Yet he never gets mentioned in the papers or commended for his trouble. I was first introduced to him years ago by a school police liaison, who reassured me that violence was unlikely at a forthcoming clash between the English Defence League and the Anti-Fascist party. 'It'll be fine,' he said, pointing at the weather. 'Weather man says PC Cloud's on duty Saturday.' And as the angels wept on racist and egalitarian alike that day, I found he was right. PC Cloud sent everyone home, wet and disheartened, with barely a yahoo.


I've noticed that other professions have their own abstract incarnations. Some of them are paternal and helpful, like the Russian army's invisible but invincible ally, General Winter, who shrugged off Hitler and Napoleon without blinking -- some also salute General Mud in this arena. Some are modern nuisances, like Doctor Google, the GP's worst nightmare, drowning anxious amateurs in a deluge of unqualified facts and quackery. 'Oh Christ,' one of my friends in the profession would say, 'Another m*ron who went to Doctor Google before me.'


So what do we teachers have? Are there any invisible avatars of our profession, grinding our gears or pissing on our chips? I think there are.


The Homework Fairy


This happy elf works, as all elves do, at night, when children are asleep. You can see their little foot and fingerprints all over work that comes back, mounted on A2 card, laminated, spellchecked and lovely. It also bears no resemblance to the work they do in class, their handwriting, and when you ask them what it means they look at you like rabbits. But that's why it's magic. Another magical thing about the Homework Fairy is that he likes to visit the houses of people in the upper tax brackets, and children with ambitious parents who have unresolved issues about their own academic success.


See also: the Coursework Elves.


The school of life 

Hogwarts for people who didn't get into Hogwarts. Testifying that you attended this august and mythical institution implies a wealth of real learning and wisdom that cannot be obtained in more conventional, existent contexts. It's a kind of precursor to the home schooling movement, without the home, or the school bit. With no progress indicators, policies, governance or funding agreements, this school is ripe for a bursting by Ofsted, as soon as it figures out where the front door is.


The school of life is also more recently a proxy-indicator of one's ability to comment authoritatively in the education debate. Before, one had to be a member of the Parliament of Trees, hroom, hroom. Now the Secret Garden isn't a secret anymore. Now, mere attendance of any school at all confers the right to examine, diagnose and prescribe remedies for the pathologies of the classroom. Something we are reminded about constantly whenever one opens a newspaper, reads a letters column, or reads an academic paper on how best to teach. School of life, innit?



The Behaviour Police


These patrol the corridors of every school, silent, relentless, dealing with all bad behaviour as it occurs, anticipating every problem and often neutralising it before it even coalesces. Whenever a senior staff member imagines that it's not his or her duty to design or run effective behaviour policies in schools, or expects classroom teachers to be the first and last line of defence against bad behaviour, they're counting on the Behaviour Police to deal with it all for them. Whenever a teacher chucks a kid out into the corridor for the whole lesson and then does b*gger all afterwards, they're counting on the Behaviour Police to pick them up.


In that respect, the Behaviour Police are like a task force of Santa Clauses: no one has ever seen them, grown-ups don't believe in them and, more importantly, they don't come for naughty kids.


See also: The Behaviour Inquisition, because generally people don't expect them to come even when you send a flare up for one.


The Bogey Inspectors


When new teachers gather around the bonfires of their assessment portfolios, grizzled veterans of the Great Curriculum Wars of the 21st century will wither their confidence with a warning: the Bogey Inspectors will get them if they're not Good, at least. All teaching will have to conform to bizarre rites and rituals, as it is written in the Dead Pedagogues Scrolls. No one knows why these acts are required, what impact they have, or where they came from, only that they must happen. In that respect, they're not unlike Kosher dietary rules, or Deuteronomic prohibitions against wearing wool and cotton in the same garment. The best thing about the Bogey inspectors is that you don't even have to have seen one to be scared of them.


I'm sure I've missed many more. Please feel free to add any suggestions below the line, where the Wild Things are.