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Down, and he should be out

Elliot's ability to manage behaviour, never his strongest suit, has suddenly dissolved. He is now at the heart of a rapidly expanding pocket of chaos. From being a teacher in control of his class, he has become powerless, a hapless victim.

His marriage has fallen apart. Ours is a small community and everyone knows. The details of an acrimonious break-up have entered the mythology of the school.

But from his students there is no sympathy. They sense a weakness and exploit it ruthlessly. They have turned upon him. Perhaps, with someone else, they might show more understanding. But Elliot has never been popular. Now it is open season.

The children's expectations have changed. Where before they had tolerated him and his body odour, now they openly taunt him. There is no other purpose in his lessons. They rush to school to see him suffer. The artifice of his classroom presence has been truly dismantled.

Now we have children out of control, arguing, fighting, and Elliot suddenly impotent. Events started in his classroom are now spilling out into the street. Children's reputations and progress have been jeopardised, some have been excluded, parents called to the school, and valuable time consumed in endless meetings. It is not because behaviour has suddenly got worse. It is because Elliot cannot do it anymore.

Elliot now dominates our days. The forces of unreason have taken over.

Arguments at the far end of the building have their genesis in his classroom. Elliot is suddenly our most important member of staff because what he does dominates every aspect of our day.

We have an obligation to support and we have tried to exercise this in many ways. We have monitored his classroom, removed troublemakers, given him time off school. Yet he will not confront the fact that he is shot to pieces.

Can he ever restore his battered reputation? A new generation is in school which knows nothing other than that he is now easy meat. Elliot is no longer a teacher, he is entertainment.

What he needs is a fresh start. But our reputations go before us, and they are fragile - like gunfighters, everything depends upon our last performance. Eventually we all lose.

We must all be ready to accept, when the time comes, that we are not what we once were. And then we must have the courage to realise that this is the time to go.

Ian Roe is a teacher in north Wales

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