30 years ago

24th February 2006 at 00:00
They were not "the good old days", teacher-novelist William McIlvanney wrote in a regular TES Scotland column (February 27, 1976): The voice of the veteran lamenting the past and saying he's had enough of the present, I first heard during my teaching practice. It belonged to a nice man who was due to retire, and he couldn't wait for the chance to do nothing, he said. He was fervid for apathy.

I suppose I came in (to teaching) near the tail-end of the old dispensation. A lot of teachers were still practising the time-honoured crafts, burying Sir John Moore at Corunna and wandering lonely as a cloud.

But new ideas, some in wild clothing, were already massing on the horizon like the hordes of Genghis Khan.

The classroom is no longer the closed place it was. It's become a crossroads full of heavy traffic, the destination of much of which the teacher can't imagine.

The comparative isolation teachers used to enjoy was a dangerous thing, not least for the pupils. The most self-indulgent pedagogical absurdities abounded. Quite a few classrooms doubled as trauma factories.

That is why I find it hard to regret the good old days: they may have been good for teachers, but not for pupils. That is why I prefer the present, less complacent atmosphere of staffrooms to what some of my friends and I experienced as student teachers . . . (there was) an atmosphere of stale self-satisfaction in which any new idea would die from lack of oxygen.

Schoolteaching is a profession more fraught with tensions than it used to be . . . It seems to me right that those pressures should afflict the teachers more than the pupils. At least we get paid for trying to cope with them.

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