10th November 2000 at 00:00
IN our comprehensive some of the younger teachers do their best to relate to the teenage

culture. They adopt something like the local accent, touching a kid's new trainers and saying "cool, man", even

occasionally using really coarse expressions.

I know they mean well and often they are the most conscientious

teachers, but I find it irritating. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned and feel that teachers should be objects of respect and keep some dignity. Is it any of our business as governors


I HAVE come across a few teachers around the country who very naturally slip into the popular idiom, ones not far from their own school days, and these are often highly successful with the students: their closeness is real but they know the boundaries and don't say anything that a young adult wouldn't say in informal contact. These are also teachers who would not tolerate any speech or action which was unpleasant or coarse, and the students know this.

I'm afraid I've come across more like the ones you have in mind, who put on this actto gain acceptance in the students' world. Often the idiom is just that bit out-of-date, or comes over as false. The students may privately ridicule it, be confused, or take advantage. Often they are uneasy because they don't know where they stand with the teacher concerned and have a horrible suspicion that he or she will suddenly change tunes if they respond too well to the matey approach.

I would say on the whole that it is not governors' business, not directly anyway. The head is the person to set standards of teacher styles and behaviour, and a wise one can accommodate many styles within a culture of mutual respect. He or she is also the one to "have a word" if someone's style is unsuitable. It's the sort of thing a chair with a really close relationship with the head could mention informally.

Your best influence as governors is through the aims and ethos of the school, where you can cover relationships between adults and students and how a mutually respecting culture is created: ideally this will be reflected in the staff code.

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