The dark side of the whiteboard - I'm a legend to Year 10

13th August 2010 at 01:00

I like being a teacher. People admire us. We are, after all, the warriors responsible for advancing civilisation and counter-signing other people's passport application forms. Teaching is a reputable profession and so much nobler than my previous career in sales. Whenever I declare that I am a teacher I am met with warm smiles and admiring glances, where previously the words "Hi, I'm an arts marketing manager" earned me the icy stares usually reserved for Germans, convicted paedophiles and queue-jumpers.

Most of us have become teachers to make a difference. We are on a mission to save - if not the world - at least some of the children who inhabit it. But our main difficulty is that we can't agree on the best way. Some of us believe salvation lies in effective data management. These magic number gurus spend their time slaving over spreadsheets and spreading their gospel to the rest of us through motivational books such as Seven Bits of Data to Change Your Life; Love Your Child's NC Level Within and that Haynes Manual of assessment crisis management: When Grade Boundaries Change, Change Everything. Others prefer the power of the acronym; first among these is UK training organisation T2T (Teacher to Teacher), which promotes such elliptical co-operative learning strategies as Pies (positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation and simultaneous interaction). Other irritating abbreviations are P4C (Philosophy for Children) and that stalwart A4L (Assessment for Learning). If you work in a school where management have SFB (shit for brains), you probably waste time on these.

This summer I have begun my own high-risk, high-reward teaching methodology, "the white knuckle classroom (WKC): teaching with the gloves off." Following on from Yeats' view that education is a fire waiting to be lit, my version chucks on the paraffin and strikes the match. The WKC has been shaped by my learning experiences. At university, my ability to concentrate was enhanced after I was ejected from my comfort zone. I was never more attentive than in a second-year Shakespeare tutorial when my lecturer slipped me a sherry, stroked my thigh and suggested we continue our session in a nude mixed sauna in Shepherd's Bush. After that I was as alert as a meerkat.

The WKC does not advocate lechery as a means of engagement. Instead, it promotes adrenaline-fuelled activities to keep kids receptive. I know it works because there's a Facebook group, "Ms Thrope is Legend", which proves it. It was created by some Year 10 lads earlier this year. I asked them to make collages to explore John Agard's poem "Half Caste", using a box of old magazines which I had not bothered to check. The result was a shocking gallery of androgynous torsos: voluptuous breasts grafted onto hairy testes and pink, wilting penises. I'm not sure Agard would have approved, but the kids were so pleased with their interpretations that they photographed them and posted them on the internet for the rest of the world to see.

I hope to introduce WKC to colleagues in September. But come the first windy afternoon with Year 9, the likelihood is we'll be more keen on saving our sanity and our vertical blinds than our civilisation.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.

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