Dirty little secrets

5th April 2013 at 01:00

Everyone has a dirty secret. Even that nice Mr Rochester had a big, fat, hairy pyromaniac skeleton in the back of his Victorian closet. It wasn't entirely his fault. If only his first wife had popped into town for a threading, a hairbrush and a Brazilian she might have kept Jane Eyre at bay. In real life, too, we have our own Berthas. Sometimes they fester away quietly out of sight. At other times they rise up noisily from their graves, waving ancient speeding tickets and baying for our blood.

The zeitgeist demands that we all show and tell our secrets, and recently the public airing of dirty laundry has become a mainstay of primetime television. Whether we're covering up stained beds with mattress protectors or camouflaging strained marriages with kinky sex, we all divulge our innermost secrets to The Hotel Inspector, The Sex Inspectors and good old Jeremy Kyle. It's impossible to switch channels without bumping into Brian from Barnsley who's too embarrassed to visit his GP but will happily whip out his bifurcated penis for 5 million viewers to see.

But in schools the urge to confide confidentialities hasn't fully caught on. We still like to keep our naughty secrets to ourselves. Even in an outstanding school like mine, we have characters that we hide away because if they came into the open we'd lose our Michelin stars - the kind of students who make the Bash Street Kids look like the Woodcraft Folk. They are so unmanageable we never put them on display. When the principal tours with prospective parents, they're tucked out of sight in case their scruffy uniforms and accents give the impression that we're too working class.

It's not that they're violent or anything, they just don't follow school rules. They either treat your classroom like an extension of the dinner hall - producing crisps out of their blazer pockets like a magician pulling out scarves - or sit surreptitiously filming your backside from the least complimentary angle. Managing their antisocial behaviour takes all your skill.

My own Achilles heel is Charlotte. She's my tattoo-eyebrowed, false-eyelashed Moriarty. She arrives late every lesson clutching a deputy head's report that she slaps on my desk like she's challenging me to a duel. It's supposed to keep her in check, but as a behaviour management tool it's on a par with feeding Kalms to a polar bear after you've pinched its fish. Within seconds she starts on the SEN kid in specs. "What ya lookin' at?" she demands when the unfortunate cast in his eye skews a glance in her direction. He responds by staring fixedly at the floor. "Oi, boggle eyes, look at me when I'm talkin' to ya." He glances at me for help, but I'm too busy trying to intercept a Nike bag that's being flung around the room.

I look around. Half the girls are applying foundation while the lads are forming mauls. From here it doesn't feel like outstanding; nobody is making progress - they're simply making a mess.

Classes like these are our dirty little secrets. We'll share videos of our exemplary teaching but these lessons are kept under wraps. In terms of good reflective practice, it would make more sense to reveal what goes on in our most Embarrassing Classrooms than to upload yet more self-congratulatory footage of differentiated challenge, rapid progression and 30 kids waving their hands in the air like a bunch of synchronised swimmers. Alternatively, we can keep these things hidden in the dark and hope the bad kids never find the matches.

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

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