Follow the thread

18th February 2005 at 00:00
Bill Hicks takes a weekly look at the hot topics in the TES chatrooms

You don't have to be George Orwell to know that governments love pilfering the best words in the language, sucking the life and meaning out of them, then spraying them back at us so often and in such bizarre contexts that we start to think this is what they really mean.

So thanks, user1951, for the thread you started in the Opinion forum last week on the subject of the Government's proposed new Excellent Teacher scheme.

Poor old "excellence" is the latest in a long line of verbal victims. There it sits in the DfES dungeons, right next to "embedded", and there's no chance of parole, now that it has been yoked to the teachers' pay structure.

I was right there with user1951 when he opened his discussion with this:

"Who is so far up themselves that they want to be called an 'excellent teacher'? Do they get a badge or a T-shirt? Do the rest of us have to make their coffee for them?"

I was still there as he argued that "excellent" could come to mean "obedient":"Teachers who are individual, who break the rules, who care more about pupils than about paperwork, will never get enough brownie points to be 'excellent'."

Gandalf chipped in with a moderate line: "I think I strive to do an excellent job most of the time in conditions that are probably against anyone doing an excellent job..."

Then came the counterblasts. From Jamie S: "Some teachers are better than others. Some are a lot better. Face it. It is good that these people are finally being rewarded."

And slieber 24 (an American ): "Reading this conversation simply confirms the impression I have of Britain - that success is considered to be the ultimate negative."

The problem, surely, is that excellence should be so good that it's off the scale of measurable achievement levels and, by definition, rare. Hats off, then , to Lilyofthefield, who offered: "I'm excellent sometimes. Is there a sliding scale?" While Sandgrounder wondered where the borderline was "between being excellent and being rather good".

A Rather Good Teacher. How does that sound? Like a Mr Kipling cakes ad, that's how. Well, there's always fireblade's suggestion: "Am I excellent? Doubt it. But then, I have a life. I'm a 'good enough' teacher - and that's good enough for me..."

Good enough for me too, fireblade, but watch out Ofsted doesn't hear about it. You wouldn't want to be thought of as satisfactory, because we all know what that means, don't we?

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website.

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