Moral tales from the Big Brother house

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
As I predicted, getting down to academic work in the first few weeks of my sabbatical has not been easy. It is difficult to concentrate. Most of all it has been difficult to work in isolation. I have always been one of those people who can multi-task and carry on several conversations at once. It can be irritating to those who don't feel they are getting my full attention. However, I find silence seriously distracting.

Therefore, I have been working on my laptop and watching television at the same time. This is not something we should advise our students to do, but it works for me. This habit stems from my youth when I lived with my mother and siblings in a very small flat in East London where there was little privacy and the telly was always on. I simply adapted to my environment. I thought I would share some of my thoughts on daytime TV with you. It was either that or the White Paper and I just cannot muster up the energy to go through it all again, particularly as the Prime Minister is not listening.

Daytime TV consists mainly of a variety of very old crime series, Jerry Springer-style chat shows, lifestyle programmes and, of course, Celebrity Big Brother. It was easy to disregard the old crime series as I saw many of them first time around. The Jerry Springer experience was just too depressing as most of them involve children who are subject to DNA testing to find out who their father is, and the lifestyle shows are now more about major reconstruction surgery than sensible eating and exercise. But I got hooked on Celebrity Big Brother. It was fascinating to watch. To ease my guilt at watching such piffle I decided to make a note of the things I learned so that I can pass the moral tales on to the pupils back at school.

It is bound to make good assembly material.

1. I am glad I never started smoking. The desperation of the smokers in the CBB house when supplies of cigarettes were low was fierce. Grown adults turned on each other and betrayed their friends, just to ensure they knew where the next fag was coming from. George Galloway, in a rare moment of sanity, told some of the house members that Nelson Mandela, when faced with life sentences, told the ANC leaders that they were to become non-smokers.

This way, the prison guards would have one less weapon to beat them with.

Sound advice.

2. Despite the small number of people in only three rooms, people still get their wires crossed. Chinese whispers reigned supreme in the CBB house.

People who were best of friends one minute were hurling abuse at each other the next. The vicious nature of this backbiting, particularly from some of the elder housemates, was painful to watch.

3. The younger people in the CBB house proved to be much better role models than their older companions. Chantelle (the non-celebrity Essex girl) complained about a fellow housemate who had no manners. She said: "It means a lot to hear please and thank you and only takes a moment to say." Let's hope her words hit home to our sometimes surly adolescents.

4. I have always known that bullying is not something that just exists in schools. The older generation (in the CBB house) tried to make bullying acceptable by wrapping insults in big words. Shame on you, George Galloway! A little respect would have gone a long way.

Finally, I learned that the bigger your ego, the further you have to fall.

If anyone comes up with an idea for a headteachers' version of Big Brother and I think of volunteering - just shoot me!

Kenny Frederick is head of George Green's school in Tower Hamlets. She is currently on sabbatical and working on her MBA dissertation

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