Snowballing: harmless fun or a vicious menace?

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Snowballing: harmless fun or a vicious menace? Bill Hicks ducks as the debate rages

Last week, it snowed in parts of the UK, and the Education Bill was published. This week saw the start of Fairtrade fortnight. It's quite difficult to find flesh-coloured bodystockings that are not intended for pornographic use.

There's no particular link between these four observations, beyond the fact that all were discussed energetically in the TES staffroom.

Weighing the relative merits of these threads, I'm plumping for snow. In particular, a debate which broke out in the Behaviour forum after a teacher reported: "When a colleague and I got out of our cars at school this morning a mob of about 50 pupils bombarded us with snowballs. This incident left me feeling angry and disappointed all day."

This teacher had been shaken by an event which, in other circumstances, might have been taken for good old-fashioned high spirits. K76 elaborated:

"Oh dear, think of it from their point of view. They would have meant it lightheartedly and not as a personal attack. They wouldn't be able to see it from your point of view. Don't let it get you down."

Tottyann suggested that it might even have been a compliment: "We used to throw snowballs at our teachers - but only the ones we thought were cool."

Then teachur cranked up the debate: "Really, come on, if they were aggressive, fair enough. But these are children, who are excited by the snow. If this had happened to me... I would have joined in the fun and thrown back. What is it with some teachers and their weird obsession with inhuman, dog-training obedience from children

Coolasacucumber took a cooler point of view: "It is partly the excitement but it can be maliciousness covered with a thin veil of 'fun' too."

The opening poster, however, had been stung by teachur's comments and lashed back: "No doubt if you have children this type of behaviour is acceptable??"

Teachur responded in kind, and in no time we had a shouting match; yes, they happen, even in the Behaviour forum. Teachur: "OK, I am responsible for 'the way the world is'. What is that 'way'? And why am I responsible? Sorry, people 'like me'I

Realitychecker arrived, blowing his playground whistle: "The kids behaved irresponsibly, and you and your colleague should formally report the incident and cite those individuals so that examples can be made of their inappropriate behaviour."

Given his yellow card, teachur feigned penitence: "Must remind brain... do not express an opinion in quick type... otherwise I am open to personally abusive replies."

And so it went on, one of thousands of heated exchanges in the forum that week, and one which you felt might have been better settled by a swift exchange of snowballs at dawn.

I haven't left myself much time to talk about the thread announcing the arrival of CleanSlate, "the UK's first Fairtrade and Organic School Uniform Company", offering "the most ethically produced schoolwear possible".

First, the fanfare. Then the Opinion forum response: "Are you cheaper than Primark?" (Lilyofthefield).

And no time at all to investigate the quest for flesh-coloured bodystockings. Pity.

Follow these threads at

* Personal: Gay teachers

* Behaviour: Is teaching no longer a respectable profession?

* Inspection: No Ofsted in 10-year career

* Early years: Alphabetical foodutensils

* Opinion: Teachers smoking

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website

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