Staffroom saints

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
DATE palms round a desert watering hole. Rheumy-eyed camels nibbling at sweet tufts of grass. This is the classic oasis. But in schools, the teachers' oasis is the staffroom, particularly if there is an aroma of freshly-brewed coffee.

Teachers who relish the time that they spend in that often scruffy sanctuary will yell "hogwash!" when they read that breaktime complaints about pupils' bad behaviour can eventually lower staff morale (see page 9). The staffroom, after all, is the one place that they can let off steam. Far from reducing morale, talking about their problems helps t keep teachers sane at a time when they are working 51 hours a week on average and facing unprecedented scrutiny.

But Chris Watkins, the researcher who believes that some teachers complain too much, almost certainly knows about the staffroom's safety-valve function. His message is not that teachers should keep mum about problem pupils but that they should always try to remain calm, investigate the causes of the bad behaviour and seek solutions rather than simply moan.

Yes, he is expecting a lot of mere mortals. But who said teachers ever fell into that category?

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