What keeps me awake at night - Forced to churn out drones to get results

30th August 2013 at 01:00

There are now more reasons not to teach than ever before. Forget about growing student disruption, paperwork and regulation - substantial disillusionment is hitting those who care about real standards and inspiring children.

Despite school leaders crowing about ever-better grades being a sign of students' hard work, the reality is the opposite. In the drive for higher grades, teachers are now doing much of the work for their students. It's particularly bad in the teaching of languages.

Today's teaching is no longer aimed at proper learning in the classroom. Exercise books are filled with help sheets, crowding out any genuine study of grammar and syntax, all in preparation for assessments. Model essays are handed out and, with a little bit of tweaking, a student has all the information they need. In some situations, a teacher is actually there giving direct translations.

Hence, the real knowledge of supposedly top students is woeful. Top-set students at the age of 16 are still making mistakes in conjugating present tenses. The equivalent would be not being able to do simple multiplication or addition and still getting high grades in mathematics.

I am a supply teacher and occasionally encounter excellent work by students, only to be disappointed when they grin and say, "Miss did it for me". In oral assessments, I tell students they could get better results if they put some feeling into it, but they reply that they have no idea what the words they are reading mean. It has got so bad that children tell me French is boring because it is all rote learning.

As a modern foreign languages teacher who is passionate about my subject, I find it distressing to go into schools and see all this. Languages are still so crucial in education and yet they are being dumbed down and manipulated in order to achieve higher grades. If I went back to teaching full time, would I be allowed to inspire young minds or would I be forced to churn out drones who are encouraged to idle their way through the system and get rewarded for it? I would hope for the former but I expect the latter would be closer to the truth.

The writer is a modern foreign languages teacher based in London.

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