Workload agreement has become eBay time

11th January 2008 at 00:00
Teachers who have been provided with laptops to monitor attendance are increasingly surfing the net in school time. The good teachers seek out new lesson material and I applaud that.

The internet, the world's biggest library, has entered the classroom. And what better way is there of finding new resources and giving an edge to that tired old lesson?

Through their own innate curiosity, teachers use the resource to inspire their pupils and aid learning. And yet we find we have a problem. After a monitoring exercise, it seems that this valuable resource has become nothing more than a tool for online shopping and checking eBay. And it seems those teachers who have made the greatest fuss about the sanctity of their preparation and assessment (PPA) time are most likely to use the extra hours - not to improve the quality of their lessons but to go shopping.

This is a difficult practice to defend. Please don't tell me it is a release valve for the stress they are under. I just don't buy it.

They whine about workload, marking and assessment and about the things that have always been an essential part of the job. But we can't make these things go away - it is what we all signed up to the profession for. They complain about the pressures of the job and then order their groceries or research wedding dresses in school time. Oh yes, that has happened.

I have no problem with staff using the internet. It is there to be used and explored. And yes, that includes the opportunities for endless shopping. But it depresses me that some colleagues can't find anything more creative to do with it and don't appear to give a damn.

The real issue is the sense of freedom the internet gives. It is seductive and deceptive because the machine, and the connections, belong to someone else. I have had to speak to a couple of staff about it and they have been outraged. They have been horrified that someone has checked on them. But they have been so absorbed with having the world inside their classroom that they have become private surfers during lessons.

The teachers believe they can make their own choices and it cannot be questioned. There is always a reason why they are chasing something on that website.

But leave the laptop on, turn your back, and some oaf in Year 10 has logged you on to something wildly unsuitable. Get out of that one. Everything we have logged on to can be traced so we have to be sensible. We have to remember what our job is about.

There are standards which don't change, no matter what opportunities technology gives us. We need to show some professional strength and a belief in learning and knowledge. And that means that spending a PPA lesson trawling through eBay just isn't on.

John Sutton is a psuedonym. He teaches in North Wales.

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