Thank God It's Friday

Mary Carmichael

Monday After 15 years of highs and lows teaching in the mainstream, I am joining a pupil referral unit. Today it's Inset. I meet fellow staff and try to acclimatise to the prison-like building. The staff have the haggard, hyperactive look of prison guards. A consultant recommends that we try praise and making our lessons interesting. I am determined to give it a go.

Tuesday The first pupils arrive, in a uniform of shell suits (boys) and huge gold earrings and crop tops (girls). They play pool and drink goo from plastic cartons. They are oblivious to us.

Wednesday A sad day for my carefully prepared, "interesting" lessons.

Starter activities consist of persuading students to enter the class and stay there. A pale, school-phobic girl sits outside the main office refusing to come anywhere near the teaching areas. I know how she feels.

Thursday I teach Romeo and Juliet to Zoe and Josh. Josh's psychiatrist has given up on him, as has his mum, but he attends every day. He is a spotty, lanky lad who moves constantly around the room, writing his name on any blank surface, including the sleeve of my shirt. Zoe has suffered two horrendous bereavements and a string of failed care placements. She cannot bear the idea of death and repeatedly hits the TV screen as we watch a video of Baz Luhrmann's version of the play. As Zoe collapses weeping on a desk, a response to the many death scenes, the head arrives to ask her to remove her earrings.

Friday Katie, who at 14 calls herself "jailbait" and has a history of inappropriate relationships with older men, spends the lesson trying to log on to internet dating sites and smashes a window when asked to log off.

Next, PSHE with Dale, who has a form of teacher induced Tourette's syndrome, which involves answering questions with "Shut up, lesbians." He is teamed with Rob, whose vocabulary is apparently limited to "Fuck off".

Together they become a foul-mouthed Punch and Judy show.

Later, I read of the discipline crisis in schools. PRUs, it seems, are the way forward.

Mary Carmichael lives in the north of England. She writes under a pseudonym

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Mary Carmichael

Latest stories

Teaching remotely

11 annoying moments from remote learning

The move to teaching remotely hasn’t been easy for school staff, but at least it has been memorable. Here are some of your tricky moments from the front line of lockdown learning this week
Joshua Lowe 16 Jan 2021
Covid

Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 15/1

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives
Tes Reporter 15 Jan 2021