Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In praise of the staffroom cynic

There's been a lot said recently about so-called "staffroom cynics", mostly by Peter (where's my baseball bat when I need it) Peacock, the hairy Scottish Education Minister, who's come over all tough and rough - in a pre-election year, jings, who'd have thunked it? - regarding poor teachers. As in, not very good ones. Pistol-packin' Pete is clear on the matter: it's the end of the line for these varmints, dagnabbit!

Well, there's many points I could make here. For one, any "rubbish" teachers will quickly be replaced before you can say "How Good Is My Toilet Roll" by any number of och-aye-you'll-do newly qualified teachers pouring hurriedly out of our esteemed colleges of education. And they'll all be fabby, right?

But what's getting my goat - and not just Pete's natty goatee either - is that he's having a go at staffroom cynicism. You know the sort: teachers who insist on asking questions about new initiatives in education, rather than hurrying off to buy some new highlighters so they can pretend they've read the latest policy document. Hey, Pete, that's all that keeps some poor beggars going, mate!

Don't get me wrong, there are teachers who are, for whatever reason, no longer up to the job, and this is a real problem. But, there's also any number of really good teachers who long to get on with the job free from the political kick-around which passes for educational policy these days. Yes, they are cynical at a great many "new initiatives", and often with good reason. For one thing, they've seen how today's brave new idea gets a kicking from HMIE a few years down the line when fashions change; for another, they've seen careers made on piles of keech and a fancy cv; but most of all, maybe - just maybe - they know a steaming pile of poo for what it is. If it looks like it, and smells like it... and worse, if someone somewhere is making a pile of cash out of running consultancies offering self-help schucksterism and join-the-dots psychobabble, your average staffroom cynic knows that somewhere down the line, they'll be picking up the pieces.

So, for once, let's hear it for the staffroom cynic. You know the one: the one that's first in the door in the morning, gets on well with the kids, drags them through exams, stays after school for hours on end to help them with their work or to take part in after-school activities, BUT who thinks that QIO is a BBC2 comedy quiz show with Stephen Fry and loses the will to live when asked to fill out a self-evaluation form. How dare they.

And you know what, Captain Peacock? They weren't born this way. There was a time when they weren't cynics. So, what made them this way?

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