Lesson 31 The Staffroom Terrorist

Lesson 31 on Power Politics

I learnt a great deal from the bad institutions I worked in.

Both pupils and teachers had to observe carefully how things operated in order to survive. The key thing you had to discover was who actually ran the school.  

You might think this must be the head, but this was not necessarily so.  Sometimes it was the deputy, the school secretary, even the caretaker, but in bad schools it was most often the staffroom terrorist. 

This would be a cynical, long-standing member of staff, who usually occupied the corner chair with a commanding view of the staff common room.  Heaven help any unsuspecting new teacher who sat in that chair or, horror of horrors, used the wrong mug for their coffee.  Mr/Mrs Terrorist mercilessly exercised their authority over the staff through ridicule, by assiduously fostering discontent and ensuring any proposed change failed by means of sabotage.

They had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  You could get away with a lot of things in a bad school. It could be a very comfortable billet.  There wasn’t much marking for a start. The last thing a staffroom terrorist wanted was any change for the better.

The power struggle between a new head and the terrorist could go on for years.  Whatever grievances had been held against the previous head, as soon as a new headteacher took command, his predecessor was remembered as an angel of light.

When my granddaughter was considering teaching as a career, she asked my opinion.

“Don’t think about it in terms of the children,” I advised. “It’s the adults you need to worry about!”


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