Lesson 54 Survival Skills

Lesson 54  on Collusion

When I got involved in teacher training, I had the chance to go into lots of schools and classrooms. I went into schools where the deputy smelt of drink and others where I was offered tea in bone china cups in the headmaster’s wood-panelled study.

I worked right from the period of “We were very glad to have Jim as a student with us.  He worked hard and helped with the football team.  He will be a credit to the profession”, through to assessment by means of a many paged official document attesting to the level of competence achieved in every possible aspect of “classroom delivery”.

In the bad old days we just phoned round schools we usually worked with to find places for our students. The basic criterion was that the student should be able to get there by public transport within a reasonable time.

As a result some students ended up in what would now be called “challenging” schools. 

One poor student used to come to me every evening in tears. There was one class in particular she could not manage.  Whatever approach she tried, and she had tried a number very diligently, the class played up.  I offered to come in on their worst afternoon slot to see if we could work something out together.

When I went into the class, Miss Student announced that this was the “visitor” she had mentioned.  They looked at me speculatively as I took a seat near the back of the class. They clearly knew all about “visitors”.  People with files and briefcases meant officialdom.  They were bad news.

The lesson began and Miss Student had to hide her astonishment at the way things progressed.  People opened their books and faced the front.  They put on a good show of being attentive.  They put up their hands in response to questions, even when they didn’t know the answer.  The only wonder was how long they could manage to keep this up.

I shouldn’t have underestimated them.  As they laboriously set about their written task, heads bent over their books, one boy in front of me could contain himself no longer. It was almost the end of the lesson.  Turning round to me with a proud grin, he demanded recognition and confirmation.

” We’re being good aren’t we?”

Afterwards Miss Student was speechless.  She couldn’t understand what had happened.  But I knew.  They simply liked her.  They had just been testing her out and having a bit of fun.  The moment it became serious they didn’t want to drop her in it.

And it was all done wordlessly and seamlessly, by a few glances between the usual suspects.  They knew a decent teacher when they came across one, even if she was a bit raw and wet behind the ears.  When it came to fooling somebody with a clipboard, they would unite behind her against the common enemy.