TEACHER ON THE RUN: True Tales of Classroom Chaos

13 May 2006
The Times and The Sunday Times

Teachers in the state sector, many would agree, are troopers, Trojans. Undervalued and underpaid, they have almost no strictures on their charges and little support from parents, the state or its politicians. Impotent, they face the anarchy and hedonism of our times on the front line. Gilbert teaches English in a London comprehensive. With this sequel to I’m a Teacher, Get Me Out of Here, he sends more dispatches from what is fast becoming a forgotten war.

He writes well, with a droll sense of humour. We have to laugh, or else we would cry, at the waste he chronicles, at a blighted generation, at political correctness and at educational policy gone mad. “You should never utter a negative comment about the children during your professional dialogue with your clients’ care-givers,” he is advised before a parents’ evening.

Here are the temporary buildings, the bureaucracy, the parents who don’t care and the pupils who “don’t fink nuffink”. But for those like Gilbert who do, blessedly, persevere, there are practical tips. Be especially wary of lessons after lunch. “Children’s behaviour is far, far worse after they have consumed . . . the average meal in your average comprehensive.” There are rewarding moments, if only a few, such as meetings with pedagogical poets. Gilbert sets out the problems with clarity and verve. If he turns to the solutions, it will be a book worth volumes of government directives.

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