Author: Frank Chalk
This is going to be a rant more than a review so if you’re looking for something with a little more structure and eloquence, I’d go somewhere else.
This “book” is one man’s experiences of teaching in one of Britain’s lower-performing comprehensive schools. What is supposed to be a “blackly humourous diary of his working life” is in fact a real look at one of the reasons our education system has gotten so bad.
Now, I’ll give “Mr. Chalk” credit where credit is due. I know this profession is frustrating – I’m a teacher. We are overworked and underpaid & get zero respect. The British school system is a joke and most of our state schools are way underfunded. As a result, we do often need a good whinge. That’s why I (very generously) awarded 1 star to “Mr. Chalk.”
What doesn’t help to combat these problems is when teachers just give up and start thinking that they’re above their profession.
I’ll give you some examples of the problems I had with Mr. Chalk’s attitude:
“Stella (it’s amazing how many kids are named after alcoholic drinks) …
Kat (seriously, that’s what her parents called her) scrunches up her label…”
You know when a celebrity names their kid something unusual like Apple or Dweezil or North West and people are like, “That kid’s going to be picked on in school!”?
No. Most kids don’t realise a name is unusual unless they hear an adult mention it. That adult should never be a teacher. Unless the teacher’s a right prick.
“If there’s one thing I can’t cope with it’s crying kids.”
Then, for the love of God, why did you decide to work with kids? Who is this man and, on a scale of 1-10, how dense is he?
“Do judge by appearance. It has become an article of faith in our politically correct world that you should never judge a book by its cover. This is completely wrong. … You can spot them a mile off, whatever anyone says. Earrings, tattoos and outlandish hairstyles mean only on thing: sit them at the front, on their own, before they’ve even had a chance to muck about.”
Words fail me.
“Know your enemy. With a new class, always get the troublemakers’ names off another teacher, with descriptions.”
If you expect trouble, you’re going to get trouble. If you treat a kid like they’re a troublemaker before they’ve even done anything, they’re going to see that you expect the worst of them and play up to it.
“Affect an accent that is posher than the pupils’ (Not difficult). This will worry them because you are obviously ‘Not From Round Here.’ As most will never venture more than half a mile from the Cherry Tree Estate (once a fortnight to sign on, plus Court appearances or burglary outings) they find this quite disturbing.”
You can expect this classist attitude from Mr Chalk throughout the whole book – I checked.
“…and Tracey applying makeup to her hideous face.”
This is a teacher talking about a child. A child.
“(I must add that after 15 minutes I still haven’t spoken a word to any of them – I’m a great believer in non-verbal communication.)”
Fifteen minutes into the class, the teacher has written all the work (including answers) on the board and not said a word to the class. Not a single word. He hasn’t greeted them as he’s walked into class and he hasn’t looked at them. Instead, he’s smugly not bothered to acknowledge them as human beings. And then he wonders why the academic scores for the school are so low.
I mentioned at the beginning of this review that this book is in fact a real look at one of the reasons our education system has gotten so bad. It shows that there are too many teachers like him who think they are too good for working class comprehensive schools.
Teachers don’t become teachers for the money. They do it because they love helping people and they want to share their knowledge about a subject that means a lot to them. Of course, in an ideal world, every student would be just as excited and interested in the subject as you. But that’s not reality. Your job demands that you find a way to make the subject interesting; You have to change how you deliver your lesson so that every student, no matter their ability, understands and follows what you are saying.
When teachers just give up and adopt an attitude of “Well, these kids are never going to amount to anything anyway”, it’s time for you to find a change of career. How do you expect a student to believe in his/herself if their own teacher doesn’t?
Mr. Chalk is a disgrace to the profession. You want to read a book about a teacher who has never-ending faith in even her lowest performing students? Read Dangerous Minds by LouAnne Johnson. That is a teacher who never gave up.
I didn’t even get a quarter of a way through Chalk’s book before DNF-ing. I’m done with this tool.