Research Paper Identify and discuss professional issues in education evident in a film or a piece of young people’s literature in which a teacher plays a fairly cental role. This essay will critically analyse the discourses, positions and relationships, as well as certain individuals habitus’ (after Bourdieu and Wac quant, 1992, cited in Gale & Densmore, 2000), which influence the classroom of Mark Thackeray (Sidney Potier) in the film To Sir with Love (Clavell, 1966).
Via this analysis, I argue that the film portrays a simplistic, commercial palatable rather than a realistic image of the challenges of teaching, leading the viewer to a distorted perception of the implications of the various discourses employed. In order to clarify this point, I compare several incidents depicted in the film, with the same incidents as they are described in the autobiographical book by E. R.
Braithwaite (Braithwaite, 1959), upon which the film is based. In doing so, I will evaluate the pedagogy of the films teacher (Thackeray) against the standards set for graduates and teachers respectively by the Queensland Board of Teacher Registration (hereafter BTR) and Education Queensland (hereafter EQ).
Identifying the faulty conclusions which an uncritical viewing of the film may lead to, with regard to the availability of equal opportunity and social justice, I will make specific recommendations for reconstructed teaching practice, drawing on literature on social justice and democratic schooling. The film To Sir, with Love (hereafter ‘the film’), centres around three interlinked individualist assumptions: that social and economic advancement is sure if one tries hard enough (meritocracy), that race and class are no barrier to social and economic advancement (‘equal playing-field’), and that innate talent rather than learnt skill, plays the most crucial role in a person’s success (giftedness).
... in movies to show multiple perspectives on war; however the film Forrest Gump manages to show the audience three perspectives. During ... enjoyable and beneficial. I believe an aspect that makes this film beneficial for all year 12 students is that it addresses ... have positive outcomes throughout life. While other characters in the film struggle with conflicts in society, Forrest remains unaware of them ...
These will be referred to in turn below. In contrast to this individualist stance, E.
R. Braithwaite describes early in his book To Sir, With Love (hereafter ‘the book’) how his race had mitigated against his acquiring an engineering position for several years, despite excellent qualifications. He reacts to these difficulties by presenting his students with many examples of the interdependency of humanity: the brotherhood of Man. In the film, Mark Thackeray too, continues to apply for engineering positions while teaching at North Quay Secondary…
Only at the end of the film is he finally offered the lowly post of ‘Third Assistant Engineer’ by a firm outside of London, despite his ‘astounding qualifications’, but paradoxically it seems this event is meant to emphasise the recurrent theme of the cinematic retelling of this story: that ‘Anything’ is possible with enough persistence and effort. Commercial film- making is driven by economic interests, which aim to reinforce certain dominant worldviews to ensure box office success. Perhaps for this reason, this film emphasizes the popular ‘myth of meritocracy’ (Mills, 2004) at the expense of taking up the more problematic framing of issues offered in Braithwaites own account. The character of the film school’s Head, Mr Florian, for example, is cast in almost direct opposition to that of the actual Alexander Florian, Head of Greenslade Secondary School, who was in fact determinedly democratic. For reasons of dramatic effect however, the film casts Mr Florian (of North Quay Secondary) as a well meaning but confused man, lacking the courage of his conviction.
During his initial interview with Thackeray, he points out that Most of our children are rejects from other schools. We have to help them as best we can. We have to teach them what we can and as much as we can. He does not seem to have any particular philosophy about how this might be achieved as he continues: From the moment you accept this appointment, you ” ll be entirely on your own. […
... cannot go anywhere. 15. May your students chew gum or eat / drink in class School policy or teachers' q No, they may not ... the school and the guidance makes a report. According the report the students are given a discipline punishment. q Between students and teacher: Teacher makes ... of the school q It is in the appendix (in the first page) 2. Review the student and the teacher handbooks. Comments ...
] Success or failure will depend entirely on you. It seems that this Head extends the idea of meritocracy to teachers’s success in the classroom. While Greenslade Head also uses these latter words, the context in which he uses them makes his philosophical position unmistakably clear: rather than calling his students ‘rejects’, he explains that “the majority of our children could be generally classified as difficult’, and that this difficulty seems based on the “many pressures and tensions” which they face daily and “which tend to inhibit their spiritual, moral and physical growth” (p. 30).
His comment that ‘success or failure depend entirely on you’ needs to be interpreted in the light of his advice that “by understanding those pressures we will help them.” In other words, success in the classroom according to this Head will depend upon how involved the teacher is prepared to become with his students. Several of the other members of staff are also portrayed in simplistic terms by the film: Art teacher Vivienne Clintridge gives Thackeray some early advice, stating that because there is no corporal punishment at the school “they (the students) have us at a great disadvantage.” She comments that while the staff ‘basically’ agree with ‘the Old Man’; he is ‘safe in his office’.
Don’t take any nonsense form these little tykes. [… ] If you don’t solve them, they ” ll break you and damned quickly. Another male teacher, Weston, comments later that: “What they (the students) need is a bloody good hiding.” By contrast, the book describes how teacher Mrs Dale-Evans achieves “near perfection without recourse to beatings” in her classes, (p. 26) as well as the “immediate hush” in assembly as the Head rises to speak” (p.
27), and the attentive manner in which the assembly listened to selected music played for them. This seems to attest to quite a respectful and orderly atmosphere in the school on the whole. As in other films of this genre (Gale & Densmore, 2000), social and economic advancement are presented as a matter of choice, determination and hard work, and not as determined by ‘structural arrangements in society… designed to ensure that groups of individuals have differential access to social and material goods on the basis of their social and physical differences” (Gale & Densmore, 2000).
... in class. On the other side, a large number ... should also realize that the class is not only the form to deliver knowledge from teacher to students, it is also a process ... a number of teachers who are in various class teaching styles. On one side, parts of the students like their teacher do a lecture ...
This is despite Thackerays lack of success in securing a ‘proper job’. In fact the film downplays the actual reasons for Thackerays long-term unemployment, which are analysed critically in Braithwaites book as being the result of racism.
Having ‘grown up British in every way’, Braithwaite had believed in ‘the ideal of the British Way of Life ‘ (p. 40/41).
The treatment he received at a number of interviews for promising positions, initially offered in ‘flowering letters’, prompted him to re-assess his liberal view of British society: I am a Negro, and what had happened to me at that interview constituted, to my mind, a betrayal of faith. I had believed in freedom, in the freedom to live in the kind of dwelling I wanted, provided I was able and willing to pay the price; and in the freedom to work at the kind of profession for which I was qualified, without reference to my racial or religious origins. All the big talk of Democracy and Human Rights seemed as spurious as the glib guarantees with which some manufactures underwrite their products in the confident hope that they will never be challenged. (p.
43) Braithwaite, as a well- educated middle-class Black man who not only has a university education but also has been an officer in the RAF, has to come to terms with the failure of ‘meritocracy’ in his life. The persona of Thackeray, on the other hand, is designed to give credibility to the idea. Thackeray, cast as ‘poor boy makes good’, reveals in conversation with his students that he used to be ‘very very poor’ but that ‘there was something in [him] wanting an education’. He describes his previous menial jobs commenting that becoming ‘posh’ (as one student puts it) “wasn’t easy.” Caricaturing his native accent, Thackeray continues When I was your age, I used a patois, a kind of simple English (provides example).
... time and the “cool” thing to do is watch movies in class. Even though there were probably more students in the class ... system--the biggest three being teacher accountability, media influence, and social pressures of students. Bad Teacher starts out showing a “hot ... minimum” route of teaching. Although the number of “bad teachers” placed throughout our education system is currently unchecked, it is ...
The point is: if you ” re prepared to work hard you can do almost anything. You can get any job you want.
You can even change your speech if you want to. This binary contrast (poor, uneducated boy from marginalized social group vs. ‘posh’s chool teacher) is a repeated theme of the film and articulated throughout by Thackerays students in examples such as: “I don’t understand you sir, I mean you ” re a toff… and you ain’t” or “Blimey… well, you ” re like us but you ” re not.” The films emphasizes ‘giftedness’ not only by glossing over Braithwaite’s struggles as a Black man in a racist environment, it also presents the challenges at North Quay as greater and the current teaching staff as less able than was actually the case.
In comparison to long-time and trained staff, Thackeray is presented as more innovative (as compared to the Head, who comments at one stage: “The ‘adult approach’ has failed it seems.” ), fairer (compared to Weston who relies on coercive behaviour management), more resilient (as compared to Hackman, Thackerays predecessor), more courageous (as compared to Gillian Blanchet who confesses to being scared of the pupils), and finally more successful than his colleagues. This is not due to his extensive experience or superior training and skill, but simply to his ‘talent’. Having ‘put all his energies’ into getting an education, Thackeray begins teaching at North Quay Secondary. He finds his senior class rude, defiant and disinterested.
Despite his best attempts to communicate with the class, the students leave him in no doubt that they want none of what he can offer. Thackerays Pedagogy According to Education Queensland’s Professional Standards for Teachers, teaching and learning should be ‘student centred’ (Introduction, 2002).
While Thackerays pedagogy seems to become student centred at a surface level, his actions both initially and later are actually aimed at solving the problems he is experiencing with his class, rather than those his students are experiencing. The very first lesson, in which Thackeray attempts to assess his students proficiency in reading and arithmetic with widely varying results, ends in a bout of sarcasm (“It is encouraging that you have a sense of humour: it seems you know so little and are so easily amused that I can look forward to a very happy time.” ) and a resigned instruction to “now copy down the following tables.” This is clearly anything but a ‘flexible and innovative learning experience’ as required by EQ (para.
... all these factors, they hesitate to participate in classroom activities. However, teachers may also affect students’ participation in some ways. 33, 3% of ... (Chang and Shu, 2000: 34). Participation usually means that students speak in class, answer and ask questions, make comments and take part ...
The instruction is however followed willingly by the students, who show a preference to being left alone, rather than intellectually challenged. In his second lesson, Thackeray attempts to link arithmetic with what he presumes is ‘real life’ for these students: “Now most of you girls help your mothers with the shopping… .” This obvious exclusion of the male members of the class (and one of numerous instances of sexist scripting) did not have an engaging effect on the girls either. While the subject matter may connect to the ‘world beyond the school’ EQ para. 4), the strategy is far from ‘inclusive’ (EQ para.
As a result perhaps, he is interrupted with a variety of purposeful attempts to disrupt, mainly from the male members of the class: from slamming doors to unsteady desks and the accompanying commentary. Again, the ‘lesson’ ends in: ‘Do exercises 4, 5, and 6. – very quietly’, and again the students comply. Over the following days, as Thackeray persists with these methods, the pupils raise the stakes as their mis behaviour increases to include sawing a leg off his desk, water bombing him on arrival and deliberately swearing in response to questions.
The script seems designed to paint an initial picture of Thackeray as a ‘traditional chalk- and -talk- teacher’, failing with challenging but intelligent students. As the film script is painting the students as ‘out of control’, ‘devils’ (script) and ‘punks’ (video sleeve), the teachers as surviving, but ineffectual, and the Head (Florian) as well-meaning but slightly directionless and ‘safe in his office’, the scene is set for the hero-teacher (Thackeray) to discover the ‘magic bullet’: It is Day six for Thackeray, and it begins with a water bomb dropped from a high window into the courtyard, destined for, but narrowly missing him on arrival. On his way to the classroom he encounters Mr Florian who asks a none- too- inquisitive “How goes it?” and moves quickly on. As Thackeray opens his door, he is greeted with an overwhelming stench resulting from a used sanitary napkin, which one of the students has tried to incinerate on the hearth. For the first time in the film, the quiet acoustic allusions to Lulu’s hit song ‘To Sir, with Love’ change to dramatic orchestral music punctuated by insistent percussion. Taking one look at the offending object, Thackeray tears around and shouts at the congregated boys: “Out!” He lends further emphasis to his instruction by physically and quickly moving towards Denham who is brash enough to ask “What’s the matter Mr Thackeray?” .
... , being a good student is more important than the quality of our teachers. Therefore, before students blame their teacher, they should stop ... fraction of a student’s learning time is ... of the student that determines whether learning will be successful or not. Although every student benefits from good teachers, only a ...
This is the first of a number of instances in the film in which Thackeray uses physical movement, voice and proximity to ‘control’ his students. Further examples include slamming a desk lid so that it only narrowly and by good fortune misses the hands of Denham, adopting a black stick-like object as a daily prop, continually slapping it into his hands, as well as repeatedly physically taking sunglasses off a particular student’s face. The above behaviour does not ‘create a safe and supportive learning environment’ (EQ para. 9).
In fact it is an important reason why Thackerays ‘answer’, (i. e. treating his students like adults), does not work for him the way it did for Braithwaite, whose commitment to mutual respect was more than cosmetic and extended to ‘implementing classroom management strategies which enable [d] students to take responsibility for their [own] behaviour.’ (EQ para. 9. 3) The BTRs document further points out the importance of the need for teacher-student relationships to have an ethical character (Board of Teacher Registration, 2002), which implies the lack of coercive control. In the first of the above instances, Denham correctly interprets Thackerays closing- in as a threat and the boys leave the classroom in a hurry.
Now the teacher lets go of a tirade of abuse directed at the girls of the class, most of which has very little to do with the incident at hand: I am sick of your foul language, your crude behaviour and sluttish manner (drum roll).
There are certain things a decent woman keeps private. Only a filthy slut would have done this. And those who stood around and allowed it are just as bad. I don’t care who’s responsible, you are all to blame. When I return I expect the room to be aired and this filthy object to have been removed.
If you must play these filthy games, do them in your homes and not in my classroom. (glares – music swells – exits with a door slam).
Thackeray retreats to the staffroom again leaving his class unsupervised, and (to quieter music) confides in colleague Gillian Blanchet that he has lost his temper: “Those kids are devils incarnate, I’ve tried everything… (drum roll and silence) – Thackeray suddenly realise’s he has been thinking of his students as ‘kids’. He repeats the word several times, each time accompanied by another drum roll. The film’s script, (more than a little influenced by 1960’s social revolution themes), has arrived at its simplistic conclusion it seems: ‘The problem with schools these days is that they treat young adults like kids.
Afford them the respect they are due and everything else will work out eventually.’ As the music changes again to a relaxed backbeat, and Miss Blanchet looks at him in puzzled confusion, Thackeray moves back into his classroom. He has found the answer. According to the video sleeve, he ‘meets the challenge by treating the students as young adults who will soon enter a world where they must stand or fall on their own’. In fact, his aim is to ‘normalize’ (Gale & Densmore, 2000) them by setting and requiring certain ‘adult’s standards, the legitimacy of which is not questioned in the film, despite its superficial overtures to ‘social revolution’.
Back in his classroom Thackerays first action is to collect a, presumably representative, stack of textbooks from his desk and drop them demonstratively into the waste paper basket. The background music stops as the books hit with a thud. He announces to the students that: “Those are out. Those are useless to you. You are not children. You will be treated as adults from now on.” Thackeray is perhaps trying to align the ‘class cultural habits’ of his students to the ‘demands of the education system’, which is, according to Bourdieu and Passer on (1979: 22, cited in Mills, 2004) the root of scholastic success.
In doing so, I feel that he is sending a number of unhelpful messages to the class. Firstly, he seems to assume that adults do not need books, that learning is just ‘for kids’. This attitude is unlikely to inspire a ‘commitment to lifelong learning’, a commitment to which is seen as a desirable outcome for students in EQ’s Standards Document (Introduction).
Secondly, while seemingly emancipating his students from a prescribed curriculum, it is still the teacher here who decides what is appropriate and what is not. When the students ask what “we will talk about”, Thackeray lists “Love, life, survival, death, sex, rebellion’, giving a clear direction to the discussion, and then adding:’ – anything you want.” Anything a student wants, it seems as long as it is not found in a book. Given the fact that at least one student in his class (Pamela Dare) was seen earlier in the film to enjoy both poetry and prose reading, I believe that far from emancipating the students, Thackerays approach to curriculum is stereotyping them.
Earlier in the film, Thackeray had remarked to his colleagues that he ‘felt sorry’ for his class as “most of them can barely read.” There is nothing in his pedagogy that suggests he is aware of the importance of literacy for a person who is interested in a number of the above topics, particularly (economic) survival and (social) rebellion. Both the BTR (standard 2) and EQ (para 2) recognise the important place -strategies should occupy in a teachers pedagogy. Centring around a simplistic notion of ‘survival’, the curriculum now includes ‘make-up lessons’ for the girls (to be provided by Miss Blanchet), presumably because, according to Thackeray, “the competition for men on the outside is rough”, and “salad preparation”, despite the fact that a relevant form of Domestic Science is already available at the school. While these inclusions may have been attempts to “construct relevant learning experiences that connect with the world beyond the school”, as required by Education Queensland’s Professional Standards for Teachers, they do in fact not ‘build on students prior knowledge, so much as replicate them. It is ridiculous to assume that students growing up in the colourful multi-cultural, multi-ethnic bustle that is London’s East End would not have ample opportunity to learn about ‘make-up’ and ‘cooking’ through real-life example. By contrast, the above watershed incident formed E.
R. Braithwaite’s resolve to “take firm action to set [his] class in order”, even at the “risk of contravening the Head’s views” (p. 72).
For Braithwaite, this is the place where he first really commits to his job, where his attitude changes from “this will not be a labour of love” (p. 32) to his owning the classroom as his. He also appeals to his students as young adults, but links this with the statement that as such “certain higher standards are expected of us.” (p.
72) To elicit the kind of courtesy he would like to see in his classroom, Braithwaite challenges his students by setting a strong example and providing intellectual challenge (as recommended in EQ para. 3/ BTR standard 3): I… applied myself enthusiastically to each subject, blending informality with a correctness of expression, which I hoped would in turn help them to improve their own speech. I never spoke down to them; if they did not quite understand every word I used, the meaning was sufficiently clear in context and I encouraged them to ask for an explanation any time they felt unsure.
(p. 76) He seemed to realise that literacy for his senior class needed to be not only “knowing about language’ but also ‘knowing through language’. (Lankshear, 1997) Braithwaite encourages their self-esteem (EQ para. 8) by focusing on what they can do (“I believe you have it in you to be a fine class, the best this school has ever known!” p. 76), rather than on what they are lacking as Thackeray does on the film. Attempting to motivate the girls to improve their deportment, he insults them: ” No man likes a slut for long and only the worst type will marry one.” while the boys do not fare much better: “I’ve seen garbage collectors who are cleaner.” Braithwaite’s approach to curriculum and pedagogy is more balanced.
He does not prescribe, nor does he simply let the students chose what they want to do. As Carmen Mills has observed (2004), … often, students and community members are not in possession of the cultural capital of the dominant and therefore do not know the kind of knowledge’s that are needed to succeed in broader society. Having had extensive experience as a member of a marginalized gor up in ‘broader society’, Braithwaite uses the narrative of his life to engage students’ interest and open possibilities of thought for them. These learning experiences ‘connect to the world beyond school’ (EQ para.
4), in a significant and important way, rather than on the superficial and rather primary level of ‘going shopping’. Moira Joseph testifies to this cross-curricular and carefully integrated approach during the half-yearly Students’ Council report, saying that their lessons had all had a particular bias towards the brotherhood of Mankind, and that they had been learning through each subject how all mankind was interdependent in spite of geographical location and differences in colour, race and creeds. Braithwaite was thus able to integrate ideas and concepts across curriculum areas. Rather than do away with books and narrowing the curriculum, he extends it, using the interest an old skeleton receives as an opportunity to introduce ‘physiology’ for example. Textbooks continued to be part of Braithwaite’s pedagogy, but they were now subjected to critical readings: Our lessons were very informal, each one a kind of discussion in which I gave them a lead and encouraged them to express their views against the general background of textbook information (p. 99) In discussion, he both encouraged his students to support their arguments with ‘quotations from these school textbooks’, as well as to question and perhaps ‘disagree with what they had read’ (p.
101), in doing so he fulfils the BTRs standard 3. 4: ‘promoting higher-order thinking and critical enquiry’. Far from ignoring the cultural capital of the dominant, perhaps bourgeois England beyond the East End, he opened cognitive and literal doors for his students, taking them not only to the Victoria and Albert Museum (an event also depicted in the film), but also to Saddlers Wells to see the ballet, the theatre to see Hamlet and Wembley stadium to see the Harlem Globetrotters. The outings were organised and financed by the students themselves, having worked out the cost and ways to spread the collection of monies to disadvantage no one (a good example perhaps of an ‘inclusive and participatory learning experience”, EQs paragraph 5).
Braithwaite writes that: On the way back, they [the students] would give full rein to their critical intelligence, and often presented new and interesting points of view on old and familiar things.
They were quick to appreciate and recognise the various art forms as part of their national heritage, equally available to themselves as to all others. (p. 125) Dismissing this cultural capital and teaching only that which is considered ‘appropriate’ to non-dominant groups has been described as a form of domination (Mills, 2004).
While a student like Denham may not need more than a basic ability to read in the course of his job as a ‘barrow man’, he will nevertheless be much better prepared to fulfil the “duty to change the world” which film teacher Thackeray lays on his students, if he becomes as literate as possible.
Cultural critic Richard Hogg art once wrote in a Guardian Education article (2 nd December 1997) The founding principal of critical literacy… must be to develop understanding of the nature of democracy itself, of the duties it lays on us and the rights we may the claim; the two are inseparable. (cited in Meighan, 1999) The shallow and blatant sentimentality of Thackerays exhortation to his students is clearly apparent when it is help up against a standard such as this. Far from ‘making social justice issues central’ and helping students ‘learn about the histories of the oppressed’ (Gale & Densmore, 2000), Thackeray cites ‘The Beatles’ as a good role model for social activism: “They started a huge social revolution: The dress and hairstyles they introduced are now accepted all over the world!” Thackeray betrays his own lack of trust in his teaching methods (or the screen writers lack of ability to appreciate that good teaching should produce students who have acquired the ‘skills and knowledge that enable them to participate in community and social decision making’ as well as the motivation to use them) by offering Denham a ‘job’ as a boxing instructor at North Quay. He bases this offer on natural talent (for boxing – not for teaching, in this instance) rather than on his faith that Denham has learnt enough in class, to engage with and hold his own in the society to which he belongs.
“You have talent.” , he notes after defeating Denham in a boxing challenge during Physical Education with a punch to the solar plexus. Denham, who is not sure he is ready to give up on his dream of having his own business, hesitates, and Thackeray leaves him with ” Good luck with your… barrow… Denham.” , his voice dripping with derision. The discourse of ‘innate talent’ is also played out with regard to Thackerays teaching ability. He is presented as an extraordinary teacher, yet has no previous experience or formal training as a teacher.
The position, in which Thackeray is placed, particularly towards the end of the film, is almost Messianic. He has no reason to stay after his class graduates. A new engineering job, far away from East London, is beckoning: he has even been sent the fare to go. During the scenes of the graduation celebration however, his colleagues appeal to him to stay. Even Weston, who had originally objected to Thackerays introduction of ‘suburban formalities’ into his classroom, now appears in much improved dress, appearing to have been won over to ‘Sir’s standards’.
“You ” ve done wonders”, he exclaims. “I wish I had your gift.” Miss Clintridge (who is the ‘Deputy Head’ in the film school), also exhorts:” If you must leave Mark… go to another school. You can’t waste a marvellous talent on rotten electronics.” In summary, the film school is dominated by discourses of meritocracy, innate talent, and individualism (as opposed to interdependency).
The teachers’ habitus is depicted as a shining example of individualist philosophy: by his own hard work and determination, he gained an education, a changed accent, and a position as teacher. Having an innate talent for teaching, he is presented as having ‘solved them’ (to use Vivienne Clintridges’ term), and blazed a trail, which others (such as Weston in the final scenes) will be able to follow.
Professional Standards for Graduates Thackerays pedagogy does not compare well to the Standards for Graduates published by the BTR. Given that times were ‘new’ in the 1960’s in different but similar ways in which they are ‘new’ presently, Thackeray makes only superficial allusions to ‘social revolution’, while his pedagogy and curriculum choices betray his belief that his students will need to re actively ‘survive’, rather than learn how to proactively change their world. His emphasis on individualism precludes any in-depth treatment of issues of citizenship or diversity of cultures. An example of the effect of individualism here is the way his class responds to the death of the White mother of a student of mixed race. When earlier this student expressed to Thackeray, his anger towards his father for having married his mother and this having caused her to be discriminated against, the scene is left unresolved. When the mother dies, no one in the class wants to attend the funeral for fear of ‘what people might say’.
Thackeray himself feels he needs to take flowers and when he arrives at the house, he finds his class, assembled to the last person, is already there. What had changed the students’ minds? The film leads us to believe that they did it ‘for Sir’, rather than because they understood more about the injustice of racism than they did previously. Thackeray, as an untrained and inexperienced teacher, does not possess any deep understanding of teaching and learning and as such does not pass the BTRs first standard. While Thackeray displays a fairly high level of proficiency of oral language (and we assume written language and numeracy), he does not display an understanding of theories of language pedagogy, thus not passing standard 2. The learning opportunities created in Thackerays classroom only superficially engage all learners. Denham for one is only engaged after he is ‘beaten up’ in the gym.
Thackerays script is often sexist and non-inclusive as well as prescriptive and dum bed-down in an attempt to be ‘relevant’ (as for example ‘basic salad preparation’).
He does not exhibit the skills to create supportive and intellectually challenging environments to engage all learners (standard 3).
The film provides a range of examples where Thackeray relationships are not ‘characterised by ethical professional practice’, while Pamela Dare’s crush in her teacher (to which he does react responsibly and ethically), acts almost like a smoke screen. Unethical behaviour includes including striking Denham, insulting students and using his physical characteristics to coerce compliance. Professional Standards for Teachers To reach the above standards, teachers should employ student centred approaches to teaching and assessment. Thackerays approach is mostly self-centred.
There is little if any evidence of students directed, or collaborative learning in his classroom, as indeed there can not be if the teacher is to be exalted as the story’s ‘hero’. While there is some evidence of informal assessment of literacy and numeracy skills, no planning based on official policy, accumulated data or feedback is in evidence. If thought had been given to students with special learning needs, perhaps an accident, which was sustained by student Buckley when vaulting during Physical Education, might have been prevented. While it is the subject teachers responsibility to make this adjustment, it also would have impinged on Thackerays pastoral care duty to be cognoscenti of the need and assure himself it was provided for (paras.
1 & 7) As discussed above, Thackeray failed to contribute significantly to the language, literacy and numeracy development of his students (para. 2).
His choice of curriculum, shallow approach to discussion and failure to critically analyse significant issues means that he was unable to construct intellectually challenging learning experiences for his students (para. 3), and that the students learning was not as relevant and valuable in terms of adding cultural capital as it could have bee if it had connected more significantly with the world beyond the school (para.
Thackerays language was often non-inclusive and sometimes sexist. Rather than celebrate difference, using the multi-cultural ism of his classroom as a stimulus for critical discussion about social justice issues, he de-emphasised the issue, citing personal effort as being of supreme importance for advancement. In this way learning experiences were not inclusive and participatory (para.
Thackerays pastoral care was hampered by his belief that he knew exactly what his students needed. Measuring every incident by his perception of what life would be like for them ‘on the outside’, he is only able to give conflicting advice: The teacher who lets himself get carried away to the point of punching his student (as during the boxing match), tells student Potter (who almost attacked another teacher with a piece of wood):” … in a few weeks you are going to be out there. Are you going to use a weapon every time somebody makes you angry? You are supposed to be learning self-discipline here!” and then follows this reprimand a few days later with: “I believe one should fight for what one believes, provided one is absolutely sure one is absolutely right.” The notion of ‘absolutely right’ here also clashes with Thackerays appeal to a ‘situational right’ when he answers Denham challenges: “You was wrong about Potts” – “From his point of view, at his age, I was.” – “The girls was right about the gossip ‘n all.” – “Yes, from their point of view.” If there are a number of points of view (versions of ‘right’), which is the point Denham is supposed to learn here, how can there be an ‘absolutely right’ cause to hit someone? Thackeray does not effectively ‘support the social development and participation of young people’ (para.
8).’ Creating a safe and supportive learning environment ‘ (para. 9), is however one standard which Thackeray achieves to some degree. He also seems to be prepared to establish relationships with the wider community (para. 10), although not to the degree that Braithwaite did in the book. Head Alex Florian is described in the book as ‘consider[ing] himself merely one of a team… ; he was spokesman and official representative of the team, but sought no personal aggrandisement because of that.” (p.
13), with an example like that ‘contributing to professional teams’ (para. 11) and ‘committing to professional practice’ perhaps by participation in school governance, should have been easily achievable goals. They were at Greenslade it seems, but were given no consideration in the film school North Quay. The absence of the themes of collaborative and reflective practice, being hallmarks of professional behaviour, may lie in the films conception of teaching as based on talent rather than skill, and its intention to glorify a popular conception of what it means to be ‘a good teacher’: …
one who can control the classroom, balancing affection with respect while ‘getting a lot of work out of students’ – is a self-made person, a unique individual with a style all his or her own rather than a professional who has assimilated a technical culture built up and codified by those who have gone before. (Huberman, Thompson, & Weiland, 1997) In my opinion Mark Thackeray could learn a lot from E. R. Braithwaite, the teacher whose account provided the inspiration for the film. While Braithwaites story is still that of an untrained teacher encountering challenging East London students, its themes are personal and communal growth rather than individual conquest. While Gale and Densmore feel that an academic educational approach is often aligned with ‘didactic pedagogues’ (2000): 78), this is not illustrated here.
Thackeray, who certainly used the more ‘didactic’ pedagogues and is often seen ‘lecturing’, is also the one watering down the curriculum to the point of declaring that ‘textbooks are of no use to’ his students. If an academic emphasis in the curriculum is integrated with teaching on citizenship and social justice, this type of curriculum does not have to be aimed solely at the individuals personal benefit (op. cit. : 82), but might open doors of understanding and access to academic discourse to people who would otherwise be powerless to participate in these (Graff, 2000).
Rather than viewing school as a preparation for ‘outside’, Thackeray could have allowed the possibility that some of his students might like to further their education, now or at a later date.
If Titch’s desire to attend night school while working as a bell boy in a London Hotel is to bear fruit for him, he would have benefited more from the intellectually challenging curriculum provided by Braithwaite. Rather than more or less deciding by himself what his students needed to learn, Thackeray could have worked harder at giving each of them a voice. He seemed to expect that his whole class was destined for the same future (namely ‘survival out there’), rather than allow for their individual aspirations. As has been noted by (Lingard, Hayes, Mills, & Christie, 2003): in schools servicing disadvantaged communities, “low expectations and aspirations for student achievements are often endemic features of school cultures.” In a situation such as that of North Quay Secondary, I feel that not to make dominant knowledge’s easily available to these students from a minority social group constitutes their sacrifice on the altar of ideology: One of the historic problems of many progressive curriculum ideas (and one reason why they have often lacked support in non-privileged communities) is that they appear to de-emphasize the kind of official knowledge and skills that young people need to negotiate their way past the gatekeepers of socio-economic access. (Delpit, 1988) As Beane& Apple (1999) have pointed out: “our task is to reconstruct dominant knowledge and employ it to help, not hinder, those who are least privileged in this society. (p.
19) ” Teachers can make a difference to socially disadvantaged students by making explicit the rules and workings of the dominant culture by examples, illustrations and narratives, in the way Braithwaite did, as well as by facilitating the acquisition of ‘school knowledge’ (Delpit, 1997).
According to Bernstein (1990) the use of such pedagogues ‘weakens the relationship between social class and academic achievement ” Thackeray’s vocational view of education, emphasis ing ‘habits of regularity, self-discipline, obedience’ (Williams 1961: 162, cited in Gale & Densmore, 2000) and outward conformity to socially acceptable standards, rather than the acquisition of ‘school knowledge’. Viewing schooling simply as preparation for work creates one major problem however: “the connection between education, work and earnings are neither as direct nor as certain as assumed” (Gale & Densmore, 2000).
While this argument has been used to discredit a purely academic curriculum, in a future that will increasingly feature contract work, and portfolio careers, Andy Hargreaves sees the danger of work environments and social structures that are elitist and divisive with autonomy, discretion and more meaningful work being reserved for small… elites while the remaining workforce is relegated to work that is low-grade, part-time, temporary, un pensioned and assigned in erratic ways. (Hargreaves, 1994) The elites here will be people who have what has often been called ‘an education’, or put another way, enough knowledge of the interrelationships of issues, knowledge’s and social patterns operational in our global society and enough practice in how to think about, inter-relate and draw conclusions from and about these knowledge’s and issues.
Part of this ‘education’, this ability to discern and understand the relevance of patterns, will have to be a historical perspective, a philosophical perspective and a cultural perspective. This necessitates the critical study of history, literature, sociology, economics, and philosophies. The BTR Standards document recognises an ’emphasis on human and social capital ‘ as a feature of New Times, and charges teachers with “providing a foundation for life in these new, complex… environments.’ (p. 3).
As such, teachers should be aware of the trend that The needs of business and industry are suddenly the pre-eminent goals of our education system.
Education in morality and ethics is reduced to a litany of behaviour traits. (Beane & Apple, 1999) and strive to counteract this by balancing the trend towards vocational education with aspects of an academic curriculum. To quote Gale and Densmore again: narrow thinking about what [our] economy requires or myopic job preparation has the tendency to stifle creative personal growth and socio-economic change.” (2000: 84).
Thackerays curriculum and pedagogy, should have given students the opportunity to think beyond themselves and their own situation. He could have made use of his experiences as a member of a marginalized group in using them as discussion and investigation starters, leading his students to draw larger scale conclusions about the inter-dependency of human beings, to “challenge the familiar and embrace the foreign, that is, to develop respect for ‘the other’ (Gale & Densmore, 2000).
This type of education is not about ‘skills and competencies’ or ‘economic survival ” so much as it is about a critical understanding of the world we live in, and the ability to use that understanding to affect this world in a meaningful way. Socially just education is one that opens doors into the halls of power. Socially just education does not try to prepare or ‘shape’s students for the world as much as it aims to equip students to shape the world for themselves. References Beane, J. A. , & Apple, M.
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