Science Sloths and Assorted Bad Eggs

Gummo Trotsky has a delightful recollection of a particularly teacher who we have probably all encountered in some form, in some class, which has sent memories flooding back to the daze of secondary school.

One such teacher I can recall was a science teacher who used to swing a helicopter blade against the table to frighten students caught failing to pay attention (down with those do-gooder PC-types who suggest that teachers shouldn’t be entitled to use rocket launchers to instill discipline). This eventually led to an unfortunate incident, resulting in one student losing part of his finger, when the teacher miscalculated with his cruel swoop of the blade, and severed a child’s outstretched finger. Luckily, I was not in that class to witness this foolish event, it happened the year after I had left.

I did however, have the misfortune of having this twerp for 4 Unit Science in Year 11. He had to be the slackest teacher I ever encountered (I would need to have more fingers than a Chernobyl survivor to count the amount of classes he was absent from, but enough with the finger motif). The extent of this was revealed, when he was forced to take his long-service leave while we were in Year 12, which lead to a far superior replacement teacher. But to her horror, she was forced to teach almost two-years of physics and geology in one year. We basically had to start from scratch, as none of us had a clue about any of the Year 11 Physics that our previous teacher had overlooked or failed to teach. I remember finishing second in my whole school in 4 Unit Science with a mark of 62%, the school brain got 70%.

Now, what was to happen to this incompetus teachus, well while he was on his long-service leave, he went and got a job at a private-school to supplement his income. This was until his moonlighting activities were picked up by the Department of Education, and he was ordered back to our public school, fortunately by that time I had graduated.

However, on one of our last days of school there were rumours circulating that this teacher was to participate in the students vs staff cricket match that had been organised. This lead to several intense net sessions, where we practiced our short-pitched bowling, as we talked of “parking this prick on his arse” with a seering quick bouncer or bean-ball (this was before the advent of funky terms like “chin music”). Unfortunately, this cathartic outlet would not eventuate, it seems this teacher might have been aware of the scope of his unpopularity.

I’ve often wondered what happened to this teacher in the end, who treated his year 11 class with such disdain. The last I heard, this fool was still working at a private school, which says something about the alleged elite-nature of a certain private school’s hiring policies. I’m not trying to suggest that I was not fortunate to encounter a majority of committed and capable teachers at my public school, I’d send my kids to a public school, but I do wander how such bad eggs are able to manifest in both the public and private education system?

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David Tiley
2022 years ago

Professional solidarity. A cancer.

observa
observa
2022 years ago

I should raise the placement of my business partner’s daughter in a public teaching position this year. (I’ll change the subjects etc out of regard for her confidentiality) She finished her BEd last year and did a couple of terms relief teaching at a near metro, country, high school. Good middle class kids, lots of resources and she had lots of support from a friendly staff. This year she was notified of a couple of vacancies on the Wed before school started the following week. One was in the country with her subjects speciality(say home-ec and health), and she wanted to investigate accommodation etc. Bingo, gone by the next day so can she quickly reply about the metro school. Not her subjects exactly, but she needs a job and it’s a permanent job, albeit at a not so good suburb. She arrives on Friday to be told she will do one of her specialty subjects and say science to YR12s. She looked aghast at the science with no experience, but they cut this down later that day to science for YRs 8,9 and 10. She was pointed to the most meagre,library, teaching resources she had experienced in 3 public and 2 private schools to date(prac teaching included)and chucked off the deep end with classes the following Tuesday. This is a resourceful young lady and she will make as good a fist of the challenge as anyone, I’m sure. My question is, is this fair to her students this year and would this situation occur generally in private schools as it seems to in the SA Education Dept?

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

There was an excellent teacher training sytem in NSW involving a set number of scholarships, and guaranteed appointments on conclusion. As a Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme Guidance Officer four decades back, I had access to all tertiary entry marks, and found that students needed a higher mark [for example] to gain an English Teacher Scholarship than to win an open Commonwealth Scholarship, or to gain admission to Medicine Law, etc.
The intellectually challenged Teachers’ Federation asked the State Government to drop this system, the quality of applicants went down, the number of “trained teachers” went up, and the State School system began its long voyage to where it is now.
Why should we expect it to work effectively, let alone smoothly?

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Interesting how that worked. As a South Australian, before Whitlam, I could not afford to do the course I really wanted to do on a Commonwealth Scholarship; accepted a bond to be a teaching student, and gained a supplementary scholarship thingy like the one you referred to, which made a huge difference to me. Since we are talking South Australia, where the most remote schools were on fettling camps on the edge of the Nullarbor, a lot of city first year teachers were really chucked off the deep end to sink or swim. (go Wake In Fright.)
Did I do well in this system? Did I end up a lifetime teacher? No, I quit, for the sake of everyone’s sanity..
There’s a lot to learn from the past, but this ain’t a good system. Now they are trying it for doctors on a six year bond. Come gorgeous husband of mind, Longreach beckons..

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2022 years ago

Norman,

I think, the science teacher mentioned would have been a recipient of the Menzies scholarships, as he was probably close to retirement when I was at school. I actually found the younger science teachers, who had often just completed their studies, as was the case with our replacement 4 Unit science teacher, were a lot better teachers. (BTW, It was obviously well known by the sons/daughters of teachers at this school that this science teacher was a dill, as they all changed to 2 Unit Chemistry/Physics when they discovered who the teacher was).

I guess it is the curse of seniority, with the inherent assumption that because someone has been teaching for a long time, they are good at it. Mind you, I found that some of the older teachers, with quite a few honourable exceptions, had obviously lost the zest, can’t say I blame some of them. But this teacher just didn’t give a toss, which is fine if they want to give him the bottom Year 7 class or some class where the students don’t give a rats, which is the case with some students who would have liked to leave in Year 10 if it didn’t affect their chances of getting an apprenticeship.

I remember this teacher would spend a double-semester talking about the ills of communism or China’s one child-policy when we were supposed to be learning physics, and there were many classes where he would talk about anything but science. I’m not suggesting rigid adherence to the silly-buses, as sometimes going off on a slight tangent is a fascinating way to explore something and to maintain interest, but this was plain ridiculous.

What would have even been more frustrating for the preceding students was that at this time the school had a very talented chemistry teacher, probably in his late-twenties/early-thirties who was appointed head of science when this dill departed on long-service leave. However, upon discovering that this teacher planned to return and would again be named department head, decided to head to greener pastures.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

The system wasn’t perfect, and some of them weren’t cut out for teaching. The problem is that no matter what system is operating, many simply aren’t suitable for the demands of teaching. Some dropped out etc., then, some do now.
The main difference is that IN GENERAL, those who stayed had significantly greater academic ability than those who stay now. Many of those now going into teaching end up there because they’ve been unable to get any other job, and eventually the Department gets down to them, they have a job, and they;ll never leave because they’re virtually unemployable anywhere else.
Many of the more competenet, by the time the Department offers them a position, are in private schools or other work they’re reluctant to leave and start afresh with a service under a cloud.
Perhaps I’m completely wrong in thinking it’s better if those who teach our State School students were themselves fully literate; but I’ll continue to hold that belief until someone convinces me literacy, and high level analytical skills [which are dependent in part on literacy skills] no longer matter in State Schools.
There are no years mentioned for the various examples of incompetent teachers referred to above. They’ve always been there, of course, but remember two things.
1] The scrapping of Teachers’ Scholarships by the NSW Government [at the prompting of the brain dead Marxist leadership] took place decades ago under — from memory —Askin.
2]Some of the Science, Maths and other “specialist” teachers you encountered would have been former NON university trained volunteers who were switched into these subjects to take classes created by pushing large numbers of pupils into them who couldn’t actually handle the subjects. Until, of course, they dropped the standards required of students in them.
Sounds too stupid to be true? That’s true. It does sound an irresponsible course to take — but it made parents happy to think their offspring were doing such “hard” subjects. Naturally, the way HSC marks were reported had to be changed [1986 or 1987 in NSW] to make even more parents really happy.
Apart from those who, in increasing numbers and including teachers themselves, who began to move their own children out of the State School system.