Teacher On The Run, by Francis Gilbert

Confessions from the crazy world of today's classrooms
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This time, we follow Gilbert in two lightly fictionalised further schools, "Humbard's" and "Broker's", before our hero makes his escape from the profession - briefly, it transpires, and so luckily for anyone he has since taught. Humbard's is a doddle after Tower Hamlets, as Gilbert admits. What is wonderful about his account - offered to us in short bursts of anecdote - is its honesty about how success goes to his head. In no time, surviving on savvy and hard work, he is suckered into going for promotion, and the need to speak the language of action planning and SMART targets. He becomes "an educational super-creep".

At the same time, he is teetering - like all really thoughtful teachers - on the edge of breakdown. He loathes himself, he judges himself, he finds himself in constant conflicts, real or imaginary, with colleagues and pupils.

The second school offers the same daily back-stabbery, confrontation, sense and insensibility. Gilbert is best when describing the peculiar intimacy of teachers and pupils, how they are always sizing each other up, plotting each other's psychologies. His footnotes are particular pleasures - little masterclasses in such arcana as "the war against chat" and "real teaching".

Not much of the latter takes place, Gilbert reckons. By this he means that open discussion of moral issues, including sexual ones, is actively discouraged. He hazards that this accounts for the high rate of teenage pregnancies.

Gilbert has few axes to grind. Teacher On The Run is a compulsively readable confessional. It will wrongfoot traditionalists, however. His view is that grammar is now over-taught, and his bible is Rhys Griffiths' National Curriculum - National Disaster. And the truth is that, because he is so straight about the quirky worlds of classroom and staffroom, he makes teaching English seem a challenge well worth attempting.

Bill Greenwell's 'Spoof' is published by Entire Photo Here