Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An open letter to the Minister for Education!

Dear Ruairí,
The budget, with its austerity measures, has come and gone. We really won't know the its full effects until the New Year. In the meantime we'll have the typical Irish response - grumble and complain to each other, and then get on with it.
There is one issue however that I would like to bring up with you. You have raised the pupil-teacher ratio to 21:1. My reading of this is, that you consider 21 pupils in a classroom to be the optimum number that a teacher can successfully deliver our comprehensive curriculum to.
Oops. I really shouldn't finish a sentence with a preposition, should I?

Anyway, what I want to say is....
If I was told that I was to have 21 pupils in my classroom, I would do cartwheels all around the school in sheer joy. In my twenty-something years of teaching I have never had ONLY 21 pupils
The exception being when I taught in Abu Dhabi, where I had 8 pupils in my class, a full time assistant,  Arabic, Islamic, Art, Music teachers who took them for those subjects. Tell me again that I was right to come home!!!

Back to Reality.
Yesterday we took part in the Hallelujah Concert in the RDS.
Along with 3000 other kids.
Our choir comprised of my class and those of a colleague. Here is a photo of us in rehearsals.

Ruairí, as you may notice, it is a tad crowded. This is because there are 62 children crammed in. I know that Maths are not a strong point of the government.
You did manage to overlook 3.6 billion euro that you didn't know you had.
So, to get the average number of pupils per class
62 divided by 2 = 31.
Yes Minister, that's 31 not 21 pupils per teacher. So by you raising the ratio I will have even more next year. Now I consider myself a good teacher and I can teach/manage/control a large number of kids. My issue is with the lack of physical space. I can barely get around my classrooom because of all the kids/desks/chairs/schoolbags that are in it.
Also, please note the way that I am perched precariously on a wonky chair so that I can see them all.
Health and Safety regulations, me arse!

Now, why didn't I teach them in the school hall, I hear you ask.
 We have been lobbying for a new school building for 20 years, I kid you not. We didn't even manage to get one during the "boom times". What hope have we now?
This lack of facilities severely hampers our ability to deliver, what I consider to be, a very wide-ranging and challenging curriculum. Grovel, grovel.
PE. season is very curtailed. We can only do it outside in dry weather. As you will appreciate, these days are very few and far between in Ireland. I once had a visit from an inspector who told me that I should do PE in the classroom! Yes, I did a double take too. I was to do gymnastics in a classroom full of desks and chairs with 30 kids! I pointed out that it took the skill of Olga Korbut to get from one side of the room to the other on a normal day!
The last time I went to get my legs waxed, I had to explain to the beautician that the extensive bruising on my thighs was the result of constantly bumping off the corner of desks, and not some deviant sex-game.
God, I wish!

Having said that, last month we won the County School's Football Championship.....for the second year in a row.

Yesterday we had a brilliant time at the concert. We sang our little hearts out.

My point is, Minister,
All these things we achieved, not because of your educational policies, but rather in spite of them!
Just saying.
And a Merry Christmas to you too.
A sometimes un-civil servant!

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