Teachers up and down the country are already dreaming of a long stretch of time without having to mark homework, plan lessons, drink bad coffee or endure mind-numbingly boring conversations with the Jeremy Corbyn look-a-like Geography teacher who smells like a drunk gypsy. And that’s just the ones who enjoy their profession.
Another chunk are desperately hoping that the holidays will miraculously produce a new position at the perfect school, or even a job offer that promises a way out of teaching. Failing that, a winning lottery ticket will do just fine thank you headmistress.
Why the unhappiness? Well, a survey last year by a teachers’ union found that four out of ten teachers have experienced violence at the hands of their pupils in the past year. Out of that group, 77% said they had been pushed, and around half were kicked or had an object thrown at them.
The sad truth is that many teachers don’t go into school thinking about education. They’re far more concerned with self-preservation.
Contrast this with other countries, and the picture is even more depressing. OECD research shows that Poland, for example, has much less of student discipline issue. On average, teachers in Poland say that the percentage of lesson time lost to disruptive student behaviour is relatively low compared to somewhere like the UK. So this isn’t even a universal problem that the UK is suffering.
This is a national scandal that no one outside the teaching profession seems to care about any more.
What’s more, it’s having a serious effect on teaching. We are reaching a crisis point in teacher retention and recruitment. And there’s no doubt that unruly children is one of the reasons behind it.
The consequences of this exodus are frightening. You think fake news is bad now? We’re in danger of producing successive generations of feral youths who think that Algebra is a country in the Middle East and that Copernicus is the name of an obscure hip hop artist.
The solution to this is obvious. We must whip the scallywags into shape. However, as any former Education minister will tell you, our options are limited.
A soft approach, such as trying to appeal to some of these ruffians by warning them that they are throwing their futures away is not going to cut it – many of them are simply too immature to care. And as for their parents, well, hordes of them would rather be checking what’s happening on Facebook or updating their Instagram accounts than making sure that their children are doing their homework and not uploading inappropriate photos of themselves on Snapchat.
Increasing punishments, whether that be by segregating disruptive pupils or quicker expulsion, is probably not going to do much, apart from push the problem into a dangerous corner. And bringing back the cane or other similar methods of keeping children in line is only going to haul whoever suggests it in front of the European Court of Human Rights.
So since you cannot – literally or metaphorically – beat the lawlessness out of these ruffians, you have to get them to beat it out of themselves.
Nobody does this better than the Chinese. They are masters at tiring their students out to the point where they have the right amount of energy to concentrate in class, but not enough to become disruptive. One of the ways they do this is by getting them to do daily, early morning exercise. But I’m not talking about not any old exercise. No, I’m talking about martial arts training.
One institution in particular, the Tagou Martial Arts school, has its students stretching, kicking, and punching as the Sun rises. We need to be taking a leaf out of this institution’s book and photocopying it a hundred thousand times over in every school up and down the country.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, ‘Hang on a minute. This is utter madness. The scoundrels will now be even better at hitting their teachers’. But bear with me.
The first thing a scallywag will learn is to respect their fellow students and teachers. If they don’t, then two things will happen. One, they will be forced to spend an hour or two pumping out press-ups in the corner of the training hall. This gets pretty boring and very painful after a short while. And two, if they continue to misbehave, then they will have to watch their fellow students improving their skills and having fun. They will soon realise that they’re missing out on something that is enjoyable and addictive.
After that, they will taught to be humble. After getting consistently dumped on their backsides by senior practitioners, they will soon realise how much they have to learn. And when they truly discover how horrible real fighting can be, then they will shy away from it at school and out on the streets.
Finally, they will find that pursuing something with a focussed mind, in other words perseverance, is worth it. As they start to kick higher, punch harder, or throw faster then they will change, a little bit at a time, as a person. Seeing yourself develop by becoming more supple, stronger, and able to absorb more pain, cannot fail to imprint itself on your character in a positive way, leading to better behaviour in school.
But the main benefit will be to teachers and schools in general. The punks will be too tired to cause any trouble. It’s pretty hard to attack a teacher when you can hardly get up off your seat because you’ve got legs that feel like jelly.
Our teachers are crying out for help and it’s time for radical action. This is it.
Marek Handzel’s novel, The Dojang, is available now at Amazon