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I am a first year teacher.

I am emotionally and physically exhausted. I want to yell and rage and hit, and I have never hit anyone before in my life. I want to swear and break anything and sleep for weeks.

I honestly love my job some days. I love teaching, I really do, and its the only job I've ever had where boredom has not been an issue but some days....

Today was just a really bad day.

I student taught in a southern urban area with kids from all walks of life. I had some students who wore Prada and designer outfits that mommy and daddy bought, and I had a 17 year old married mother of three. A finished student teaching in December and went north where I accepted a job at a private catholic high school.

I have never met so many arrogant assholes in my life. They swear, they hit, they have a higher population of drug users than any of them are willing to admit, and they know that they can get out of anything. Some of my students pay upwards of $5,000 a year for tuition, and they grew up in households where any mess can get cleaned with money.

I walked into a class that was without discipline, and I have been fighting for it ever since. I send them to the office, I give detentions, I give extra work, I call parents. They are unresponsive. Some days I begin to think that if punching a student could keep the entire class quiet for 20 minutes that I would be willing to do that.

The other day I gave a student detention for putting another kid's book in the ceiling and he could not figure out why i gave him detention. Another student got himself stuck between cross bars in a desk and refused to go down to the office because he "did nothing wrong". He then let loose a stream of curses and complained when I gave him detention.

I know that Monday holds bright possibilities, and I have so far been good about being positive at the start of each day, but I understand things now that I never could before. I never understood those overbearing hard-as-nails teachers who ran their class with an iron fist. I never understood bitter worn out teachers, or those substitute teachers who would burst into tears.

I understand now because today I feel broken and beaten and the idea of seeing those kids again makes me want to destroy them or myself or maybe both. The really frustrating part is that I truly do just want them to learn. I actually had a student tell me that I had taught more in one month of being at the school than the past teacher had in six months, so if he had been paying attention he would have learned a lot. Somehow, that is just not comforting.

As much as I would love to just quit or leave or run away, I know that I will go back on Monday because I am not ready to give up yet. I am still trying and still fighting and hoping that maybe I can change something, even a little bit. I wonder sometimes if I should be applying for teaching jobs for next year because at the moment I just keep asking myself whether or not this job is worth loosing my sanity, my serenity, and sometimes my hope.

On Monday I received an email from a friend of mine living in Israel. He asked me if the following, which I have quoted directly, were true:

Recently this week, UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it "offended" the Moslem population which claims it never occurred.

I was, to put it mildly, slightly bemused. As far as I was aware, Holocaust education remained a compulsory element of the Year 9 curriculum. Had it been removed, it had been done so with stealth to rival a covert SAS operation. There had been little or no media coverage, and, stranger still, I'd heard nothing on the teacher-vine. So I decided to poke about a bit and investigate the origins of this peculiar assertion, which had provoked such fury amongst non-British Jewry that they had taken it upon themselves to organise an on-line petition.

One visit to the Holocaust Educational Trust website confirmed that Holocaust education had not been removed from the UK curriculum, and another visit to Melanie Phillips' website elucidated how the rumour had evolved. Aside from the fact that I'd perused the website of a Daily Mail columnist, I found her explication of the rumour more disturbing than the prospect of Holocaust education losing its compulsory status.

A recent study has determined that many teachers are fearful of addressing any potentially emotive or controversial topic, should they offend a minority — or even majority — group. This wasn't just about the Holocaust, it was about the Crusades and the Slave Trade, too. And this left me shaking with rage and frustration. These might not be easy or pleasant aspects of history to convey to children, but it needs to be done. I trained as a teacher, a history teacher, and an aspect of my professional values and practice was precisely how to make these controversial and sensitive subjects accessible to children of any background, class, colour, creed, denomination, gender, nationality, or race. No, it wasn't always easy. No, it wasn't always fun. But it was one of the most satisfying aspects of the teaching experience.

In recent years teachers have found themselves bearing an increasing educational burden. Sex education, alcohol education, personal hygiene, Citizenship, even Britishness have all fallen within the remit of teachers. I can hear you clamouring: 'But you're teachers, education is your job!' Of course it is. I'm not denying that. I'm questioning exactly what it is that teachers should be required to impart to children.

I've taught plenty of things that I've found deathly boring: the Industrial Revolution really isn't my scene. I've had to teach things that I find confusing: asking me to offer a concise version of the Cromwellian Civil War will reduce me to tears. But that was my job, and it was a trade-off against the Peasants' Revolt and the French Revolution. More than anything, it was teaching the lessons when I believed that I had made a difference that made it worth-while. And guess which lessons those were? Yes, that's right, it was the controversial ones. Because you make a difference when you provoke thought and comment, and thought and comment is generated by problematic issues. Giving children the opportunity to understand their place in society, and why the world around them is the way that it is — for good or for bad — is definitely what teaching is about. This is how we empower them to make the choices that will help them to change the world.

I'm sad and I'm sickened that professional people are shying away from an objective approach to teaching children about pivotal aspects of our history. I'm scared that an opportunity to learn from humanity's mistakes, to challenge misconceptions, and to build what will ultimately be a stronger, more tolerant, better integrated society is not being seized. More than anything, I'm mad that the possibility of not teaching these undeniable historical occurrences that have shaped our world is being considered acceptable by some people; or even worse, that teaching a sanitised version of events might be an alternative.

History's a lot of things. It's good and it's bad; it's nasty and it's sweet; very occasionally it is obvious, but more than usual it's a puzzle. More than anything, it teaches us about who we are and why the world is the way that it is, which is why the Crusades, the Slave Trade, and the Holocaust need to be taught. Those who aren't prepared to address these subjects accurately, impartially, and with a view to achieving something shouldn't call themselves historians. And they certainly shouldn't think of themselves as teachers.




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