‘Let’s Talk About School’, a Rant by Hollie.

This is Indifferent Ignorance’s first ever post-that’s-not-mostly-by-Francesca (told you we’d explode stuff in 2012!). It is a rant about school and teachers, none of whom are mine, but some of whom I know. I have a few comments to make, and will do so in red.

NB: I did some spell checking, this isn’t Tumblr.

Let’s Talk About School

Namely, the Maths department.

Yes it’s rant time again, (although you could probably tell anyway by the unnervingly formal tone of this post) but I think I’m due one since my proper rants on the internet are few and far between. Although it’s long, I really do hope you read this. I daresay you might even enjoy it, especially if you enjoy reading about the misfortune of others.

Oh and Disclaimer: As my school is known to stalk its students on sites such as this, (although as far as I am aware it has little knowledge of Tumblr) think of the following as constructive criticism and not an attempt to cause offense. Also, try to take all the factual info within this rant with a pinch of salt because I’m known to get facts wrong haha.

Mini disclaimer: I apologise for any typos, as I type like an angry drunk and I seldom go back to check things until half an hour after it’s been put out there. You’re welcome.

Anyway, a little background context for those not currently taking a maths GCSE in the UK, which is probably most of you. (If you want to get to the juicy, just skip to the bold bits)

Our Maths course is split into three units, and thus three exams. We’ve already taken two: I got an A in the first and literally one mark off of an A in the second, so a B.

The drama really started when I was selected, amongst a large number of other people, to retake the second unit ( the one I got a B in).

Here, we have to pay for our own retakes (It costs around £40 or about $85, I think) and there’s a limit to how many exams you can take over all of your subjects.

Because of this I wasn’t particularly fussed over retaking. Firstly, I didn’t want to fork out that money because, let’s be honest, who would willingly pay to take a maths test again? Also I didn’t want the extra work of having to revise for two exams rather than one, on top of all the other subjects I had to take.

Secondly, I would much rather spend the money and use up a retake on a subject which, and no offense is meant here, I actually cared more about. And by that I mean a subject which I was more likely to take after high school.

Anyway, when I told my teacher (who, in his defense, I believe is being entirely controlled by the all-mighty overqueen who we call the Head of Maths – we’ll meet her soon) that I didn’t want to retake I was treated like an alien being. I think most accepted their retake without even questioning it. I was told that I had to tell the Head of Maths, and that’s where it everything started to get somewhat unsavoury.

I put off meeting with the HoM for a while because admittedly, I was never that keen on her. I’m not going to describe the faults in her personality (at least they’re faults in my eyes) because I think that would be a little bit too low, but oh I would love to. Think Umbridge. Eventually, however, I plucked up the courage to confront her, jokingly expecting a massive argument to kick off. Surprisingly I wasn’t too wrong.

As soon as I mentioned that I didn’t want to retake, she began flinging counter-arguments at me left, right and center (somewhat defensively, in hindsight) so I can’t remember everything she told me, but here are a few things she said. (And consequently my opportunity to crush her argument when I couldn’t at the time due to the hierarchy of school life)

You’re not working to your highest capabilities, you need to try harder, a B is not good enough etc.

So apparently she knows exactly what I’m capable of now, having never taught me or even spoke to me aside from the time she caught my friend climbing out of a window. For those of you who don’t know the legend, that friend was Ruby. Perhaps I am capable of getting an A, but I’m also capable of just staying at home every day and not even coming to school. I don’t however, because I have priorities and I know it would be best for me to at least show up. Similarly, I prioritise which subjects I try hardest in, that’s why I spend every spare moment of my school life in the art studio, why I spend my free time slaving over history essays and why I’m happy getting a B in maths – because it’s not a very important subject for me and actually, a B is actually pretty good in the outside world. Don’t try to give me that crap about how intelligent I am, I’ve been denying that ever since the school decided that only some select students could go to the Oxford Uni presentation. (But that’s a story for another day) Can we collaberate? I’m still pissed I didn’t get asked to that. I could get into Oxbridge, fuck you.

All the things you need to learn for Unit 2 you’re doing in the next exam anyway, so there’s no extra work involved on your part.

So why was there a separate mock? Why do we have to go to these extra classes if we’re retaking?

This was a poorly veiled lie, in my eyes. Sure there’s probably some overlap but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that there’s absolutely no extra work at all.

You’re just being lazy, look at all the extra classes I’m holding for you, and you’re not even grabbing the opportunity.

This was my personal favourite. She’s been holding extra classes online for the retake on a Sunday evening lately, and (unsurprisingly) there were very few attending. About a week prior to our conversation she’d been constantly reminding everyone to attend the lessons, but it attracted no more attention and I think this annoyed her. I think she used the opportunity to whine about it to me, going off on a tangent slightly in the process. It was actually pretty humourous besides the fact she was shouting at me, because it reminded me of a 13-year-old weeaboo having a tantrum because no one was coming to their livestream. And why would I come if I had no intention of retaking? Um.

I could go on picking holes in her argument for a while but unfortunately there’s more, and it gets worse.

I actually got away with not taking the Unit 2 mock, although I hadn’t been let off the hook yet. I was told that I had to see her again if I didn’t get an A in the Unit 3 Mock, and I actually got a B. (I’m not to worried about this, seeing as I’ve got a few more months practice yet) I’ve decided not to actually see her again, and so far (touch wood) I haven’t been given any grief regarding my little misbehaviour in that regard. More on that when it happens.

Anyway the trigger which caused me to abandon all homework tonight and type out this beast of a rant (I should have used Written Kitten) actually happened today.

We were told that anyone not taking the Unit 2 exam that ‘should have’ (me included) would possibly be moved onto the linear course. I think this might include me.

Effectively, this means that instead of taking each Unit separately, we have to take all three in one exam, which means more to learn at once. Er, no.

Now I might be wrong, but I’ve been told that this type of course is also FOUNDATION (e.g. basic stuff) rather than EXTENDED (which everyone takes in every subject). Whether this is true or not, either way what we have basically been told is:

If you don’t do what we want you to do then we’ll make sure you get a bad mark in Maths GCSE.

Oh and their reasoning for this decision was:

If you won’t take the Unit 2 then you clearly don’t care about your Maths grade, so you might as well do badly.

Just read that a couple of times. Let it sink in. It’ll take a while.

My Maths faculty is effectively blackmailing me into taking and paying for a retake.

Making us take linear is no less effort on their part, in fact it’s probably more effort to change us all around. What they’re doing only serves us the purpose of scaring us into retaking, or making our lives miserable. I am not exaggerating this or making it seem worse in any way whatsoever, this is the blind truth.

I suppose at this point you might be wondering why they want us to retake Unit 2 so much. Basically, they want to show off good statistics at the end of the year.

I know this because stats from previous years are pinned up all over the place in the Maths block, and are constantly referenced to in our prospectus and during open evenings.

Better stats mean more people are likely to come to this school in Year 7 – and more importantly – more people are likely to take Maths for Sixth Form.

A very lovely teacher (no sarcasm intended) once told me that the more students they have, the more they get paid. Who? Tell me later.

And that’s the crux of it really. I am going to fail my Maths GCSE because a bunch of greedy adults care more about money than their students. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t constantly being force fed the motto that ‘THIS IS ALL FOR YOU, LOOK AT US SELFLESS TEACHERS’.

This is definitely the case in some departments, but certainly not the Maths department. They couldn’t give less of a shit whether some of us die of brain hemorrhaging due to the effort put in during lessons, as long as they get a pay rise.

And just to prove that I’m not all just pent-up teenage angst and natural hatred for maths, here’s another quick case study which happened sometime last year.

There was a competition being held by O2 in which schools had to create an educational video, and whoever’s got the most views and likes would win some money for the department.

We spent, no, wasted an entire lesson (that’s sixty minutes) being forced to individually watch the same awful video over and over again in order to boost up the views. It was awfully funny the first time. After the fifth is was just awful. And this ‘lesson’ was given to every class in the school. Again, it may seem a bit of a petty thing to moan about but the fact that the phrase ‘every lesson is priceless and you should make the most of every minute’ is being hammered into us is somewhat hypocritical, don’t you think?

But our little case study isn’t over there. Not satisfied with the endless, braindead views of the entire school, we were given – as homework – the task of creating multiple accounts on the website to accumulate more likes. They actually made a worksheet to write down all our account names, and there was about fifty boxes. They actually expected us to make that many e-mail accounts.

If that’s not illegal then it’s definitely against the terms of the competition, and sure enough, and to my bitter delight, we were disqualified. A happy ending after all.

In short, the maths department at my school are cold and greedy, and although they say to us that they care about our educations and our futures, all they really care about is how many zeroes there are in their monthly cheques.

But I’m still not going to retake, I’m not going to rise to the bait.

Because I enjoy being the thorn in their side all too much.

If the school in question ever reads this (hi!), they should know that the majority of their teachers and classes aren’t half bad. There is, however, a huge emphasis on getting good exam results so the school itself will look good in the league tables. Usually the pressure to excel is well-founded and well explained to students – it is a grammar school, we are pretty academic – but sometimes the system gets away with itself, and situations such as the above occur. It’ll never change and sometimes those of us who have been in said system for nearly five years get slightly fed up, hence the above.  Also, in the defense of my maths teacher, I wouldn’t be getting the grades I am without her or a teacher I had lower down the school.

  Find Hollie’s musings on her Tumblr and her drawings on her DeviantART.

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4 thoughts on “‘Let’s Talk About School’, a Rant by Hollie.

  1. I actually think my school would be really good for you Francesca because they push you, they turn out loads of A* students every year but they don’t put so much pressure on you that it’s practically unhealthy. It’s relaxed, friendly and I actually like being there.

    I could do with being able to absorb a bit more info, then I wouldn’t have to retake at all but I’m not fussed, a bit more revision, another couple of weeks of maths lessons and I should get there. My teacher is really good and me and my friends all work together and teach each other the bits we know whilst combining it with a good conversation about something unrelated so we don’t even realise we’re learning. This is how I get through all my exams, they’re not so bad.

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  2. I got given my maths results today…I have to retake. However, my school is paying for us all to retake if we didn’t reach our target grade which is awefully nice of them. The options were if you didn’t reach your target grade – Retake, If you did, either drop it and do private study or do higher/A-level maths or something. I thought my school were quite nice about it actually and they’re not really forcing us into anything. i think that is an advantage of not going to a grammar school. I need to get an A* somehow in my re-take and then I intend to go do maths at grammar school so I guess that makes me your school’s target 6th former.

    Frank, are you proud of me for finally coming up with something to say for once? I am.

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    1. Elizabeth: of course they don’t; they have enough donations from parents who are so grateful they’ve tutored their kiddies into a decent university that they’ll give them ££££.

      Ellen: your school is too bloody nice. Can I transfer for two terms please? Why would you take A Level if you didn’t get your target? Either way, you’ll be fine, you’re a skinny info-absorbing mathmatical sponge.

      I’m always proud of you, darling. I’ll text you now.

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  3. You know, non-acadamies get paid £8000 per pupil and I think that is by term. Being an academy, we don’t get that sum of money but they sure as hell get gift aid donations, which with tax at the current rate….I doubt they need the £8000 in the first place. Thought I’d just interject there.

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