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It's Your Time You're Wasting: A Teacher's Tales of Classroom Hell [Paperback]

Frank Chalk
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (264 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Sep 2006
Gordon Brown likes to boast that our schools are the envy of the world. Sadly - as ever - he's fibbing.

FRANK CHALK has spent his adult life in the modern education system, so - unlike the Prime Minister - he knows what he's talking about.

He is an ordinary teacher in an ordinary British school... a school where the kids get drunk, beat up the teachers and take drugs - when they can be bothered to turn up.

IT S YOUR TIME YOU'RE WASTING is the blackly humorous diary of a year in his working life.

Chalk confiscates porn, booze and errant trainers, fends off angry parents and worries about the conscientious pupils whose lives and futures are being systematically wrecked, recording his experiences in a funny and readable book.

He offers top tips for dealing with unruly kids, muses on the shortcomings of the staff (including his own) and even spots the occasional spark of hope amid all the despair.

So forget Gordon Brown's boasts - and prepare to be horrified and amused by the unvarnished truth about the bottom end of our state education system. A must-read for parents, teachers and anyone who cares about our country's future.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Monday Books (2 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0955285402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955285400
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (264 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 165,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Author

I started out as a nice liberal bloke who thought the best of everyone. I changed, over time. I believed Blair when he said he'd sort out education. How wrong I was. This book is dedicated to the good kids - there are plenty of them, but they're being slowly crushed by the bad - and several hundred thousand hard-working teachers, who do their best against the impossible odds created by our mad, politically-correct nightmare of an education system. It's a funny book - I hope - with a serious message; the time for talking is over. We need to sort our schools out now, before it really is too late. Frank Chalk.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

FOR the 500th time, the classroom door has been left unlocked so the Year 9 group are running around inside.
They’ve broken a chair and are as high as kites. It takes a good ten minutes to get everyone vaguely calmed down. Darren then destroys all my efforts by treating us to his party piece – dancing around, like some half witted rap star, jabbing his finger in the air to the amusement of the group. I resist the strong temptation to club him over the head with a chair leg that is lying alone on the carpet and instead start again the process of quietening them down. Although we’re close to Easter, it’s turned cold and it’s been snowing for a couple of hours, which means the kids are absolutely hyper (don’t ask me why).
I get them started on the work and then notice that Declan is reading a magazine under his desk. I couldn’t really care less, but several others have seen him and it’s not the sort of magazine I would show my mother. I manoeuvre myself into position, edging closer but facing away from him, pretending to be helping Janet with her work. Then, like a trapdoor spider, I pounce; the magazine – Big Ones – is in my hand and I’m away from Declan before he has time to notice. He shrieks and flails around. I quickly reassure him before he gets too agitated: ‘Sorry Declan, I’ll give it back to you at the end of the lesson.’
No I won’t, I’ll burn it or shred it. I’m a classroom kleptomaniac. I take everything I can get my hands on. And I never ask anyone to hand anything over, as I don’t like to put myself into a position where they can refuse; I simply take it, while apologising profusely. If they freak out, I just chuck whatever I’ve got into the corridor and them with it.
As the lesson drags inexorably on, Shazney suddenly asks me ‘Sir, How much do you earn?’
‘£100,000 per year,’ I reply, in a matter-of-fact way.
There are cries of disbelief.
‘No way! Mr Wilkinson said he gets £30,000!’
I explain how Mr Wilkinson is simply being modest.
They look suitably impressed, and treat me with a new respect for a moment or two, before they forget what they’ve just been told.
There are only two things that modern kids respect: money and appearance.
Lewis is showing the magazine-less Declan his new trainers. Like the Government, our SMT comes up with endless new ideas to combat problems but no real plan on how to actually carry them out and deal with the consequences. Recently they have decided to clamp down on kids wearing trainers in school. I’m all for clamping down on anything and in principle this is fine. But in practice it’s a nightmare, because there is no coherent plan laying down what will happen if a pupil refuses to change his shoes, or – quite likely – simply doesn’t have any others.
The kids know this and more and more of them have actually started flouting the prohibition. I overhear Lewis boast that he is ‘not taking them off for no one’.
Well, I can never resist a challenge.
I look over.
‘Gosh, they’re smart trainers, Lewis; I wish I had some like that myself.’
The bait is cast, and he shows them off in all their garish splendour. They are absolutely foul – white with gold braid and flashing lights. I ask him for a closer look at the lighting facility and he passes me one to examine. One fluid movement of my arm and – whoops! – there it goes, out of the window and into the snow covering the playground below.
With a roar of fury, and various promises of what dad is going to do to me, off he hops to find it.
Kylie, a quiet little girl, is struggling with an aspect of the work. This is unusual, as she is a very bright kid with an aptitude for schoolwork that’s incredible, given her background. She is from one of the roughest families in the area. Her father is in prison for attempted murder and both of her half-brothers, ex-pupils of ours, are in and out of jail about as often as the warders. Her mother is an alcoholic who has four other children younger than Kylie by three different blokes. I’ve been to their house; it’s filthy, it smells and the noise from the TV, the stereo, the crying toddlers and babies and her mother’s loud and foul mouth is amazing. With all this against her, this poor little mite is fighting and battling to succeed. She’s polite and attentive, she doesn’t mix with the rougher gangs of girls in school and she tries ever so hard. Her homework is done on time, and is always among the best in the class. She seems to have grasped that she has one shot in life,!
and that this is it. We talk about her in the Staff Room; we’re determined to do whatever we can to help her. I spend a few minutes crouching by her desk, going through the questions that have been set, and get a tremendous kick out of watching her little face light up as she unravels the problems and begins to understand.
‘What are you going to do when you grow up, Kylie?’ I ask her, fairly sotto voce.
‘I’m not sure, Sir,’ she says. ‘I’d like to be a doctor but I probably won’t be able to do that.’
I grin at her. ‘Of course you can be a doctor, Kylie. You’re a clever girl. You just need to keep working hard, that’s all, and keep on trying and believing in yourself. After all, if I can be a teacher…’
She smiles shyly and blushes.
If she can just keep her head above water I really think she’ll make something of her life.
I have my fingers crossed so hard they’re going white.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a retired teacher who spent many years in both permanent jobs and in supply work - in high schools and middle schools between the mid 1960s and 2000 - I know only too well what Frank Chalk is talking about. The dramatic deterioration in discipline, systematic erosion of teachers' authority and constant meddling by successive governments have reduced the education in some parts of this country to a farce. The benefits culture has spawned an underclass that not only has no interest in education but treats it with derision. The massive injection of capital that has been poured into education over the years rarely filters down to classrooms where it is desperately needed.

This easy to read book highlights the worst in one particular inner-city school. There are many laughs along the way but they are bitter-sweet because, in the final analysis, too many of our children are being badly let down and condemned to a lifetime of unemployability with all the attendant knock-on effects that will inevitably have on society as a whole.

Frank Chalk does offer thoughts on improving the system towards the end of the book. No-one who has not witnessed education at the 'chalk face' in at least the worst - and best - of schools should presume to tell teachers how to do their jobs. In addition this book should be compulsory reading for anyone in government - both national and local. Then, perhaps, the plight of our disaffected children and their demoralised teachers might be taken seriously and steps to 'turn the tide' may be implemented.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has children in the system, too. Make sure you know what your children's schools are like and avoid those like St Judes in Mr Chalk's book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worryingly true 3 Mar 2011
By Mlle J. Taylor VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
This book should be given to the government! As a teacher myself I read this book with fascination. It's nice to see it's not just my pupils that are this bad.

Chalk gives a starkly bleak account of school life in modern British schools, but does so with the dark humour of a veteran teacher. Years of experience have left a sour taste in the mouth of many of us in this profession and it makes for interesting reading. Worryingly, this book is a wholly accurate portrayal of the farce that it the British schooling system: The powerless teachers, too scared to discipline for fear of reprisals from the little brats that they're "teaching" and being sued by parents for the slightest hand on a shoulder; the fearless students who don't seem to have any interest in their future or education; the parents who are so blinded by their children that, instead of supporting the teachers, will do all in their power to make their jobs impossible; the out of touch government who, instead of aiding teachers, makes the children into gods who fear nothing and no one. The lunatics are running the asylum!

Many of you will feel that this book is exaggeration and completely fictitious, but it is, unfortunately, true. This book can be seen as a social commentary on the schools in the UK and the incapacities of certain "educators" for the job.

Anyone with kids at school in the UK should read this book to see what life on the other side is like. Parents need to see what life is like for the teachers who have no more power than a squashed ant.
This is a brilliant book and is a true, unabated insight into the British education system.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable reading 29 Oct 2006
'Frank Chalk' has done the unthinkable - exposed the horrors of our modern education system: violence, drugs, truancy, illiteracy and the absurd impotence of teachers when it comes to dealing with these issues.

I find his attitudes a little right-wing for my taste but he fully justifies himself and is a likeable author. His writing boldly highlights just how badly we are letting down children in this country, and makes me fearful for what society will be like as today's generation of schoolkids grows up.

Delivered in a light-hearted anecdotal style, this book is very accessible. I'll definitely be passing it round my friends - time spent on the bookshelf is time wasted, because if enough people read it you never know - something might start to change!
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76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Telling it like it is 19 Nov 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I spent several highly stressful and completely pointless years teaching in the UK system before, thank God, returning to International School education. Like Frank here, I was stunned that the fourth largest economy in the world was educating its children in a manner more suited to the occupational therapy wing of a South American prison. Why don't any of the photocopiers ever work? Why spend millions on computers and then omit to employ any trained staff to maintain them? Why are staffrooms in such a neglected state that they would cause strike action at a Ukrainian pig farm? Why spend thousands of man hours writing, distributing and training in various disciplinary policies which are then perpetually ignored? I could go on for pages. Buy this book, make everyone you know read it and then post it to your MP.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars NON TEACHERS should read this 7 Jun 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
As a secondary teacher at an all boys school in inner city Liverpool I can say with conviction that I recognised all the scenarios played out in this book.Did I enjoy it?...In many ways yes as it serves as confirmation that the current standards of discipline across schools today is consistently appalling. Along with the pitiful fact that many unfortunate children are growing up with the cast of Jeremy Kyle candidates. However; I found that it made me extremely depressed and focused almost entirely upon negative experiences, giving the impression that teaching today is a totally un-unfilling job and likely to drive you to the funny farm. Though the experiences Mr Chalk describes are the norm of everyday classroom behaviour in many schools, the repetition quickly became boring.
If you have little experience of a day in the life of a secondary school I urge you to read will make you realise why teachers need those holidays that we get slated for. If you are one of those that faces the Dwaynes and Shazneys of the world I suggest only reading when you have had a good day; otherwise it may tip you over the edge.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Education in the 21st century
This book is everything that is negative about education, written by a supply teacher that's given up the full time job. Glad I wasn't taught by him!
Published 20 days ago by Jan
3.0 out of 5 stars And your time, too, it seems!
This may have got a higher star rating but I was disgusted and annoyed by his comments about primary schools and their teachers. Read more
Published 23 days ago by MRS R OLDRIDGE
5.0 out of 5 stars Fact can be stranger than fiction.
Great read. Those who work in schools such as the author describes will only too easily recognise the problems he describes. Read more
Published 1 month ago by A Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars devastating
As a teacher of ten years. I found this book deeply saddening. Whilst there are some aspects which are unfortunately true. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ms. Samantha M. Jones
2.0 out of 5 stars Very depressing book, the only book ever I couldn't ...
Very depressing book, the only book ever I couldn't finish. I'm an ex teacher with 25 years' experience and there were some low times but this felt self indulgent and bitter. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Purfidelis
1.0 out of 5 stars Nasty man and an awful book
Lousy book. The premise is good and I managed to get more than halfway through it before the funny stories gave way to hard right ideology and plain snobbery. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Courage and Dignity
5.0 out of 5 stars and waste of money
I can identify with all the pains and headaches of Mr Chalk. I was a supply teacher in London in the eighties. Absolute nightmare, and waste of money. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kanen Ragoonaden
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear.
I decided to have a read of a book about teaching. I'm only 6 years out of compulsory education myself, and recently spent some time invigilating exams in a school with a catchment... Read more
Published 2 months ago by MissT92
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious
This book is almost embarrassing to read. Not because it's badly written, it isn't, it's very good. The embarrassment comes from repeatedly laughing out loud as you read it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jonathan Nicholas - Author
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably true
As in aspiring teacher, this book gives an apparently exaggerated, yet perfectly accurate insight into the current British educational system.
Published 4 months ago by Adam Stubbs
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