Coincidentally, I was in a school earlier this week, interacting with Year 8′s and their teachers in a mixed city academy. (A “STEM” Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths event on National “Women in Engineering Day” – “awesome” was the feedback from the school incidentally.)
I was very impressed with the staff (as well as with the students). With my mother, wife and son all in teaching of one form or another, I have maybe more respect for the profession, but I heard echo’s of Tom’s words watching the teachers using a few formal tricks and sanctions to maintain discipline and communication. Without such techniques, and support in the organisation that they are needed, interactive sessions with excitable 13-year-olds would have been impossible to avoid descent into chaos.
This news story on teaching – values and standards – has an interesting tabular comparison where, unless I’m reading it wrong, the UK (England actually) comes out the right side of average in all cases.
[Aside - note for future use. Our topic for the STEM day presentations and exercises was "Engineering". The boys fell into two camps. The dominant boys who thought it was about being in charge of what their team was doing, and the meeker geeks who made it their job to keep account of the maths. The girls on the other hand suggested what maybe needed doing, shared out the resources between them and got on with it, "under the radar" of the dominant boy if necessary. "Vive la difference" is one of my agenda items. It's politically incorrect to notice gender differences, but in fact the diversity is a positive contribution, as I've noted a few times before.]