My brother and sister-in-law came round for dinner last night.
After the usual catch-up and gossip, talk turned to work. We have a slight interest in each other’s jobs in the sense that we both have to deal with the badly behaved. She’s a criminal defence solicitor, so her ‘SMT’ have slightly more clout on poor behaviour than mine do.
Anyway, we discussed some of the miscreants we’ve come across since we last talked, and she was frankly horrified at some of the things I told her.
I mentioned that I’ve been verbally abused, threatened with physical violence and subject to bullying and name-calling at work. And I pointed out that this was just from the children. I told her how these things are allowed to continue, and how often a teacher is left with no defences and expected to cope. If the school management won’t dirty their hands with ensuring that unruly pupils are brought to heel, then frankly, there’s no hope of the classroom teachers maintaining discipline.
I explained that, all too often, a teacher is considered a failure simply because their class is ‘unteachable’. Any sensible person would quickly come to the conclusion that if children are throwing things in class, hurling abuse at one another and getting into fights, then the school clearly has a non-working discipline policy, coupled with children who clearly have no sense of how to behave.
But not so SMT.
In the world of SMT if a class misbehaves it is the teacher’s fault. It doesn’t matter if the problem children have been up all of the night before, if they’ve taken drugs and are clearly under the influence, or if they suffer mental health issues – the problem lies solely with the teacher.
Unfortunately, this emphasis has permeated down through the school, until it has become firmly lodged in the minds of the children themselves. Why didn’t Billy do his homework? Because the work you gave him was boring, Miss. And so it goes on. Conveniently ignore the fact that quadratic equations can rarely be considered ‘fun’, and that they are part of the syllabus, so in order to obtain a good grade Billy will need to show he can solve them. Obviously, if the teacher could somehow link those boring equations to something worthy of his time (like Minecraft) then possibly, just possibly, he might have attempted the first one. But only possibly. Clearly, because the teacher hasn’t done this, she is failing in her job to engage all the children in her class.
When Billy later fails his exams, he will be able to look back on his school years and consider how much better he might have done, if only his teacher had bothered to help him by making the work interesting.
In Billy’s world (and the world of SMT) it is the teacher’s duty to ensure that Billy’s life runs according to plan, irrespective of how much effort Billy puts into ruining all his chances.
Having left school with no qualifications, and no sense of discipline, where does Billy find himself? Well, if he’s unlucky, it’s in a cell talking to my sister-in-law.
As we were talking, she told me that things were now beginning to make sense. A number of cases that she defends involve people breaching their bail conditions and refusing to turn up to meetings with their caseworker on the probation service. The reasons behind this can be complex, and there are often genuine mitigating circumstances, but she said she has also noticed a trend in the excuses given by some of the younger defendants.
My sister-in -law said that she has wondered why so many of them seem to have a real problem with taking any responsibility for their own lives. One young lad said he didn’t go to meetings with his case worker because she ‘had funny teeth‘; another one didn’t like their case worker, far too many don’t go because they find it ‘boring‘.
Boring. The word that we encounter so many times in class. The word that allows children to find someone to blame for their own failings, whilst at the same time giving them the opportunity to demand something they find preferable. The word that, due to the mindset of SMT, allows teachers to be blamed for feral children in schools, because they are ‘not engaged’. The word that means that children no longer have the mental capacity to see that they really are responsible for their own actions, and that one day this might just catch up with them.
Apparently, one youth decided to argue with the judge when given a custodial sentence. He said that it wasn’t fair and he wasn’t going to do it (although his language was rather more fruity!). The judge then added an extra five days to the sentence for contempt of court. At this point, and much to the amusement of everyone there, the youth then jumped up in the dock and shouted that he couldn’t f***ing do that to him – he wouldn’t do the extra days, and the judge couldn’t make him.
It appeared to have completely passed him by that he was already in custody, so any custodial sentence wasn’t optional!
It is a fact that too many young people are ending up with criminal records. It is also a fact that too many of these go through school being pandered to, told that their disaffection is not their fault, but instead a result of someone in authority failing to do their jobs properly.
It is worrying when this attitude is carried into adult life.
In bowing to every whim, in letting children get away with bad behaviour – in some cases behaviour which is actually criminal – whilst in school, what are we really doing?
At some point, these youths will find that they meet someone with whom they cannot argue, someone who will not bend the rules, someone who will not let them get away with aggression, someone who will not let them do as they want when they want, someone who will not accept that they deserve special treatment, someone who will not accept that the rules don’t apply to them, someone who really does have the ultimate authority and who will impose sanctions upon them.
Isn’t it better for this person to be the headteacher in a school, rather than a judge in a court?