Should teachers blame bad kids for being disruptive in class?
Since attempting to turn off my ‘controversial gene’, I’ve started ignoring people’s rants more and more and now just let them get on with it. Recently though, I got into an interesting drunken debate and I couldn’t help but play devil’s advocate one more time.
It’s soooo much fun…..
Even though I was pretty wasted at the time, the conversation still lurks in the back of my mind so I thought I would share it with you here.
I apologise if I don’t translate it word for word verbatim, it’s really just a catalyst to get some stuff off my chest.
Those who can’t…
A few months ago, I went to a house-warming of a good friend from my University days.
So as you expect, alot of people there, were from his work and like any other bunch of colleagues who socialise together, they were all letting off some steam about their professional lives.
Nothing new there
In any case, My friend works as a secondary school head of department, in what you call a rough school, with nightmare kids, who are
- Don’t listen to what their told,
- Don’t do any work
- Don’t turn up
and their parents don’t particularly give two shits about the situation, either
Holding the staff at fault,
- Being ignorant to the school’s request
- Not coming in
- Not turning up at parent’s day,
- Not turning up for any further consultation
- Not replying to school letter
Worst of all, unlike most schools, this place is unable to exclude these children. This school is pretty much were all the other school’s bad kids end up congregating, after being expelled
The kids are also fully aware of this, so there is no point threatening them with anything because when push comes to shove, nothing will change, as the teachers have no real power to do anything about it.
So to sum it up, it’s pretty much like trying to ice skate uphill.
So you can imagine what these teachers would be like at this house party at the end of term.
Breaking the Ice…
So I head off to the kitchen to refill one another relatively ‘tall glass of Kraken’ and I end up bumping into one of his female work colleagues. I was in her way of the fridge and I needed some ice too, so I decanted some for me and gave her some as well.
She mentioned my craziness of drinking rum straight and I mentioned her craziness of drinking really sweet sickly stuff. I believe her drink of choice of drink being ASTI
That was my first sign it was going to be a long evening.
It’s your kids Marty, we gotta do something about your Kids!!
So we ended up chatting and she was telling me about her holiday plans and stuff, which was all sweet and pleasant. You know teachers and living for the holidays
Then it got to a sigh and the typical ‘can’t wait to get away from these bloody kids, they are driving me insane’
Then she started nailing into these kids and their parents and the area
Now I thought to myself, quite frankly, the last people to blame in this situation are the kids
And she was like, no they are little shits
Then I said, well maybe you’re not as good as a teacher as you thought?
In any case, I could see her eyes changed and that’s when things started to get really interesting.
Who let the dogs out?
For what seemed like the next hour, I got bombarded with every horror story under the sun about these kids. I mean some of these stories were REALLY bad but for the sake of argument, I had to stick to my wits and carry on making my point. If she had smelt any weakness in me, this would have been over there and then
Luckily, she didn’t.
The Kids are alright
Now the question that turned the tide for me was this one.
I asked her quite plainly the following
Do you believe you received the adequate training
in order to deal with the situations you currently face
in your role as a teacher?
She quite frankly replied,
No, No one does
Then I asked her,
Do you believe that you are competent enough
to deal with the situation you currently face
as your role as a teacher?
Again, her answer was a big honest and lonely
I never asked at the time but in hindsight I should have followed with
Do you believe you are given the adequate tools and authority
in order to deal with the situations you currently face
in your role as a teacher?
I’m pretty sure the answer to that would have been the same as the rest
All these points helped allude to my point.
How can one go about blaming the kids for being unruly, when they haven’t even been given ‘what they believe’ is the necessary skill sets and tools, in order to handle the situation?
By that logic, you automatically become a bad teacher regardless of how good you think you are because you are poorly equipped to do your job.
I have complained about it though, nothing got done…
So at this point in time, she used the fact she’s complained about the situation to her headmistress in conversation and this brought me to my next phase of Socratic questioning
I then asked her this question.
Have you ever complained to your training body
that the training you received is inadequate?
By now, she started to sound like a 2unlimited single and again replied
And I said why not?
You PAID them thousands of pounds for their expertise and they are not providing you with an adequate service, which in turn is having a ripple effect on yourself, the school, the kids and pretty much anyone else involved.
This is clearly an issue you are not uniquely experiencing; why not attack it from the source so that the problem doesn’t keep occurring to yourself and others?
Why not complain to the people who actually have the power to fix things, rather than blaming kids that can’t.
So this was another blow she wasn’t happy with.
I then continued with the following
If you find yourself in a situation where
- You openly state that you haven’t had the proper training
- You haven’t been given the proper tools
- You openly admit that you have not complained to anyone relevant,
Then how can the kids be at fault?
It’s clearly your fault
How can you actively blame the children when
- You are the adult
- You are aware of the situation you are in,
- You have the power to alter it
but still don’t?
To be fair, in this situation the child is the least powerful element. Even though they seem to be growing up fast and are wider and more socially aware at the end of the day, they are still just children.
I don’t get it…
She couldn’t get where I was going with this so I gave her a little analogy (I’m starting to realise I love me some analogies, I’m turning into my dad )
Now my argument for this was,
If you were to send a soldier out to fight a war without the proper training or the necessary equipment and they were aware of this before deployment, then they lose their life in service, who would you blame for their death?
- The enemy gunmen
- The ministry of defence
- The soldier
She said the enemy Gunman without any hesitation
I started laughing.
While many would think the fault would lie with the enemy gunman or even the Ministry of Defence, the real culprit in this situation would be the Soldier, for not speaking up.
Because they had forewarning they were ill equipped to deal with the situation, by speaking out, they could have ended up saving their own lives alongside the lives of many others.
There’s no point of the soldier complaining about the people shooting at him, that’s part of their role to deal with them accordingly.
The soldier should have refused to go ahead and complained to the only people who could do something about it, the MOD. It shouldn’t just stop there, the complaint ,should go and all the way up (if necessary) if they truly believed they were poorly equipped for the job at hand and were therefore being put at unnecessary risk.
The MOD would then be legally required to respond as part of their obligation to adhere to the Health and Safety Work act (see my post on this here).
This way, either the job is postponed until the soldier is given adequate training and equipment, a different approach is utilised or the mission stops altogether.
She nods and then agrees with me
So relating this story to your teaching situation,
- The Enemy Gunmen are the kids,
- The Ministry of Defence are your training body, OFFSTED and
- The Soldier is YOU
You’ve basically just committed indirect suicide through negligence.
Why you dirty rat….
At this point, it went quiet and I started chuckling,
You could see her eyes grow cold s she suddenly realised she’d fallen into my trap. In retaliation she attempted digging her way out of it…but I cemented…
If you are having a hard time at work, it’s your fault for not highlighting what you want from to the right people.
Adequate training and resources to do your job.
It’s not my fault, I’m a good teacher, the method works for most kids.
She now, she reverted to using the argument
‘I can’t be a bad teacher because in my previous school,
90% of my class were well behaved
So it MUST be the bad kids here that are at fault’
Now this mentality aligns with the typical ‘customer feedback ego-stroking’ phenomenon of people hearing what they want to hear.
For example, if the majority of an appraisal shows a positive reaction, then you think you are doing something good. Again, this is just human nature, allowing you generalise information quickly and move on.
But let’s think about it,
If 10% of the world’s population thought you are doing something wrong, that equates to 7 hundred MILLION people.
That is more than the population of the United States.
And you can bet your ass that if the United States of America had a problem with you, you’d have a big fucking problem on your shoulders.
To super summarise, if you gave a kid a College level maths paper and he aced the difficult question but he couldn’t answer the basic ones consistently (Rain-Main style), would you give them a job working at a nuclear facility?
Er, No, of course not…
This is the exact reason why we need to pay attention to the smaller details and why if you have a 90% response rate, it doesn’t mean shit.
This standard approaches to teaching
doesn’t help anyone
and I’ll tell you why.
Those bottom AND top 5% won’t be stimulated by any of it and let’s be honest, the rest of the class will end up alright regardless of anything you say. Your influence over them as a teacher is minimal at best.
If you wish to stimulate these 10% on the fringes of society, you need to spend realistically 90% of your effort on them, in order to get them to respond positively to you.
Personally, I think when it comes to making a difference in your chosen profession, it’s the fringe sets that really matter, they are the ones that will make the biggest impact on society going forward, either positively or negatively.
By trying to even out your attention or focus on the 90% who don’t really need you and not asking for additional training to specifically cater to those 10%, you are just falling into that bad teacher stereotype because you’re just in this for yourself.
You are actually not helping anyone and you certainly aren’t here for the kids
I’m gonna git you sucka…
Now at this point, I thought she was going to go for me, so I tried to drop the subject but she inevitably brought it back in a different guise…
We ended up going over some new ground, some of which are covered by the following posts
- Why foreign kids perform and behave better at school than regional children
- Why does no one complain about the quality of their training
- Why higher education does not prepare you for working in the real world
- An ode to the most influential teachers in my life.
but at the end of the day we recycled alot of the points I already raised for a good few hours, with neither of us backing down
At this point, I really didn’t care about the argument, I was just enjoying winding her up, so in my mind, I had already won haha.
180 degree turn
I think it’s fair here to cover some of her points here though
Now of course, I have never been a teacher and I have never been in that position. I’ve never worked in a real pedagogical context and certainly not with vulnerable members of society.
I also understand that people need to vent and what comes out of their mouths isn’t always the case. Saying that, others looking to join the profession need to understand what it is really like.
Being a teacher is a stressful position with next to little reward, either with regards to remuneration or respect within the classroom, community or home.
It also eats up your social life, you don’t stop being a teacher like I stop being an engineer when you leave the office, it follows you, in some instances forever.
In many cases you put the lives of the kids in your class infront of your own and stop being a parent to your own children, finding it more natural to be their teachers as well.
And regardless of what you do, it will always end up being your fault for what occurs and people (myself included) love to wag their finger at you and tell you how to do your job better.
To be honest, being a front line public service provider (which I include on this field), is like being a real life superhero. A shitty one like Spidey.
All the responsibility but none of the real power to make a grand change but that’s not to say that teachers shouldn’t be striving for change.
The best teachers realise they have enough power to make small difference in people’s lives but that might be all it takes. Because the people they influence may end up having this power in the future to make those changes and they’ll make it because of your sacrifices for them.
So why do so many teachers let the job get to them and almost…give up and end up just going through the motions?
- Why do so many allow themselves to be placed in vulnerable situations?
- Why do so few of them complain about their predicament?
- Why do nearly all of them make no effort to make the situation better?
- Why do almost all of them end up complaining about the kids?
The Bottom Line
So this is my balanced assessment of the situation (and perhaps a tiny finger wag)…
Teachers should never blame the kids, no matter how bad they get and they should never use bad kids or rough schools as an excuse from realising they need more tools at their disposal to do their jobs properly.
I honestly think if you don’t have it in you to see the potential in the worst of humanity and be willing to give up the majority of your personal time to help them out, even when it may lead to nothing, then you should not be a teacher.
This isn’t preaching, it’s a pre-requisite needed in making sure the future leaders of this world don’t make the same mistakes we did.
It isn’t a skill I have and I don’t think many people naturally have it but it is something that can be nurtured out of people with the proper training.
I mean we can condition pacifists to kill complete strangers as part of our military training, why can’t we train our teachers to be innovative, engaging and stimulating to the bad kids who live down the street?
Why not complain to our institutions to make this a reality rather than having so many people fall short off the mark and holding the kids accountable instead.
The only ones who can put this into motion are the teachers themselves.
The most ironic point is
Why haven’t they learnt this yet?
If not, class dismissed…