The Attitudes Which Cause the Behaviour CrisisJanuary 23, 2012
Every so often I end up arguing with somebody who claims that I am addressing “straw men” positions. They claim that I am arguing against positions that would never be held by anyone who could be taken seriously. I suspect most of my readers, particularly the teachers, know that the positions I argue against are all too common. However, just in case, here are 3 examples of the attitudes a teacher can face in school.
1) A prominent headteacher who disapproves of using detentions as punishment rather than relationship building.
Detentions are not terribly useful. People tend to try and find a more creative way of dealing with issues, because to get good discipline you need to work with youngsters and get their co-operation. Simply penalising and depriving them of time and so on isn’t always helpful. The only time when I think it can be useful is when that time is used by the teacher to constructively work with that individual child, in a way that they don’t normally have time to, to actually rebuild the relationship. Personally, I am completely against the notion of what I think in some schools is called faculty detention, where somebody else runs it. As far as I can see, the only reason for keeping a youngster behind is to enable me, as the teacher, to improve relationships with that youngster, but that’s unlikely to occur if the youngster perceives the detention as being a period of almost imprisonment.
2) A head of department who believes children shouldn’t have to do what they are told.
I quite like a lot of David Didau writes about on his blog, but I have no confidence in his attitude to discipline. From a blogpost that I particularly disagreed with:
…students are in school to learn, not to behave. It’s no good bleating about ‘behaviour crises’ if all you’ve got to offer is some rules to follow. Frankly, I wouldn’t follow ‘em. I’m a bugger for asking ‘Why?’ which accounts for my personal struggle with recipe books: I always want to be given a reason why the onions have to be cooked for 5 minutes or why the water has to be ice cold or why you have to keep on stirring. I’m interested in knowing the thinking behind these instructions and really struggle to follow them unless they’re explained. Possibly the reason I’m bad at following recipes is also the reason why I enjoy teaching? Robert Sylwester, Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Oregon said, “Misguided teachers who constantly tell their pupils to sit down and be quiet imply a preference for working with a group of trees, not a classroom full of young people.
3) A child who cannot admit to doing wrong, even after assaulting a teacher.
Please take a look at this. (If anyone can help me embed this for viewing on my blog then I’d be very grateful).
Of particular note is this section of the interview with Chloe, a girl who is treated as a victim throughout the report:
Voiceover: So Chloe was statemented [a bureaucratic procedure under which a child is treated as if they have no responsibility for their own actions], registered as having special educational needs, but after an incident in which a teacher tried to confiscate her phone, the school had had enough.
Chloe: Because I was playing with it and she told me to hand it in and I said “no”. And she tried taking it off me. And so I put it down my bra so she couldn’t get it and then she took it. Then ran down the stairs with it because she asked me to leave and I said “no”. Then, so she took my phone and she started shouting in my face when I took it out of her hand so I pushed her out of my face.
Interviewer: So you pushed her? Hard?
Chloe: I didn’t exactly knock her over, so it can’t have been that hard.