I can regularly be found berating my telly or radio when I hear teacher-bashing articles; especially as there is a well-publicized shortage of teachers in the country. No amount of shiny recruitment ads with a class full of smiley children will persuade people to come to teaching when we hear that teachers already in the profession are in danger of being violently abused, or having to bring dress codes into the playground for parents who wear nightwear to do the school run.
My views are clear cut on both issues: It is never acceptable for any pupil to attack me in my job. (I once told a student who asked me what would I do if he threw a chair at me that I would throw it back – my job description was to teach not WWF wrestler.) And for goodness sake grown ups need to wear outdoor clothes in the playground.
Feel free to challenge me on any of these points I have explored my views at the top of my voice in the car this week.
Apart from the obvious role of school – to learn and be educated – children should arrive at the end of their schooldays with some view of their part they play in our world. That is not to say they must be strangled by rules, there should always be wiggle room for the development of independence in the run up to freedom (if that ever really truly does exist). But look one person’s choices could be another’s entrapment.
It is heartbreaking to hear that 43% of teachers had suffered violence at the hand of students. Imagine getting into your day’s work with children (not in the army going to war) and you are called names, being sworn at, been assaulted or, in some cases, been killed. We read that teachers say that behaviour is worsening and whilst these are not everyday occurrences, bearing in mind I’ve never been physically threatened or assaulted in my 19-year career, someone out there must be picking up all my damage. What or who is it that sends the message to some children that it is acceptable to go into school and bring such behaviour into the classroom?
And so onto the parents. We have seen the images of mothers shovelling bags of chips through the gates of a school where they had dared to put the healthy eating habits of their students as a priority. Now parents, angry at being asked not to wear their jim-jams into the school playground, are actively denouncing the headteacher’s polite request and purposely wearing pyjamas and slippers on the school run. Translate this as “Oh, the Headteacher of the school that is educating and caring for my child in the day has asked me to do something that’s not entirely unreasonable or financially difficult, but you know what I’m gonna do what I damn well please.”
Fast forward to a lesson where a teacher of said parent’s child asks them to, let’s say, collect all the pencils, give out the morning milk or refrain from adapting the school uniform as agreed when they joined the school. Would a stonewall of a response be acceptable? Okay, yes they are the kids in the classroom and not the grown ups in the playground top and tailing the school day, but a child’s first role model are its parents. There are ample stories and images of adults behaving badly in the world – name calling, intolerance, starting wars – that it is up to the carers of tiny people to create a benchmark.
Let’s start with the basics: leave your pyjamas at home when getting dressed for the day and don’t hit your teacher.