Rude students destroy teaching
7th April 2011

In the following, published in yesterday's Courier Mail, I argue that one of the most serious and destructive issues faced by teachers is badly behaved students.  The English 'White Paper' suggests some solutions.

Courier Mail
WED 06 APR 2011
Unruly kids must be put in their place
By Kevin Donnelly

BANNING childcare workers from sending badly behaved toddlers to the ``naughty corner'', the most recent edict from Australia's so-called education experts, joins a long list of politically correct, new-age fads designed to nurture self-esteem and a ``care, share, grow'' approach to education.
The list includes banning the ``F'' word - failure - from the classroom, making teachers give up red pens when correcting work and punishing teachers for being over-zealous when disciplining children.
It also needs to be recognised that the National Childcare Accreditation Council's argument that it is wrong to send children to the ``naughty corner'' is not an isolated example.
South Australian guidelines published by the Children, Youth and Women's Health Service also argue that it is wrong to punish children by isolating them on the basis that ``it makes the child believe he or she is naughty and perhaps unloved and unloveable, and this damages self-esteem''.
No wonder teachers, both here and in England, rank rude and badly behaved children as one of the major obstacles to effective teaching and one of the main reasons they leave the profession.
Surveys of new teachers by the Australian Education Union show classroom behaviour is consistently among the top four areas of concern.
In England, the problem is just as bad, as noted by the Conservative Government's education White Paper, titled The Importance of Teaching.
The reality is that poor parenting has led to generations of children with little, if any, respect for authority; and teachers and schools have long since lost the ability to properly discipline disruptive students.
Many children have also been so indulged - on the mistaken basis that being disciplined is bad for their self-esteem and parents should never say ``no'' as it offends their delicate psyches - that they find it impossible to properly control themselves.
Matters are made worse by the fact that schools, especially government schools, have their hands tied about punishing students. Principals have long complained about the time-consuming and bureaucratic nature of the process involved in getting approval to expel students.
There is an alternative. Parents need to be held accountable for their failure to teach their children civility and the correct way to treat others.
Schools and teachers need to be given increased power to enforce strong discipline policies and children, even toddlers, need to suffer the consequences for their bad behaviour.
Australian education authorities also need to look closely at England, where the Government is now committed to increasing the ``authority of teachers to discipline pupils by strengthening their power to search pupils, issue same-day detentions and use reasonable force where necessary''.
English schools will be given greater authority to deal with discipline issues at the local level and the Government, under its ``Troops to Teachers'' program, intends to fast-track ex-servicemen into the teaching profession as they ``have a great deal to offer young people as mentors''.


Responses to this Post

I have been teaching since 1965.  And I am still going although I have not taught secondary for quite a time.
Now teaching TAFE students after some time at a university.
Yes the rudeness, sense of entitlement and the ignorance of students does destroy teachers.   I have seen it happen.
The problem is that the parents of these difficult students have been the role models for these children.
Very early in my career in a moment of instant reflex, I slapped a boy of about 15 years.   I was a shocked as he was and fled the class.   I saw my headmaster and shaking in my shoes told him what I had done and what had led to it.   He mildly commented, "Thank you for letting me know.   And just do not make a habit of it."
A few days later I ran into the boy's mother and was prepared for a blast.   She knew nothing of the incident and when I told her all the details, said "I know he can be a real pest.   If he does that again you slap him!"   
I am not in favour of slapping but I really feel that the responses of that time were healthier than the violent over reactions of today.

In this society it is the teachers and the police who are in the front line when it comes to managing the behaviour of many who will not, or cannot, control their own.  Society is increasing the powers of the police while generally whittling away any support and authority the teachers may have.
Two years ago a Head Teacher at TAFE was required my management to apologise to a low-life who had gone into a class and kicked his girl-friend whom he was accusing of looking at someone else.   The teacher remonstrated with the intruder who then claimed to have been treated disrespectfully by the teacher.   Management backed the assailant instead of calling the police.   This occurred in the secondary classes run at some of the TAFE colleges.

You would have to pay me $500.000 tax free to get me back into a secondary classroom.

Philip Owen
Philip Bay, NSW

Bruce Manning says:

I was on the point of e-mailing Dr.Donnelly, to offer a congratulatory 'hear! hear!' on the wisdom of his Courier Mail article (06/04/11), but on having my customary look at the Website, discovered that he had published the article, together with a timely and appropriate response to it, by Philip Owen. I hope my additional comment may contribute a bit more towards killing off the absurd current trend in which self-righteous and hysterically misguided do-gooders are in reality, increasingly depriving children of their basic right to feel secure.

Like Philip Owen,I too have administered corporal pastoral care in a State secondary school - twice in fact. Having spent my days only in independent secondary schools, both as student and teacher, I believed I needed to experience the State Education system. On the first occasion, I had found a cane in the Staff Common Room, and administered three memorable stings to the backside [the hand has always been grossly inappropriate]of a Year 11 student who richly deserved it,and knew he did; which is why he did not complain to the Principal.

But I told the Principal,who said,'You can't do that,'to which I responded,'But I have,'-'Yes but you can't.' I reminded him yet again that I had, and had furthermore advised the boy that a repetition of his behaviour would guarantee an automatic,repeat caning. Unsurprisingly,the teacher-pupil relationship was entirely satisfactory from then on. Second occasion,a Year 10 student was quite rude to me in class, and - in spontaneous father-to-son [male-to-male]reaction - I went 'bang' on the side of his face with the open palm of my hand. Come the subsequent break,he [quite unnecessarily] 'reported me' to the Principal, and this occasioned a re-run of the above, circular conversation between Public Servant and dedicated,individualistic teacher.  Once again,it was the Public Servant's knees that were trembling;mine were not. Strangest thing subsequently happened two days later,the boy appeared in my class with all his books covered in brown paper (pictures pasted on fronts),and evidently did the same in all of his subjects. He was a model student thereafter!

The third anecdote is the more seriously instructive. Having gone back to independent school teaching,I arrived for 'ground duty 'one lunch break,in an excellent school,to discover the Year 12 body milling about like an angry mob, and that they had a teacher bailed up in his classroom afraid to emerge. Two other staff happened along and together,but with some difficulty,we dispersed the boys. When the dust had settled,I grabbed a boy who was in my Year 12 group and asked 'what the hell they thought they were doing.' A good four inches taller than I was,but not quite succeeding in holding back the tears, he explained,'Oh Sir, if we [he described some relatively tame, but quite unacceptable,'naughty-boy' hypotheticals],you'd crack up and get real agro.' I said,'Yes - I'd cane you.' 'That's what I mean,' he replied. 'But "Turkey"[not the real nick-name] doesn't care - he just lets you do anything.'

One would have to be unusually dense not to realise that, on behalf of his cohort, this boy was begging for the comforting security of firm discipline. The Master of Studies once mentioned, grudgingly actually, that I held the staff record for parent requests to have their offsprings in my classes. I used the cane throughout my teaching career, but that averaged about once in any four-year period.

Vivien Johnson says:
I have been teaching in government schools since 1970. I recognise and sympathise with the frustration and yes, agony of teachers stuck in classes of abusive students. I used to think that men teachers were better off than us women because boys were more respectful-or at least more wary of getting a thick ear- but in these days all that has changed.
Teachers face instant dismissal if they lay a hand on anyone. I have seen 4-5 men have their careers destroyed through false claims of sexual advances made by malicious "ratbag" girls. I have experienced what could only be described as sexual harrassment from year 10 boys in an ACT school which has mercifully now closed (one or two of them jerking their hips right in front of me while pulling open their zips. in front of a laughing,cheering class) When I complained to the head of Science (far younger and less experienced than I) he told me that I had to be understanding because they were from bad homes.

The awful plummet in standards I have witnessed in my own subjects Math, Sciences over the years has been due largely to continual class disruption, resulting inability to get across difficult concepts, and, quite simply, the impossibility of being heard! I have sometimes had "good classes" thank God, where I could reassure myself that the failures were not my fault. Why on earth would anyone today with a good degree (as opposed to a "Dawkins Uni teaching" degree") even dream of lowering themselves to take up this career?

Vivien Johnson
Macarthur, ACT




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7th April 2011

In the following, published in yesterday's Courier Mail, I argue that one of the most serious and destructive issues faced by teachers is badly behaved students.  The English 'White Paper' su...
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