Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Toxic Teachers

I'd like to know what gives teachers the right to undo all that has been done in the time before their students arrive in their classes. Specifically, what right does a teacher have to damage the social fabric of a student's life? Are they not mandated to nurture not only the mind but the spirit? Granted, there are some who don't take this responsibility to heart, but the general consensus among educators is that teachers are tasked with the whole child, not just his or her academic achievements.

Take two students, boys who have been friends from nursery school. They have been friendly for years, and have a renewed, strengthened bond in their last year of elementary school. They get together outside of the school environment, are constantly in touch, play hockey together, and sit together on the bus to and from school. They are also in the same class.

Does a teacher have the right to pull aside one boy and tell him that the other is negatively influencing him and that he should stay away from that boy in school? Perhaps the combination of the two makes for a challenge, but does that give the teacher dominion over the children's social connections? Assume, for a moment, that the child admonished would follow his teacher's advice: does this not isolate and diminish the other child to a point where he might begin to feel less wanted in the social circle of his friends?

I don't know the answer; I don't know the entire situation, and I have to give the parties involved the benefit of the doubt. But I don't feel comfortable with the teacher telling one child not to be friends with the other; even if she didn't use those words, it is implied, and she risks the admonished child agreeing and complying so as not to rock the boat, and causing the other child's feelings of isolation and bewilderment. A less confident child might take it to heart, and this is where we begin to see the bullied child syndrome emerge.

Yes, teachers bully. I've taken my son's case, in Grade 4, all the way up to the school board's regional director, as well as to my local police station, when the teacher he was unfortunate enough to have that year belittled, insulted, humiliated and taunted him on a regular, ongoing basis. The only satisfaction I got from my actions was that the teacher no longer teaches at the school (whether from my complaint, or a flurry of them - I've no idea), and a slightly more attentive administration the following year.

But now we're back again, and while there is a 2-month remainder to the year, I am starting to see the signs of bullying returning, this time embodied by another teacher. Do I tell the boy to suck it up, and live through the next 2 months without incident, or do I take this to administration? Not a born complainer, not one to make waves, this situation doesn't have an easy answer in my head. But the mother tigress protecting her cubs is what I become, and I'm tempted to pursue this after the week's holidays have come and gone, and classes resume.

It does make me question everything that goes on in school, though. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it raises a mistrust that doesn't feel good, not when one is dealing with the people who see my children more hours than I do in a given day.

I'll wait and see; they're off till next Wednesday, so there's no need to stress about it. But I wish someone would just retrain teachers in sensitivity issues, rather than all the pedagogical development days they get (3-4 times the number of ped days in Quebec than Ontario teachers, and I see no visible difference in the quality of my sons' education).

Perhaps, as I set foot onto the field of Educational Technology, this could become a focal point. Sometimes the most important missions arise from the necessities of life instead of the whims or ideas.

Stay tuned...

(comments welcomed)

1 comment:

Laurence said...

Sounds like you've had a bit of bad luck with your son's teachers.

Hopefully the good that can come out of any bad situation will become predominant in your mind... it usually requires a change of perspective. Surround yourself with people who make the best of situations, who see challenges instead of problems. (wink for Top 5 ref)

I certainly agree that teachers need to spend more time learning social strategies for guiding children and less on academia.

If you can affect change or even raise awareness about the issue of teacher bullying, your proactive tenacity will have been worthwhile.