Saturday, 31 July 2010

Teachers - 猪八戒照镜子

Saw the news on yahoo! about a 14-year-old school girl who kicked her teacher in her abdomen and hit her head.

The teacher was insisted by her husband to file a police report.

The news invited many comments. Most are accurate in pointing out that the child's problem stems from her family. Having been in the education field for a few years and dealt with problematic children, I have come to realise that parents are so agitated about teachers' complaining about their children because very often, children are the reflection of a bigger trouble or problem, which is the parents. When you complain about a child's behaviour, the parents feel disgruntled because you are insinuating that they have failed in their parents' duty. These parents often feel insulted, whether they are conscious of it or not. Most of them get defensive. There are some who take it in their stride and appreciate the feedback. However, there are others who feel that you are picking a bone with the child, as well as the parents themselves.

It's hard to believe that until now, there are commenters who still believe that the fault lies with the teacher:
1) She must have treated the child unfairly, prompting the child to react violently.
2) She did not use love to melt the child by showing concern and care.
3) She lodged a police report. It leaves a bad mark on the child and makes the child feel that she is condemned.

These people naively think that all children are mouldable and should be given chances neverendingly.

Up till now, I can confidently say that every teacher I have met is compassionate and has a heart for the children. Sometimes I wonder in awe at the discernment or wisdom of the MOE interviewers who are able to sieve out these teachers. Whether they are competent in their teaching subjects - that's another matter. But in terms of recruiting teachers who have a heart for the children, I'm pretty sure the MOE interviewers have done a neat job.

However, like many other earthlings, we are only humans and have a limit to our tolerance.

Like the rest of the earthlings, we want to give the recalcitrant child a clean slate when we first take over the child in a new class.

But very often, the child's unacceptable behaviour has become a norm or habit for himself. The child views teachers as enemies and refuses to give teachers a chance at working out the relationship. Not the other way round.

If teachers are not bogged down with so much work, perhaps they can afford to take time out to talk to the child, to counsel the child, to be extra nice to the child.

The fact is: I don't even have time to go through a previous lesson with children who were on MC!

A child approached me and asked me to help her with a lesson she had missed. I wanted to work out a day which I could do just that, but I went," Monday I cannot. Tuesday I have supplementary until 3pm. Wednesday I also have supplementary. Thursday I have meeting until 6pm. Friday I also cannot. ... How about next week? ... Oh dear, next week also cannot ... The week after next? ... Too late already."

My situation is not uncommon. Other teachers said the same thing happens to them. They would like to help the good children catch up on what they have missed but due to time constraint, they are not able to do it.

It's a sad fact that despite teachers having a heart for the children, there is little we can do. The schools have this idealised picture of teachers' time being used fruitfully, but they have failed to realise that children are at the ultimate losing end of this calculation. I wonder what sort of society Singapore will become 10 or 20 years down the road.

William mentioned once that an ex-colleague said that it's scary to see into the future of Singapore, because he or she could picture their students robbing the by-then elderly teachers along the street, since these students are not disciplined or have the right values inculcated in them since young.

It's easy to say that teachers should be the one inculcating the right values, but what use is inculcation if there's no discipline? Children cannot be just nagged at or said to. In the process of moulding, surely discipline must come into the picture.

Sometimes I want to laugh when parents tell me,"Go ahead and beat him if he's not paying attention! Go ahead and beat him if he's naughty! I give you permission to do just that!"

The fact is: my boss says 'cannot'. And what if you go back on what you said if I really do it?

A parent recently was appalled when I told her that her child does not pay attention in class despite being right under the teacher's nose. She said that I ought to punish him.

I asked,"Oh, how should I punish him?"

She was audibly surprised at the question, repeating,"How should you punish him??"

The fact is: teachers cannot punish students.

Writing lines? It has been criticised by educators as being ineffective and senseless.

Scold him? Have done that. Not effective.

Use peer pressure to get him to behave himself? Have done that. Not effective.

Make him stay back after school? I have to keep tab of the time and call the parent up to inform her that I'm making him stay backfor how long. I once got too busy and forgot about a child, the parent came to the school and told me off. Making children stay back after school is ineffective. At best, they stay back and said 'sorry' to you and repeat their offences. At worst, they run away, giving no regard to your instructions at all.

Ask him to stand outside the classroom? The bosses will question you if they see it happening. And they will question the effectiveness of the punishment and whether any learning has taken place despite the punishment.

Isn't it ridiculous? The child must not miss out on the lessons despite being punished!

Cane him? We're educators and must never touch the child.

So how should I punish him?

If you're wondering what my title for this post means, it's a Chinese proverb about Pigsy, the second disciple of Xuan Zang or 唐三藏, who views his own reflection in the mirror.

The following line is: 里外不是人 ('not a human'), meaning your hands are tied - criticised no matter what you do or how you handle the matter.

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