The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

We're auditing the Code of Behaviour at my school. The usual problems are occurring - sanctions are not being consistently applied, management are failing to support staff in the manner in which they need to be supported, staff lose faith, and stop filling in paperwork, leaving management's hands tied. In an inner city school, it doesn't take long for students to cotton onto this state of affairs, and things escalate quickly.
Example: yesterday, Craig, aged eleven, threw a blackboard rubber at a teacher, hard, then screamed "I hate you! I am going to get you! I am going to fucking --" (he slammed the door on the next thrilling instalment of what would be done).
After he wandered the corridors a while, he was picked up by an assistant headteacher. She checked the facts of the case with the classroom teacher, then took him away to cool down. Ten minutes later, he was sent back to the classroom, to apologise.
Most classroom teachers find this sort of ineffectual assumption that violent attacks and threats - whether from an eleven year old, or from a six foot sixteen year old - can be solved with a verbal apology deeply insulting. In extreme cases, you begin to fear for your personal security, and your job motivation suffers considerably if you begin to perceive that management don't care if you live or die.
Craig desperately needs behavioural help. But without the paperwork, it's hard getting it. If this is the seventeenth time in a row that Craig's outbursts have been trivialised and dismissed, the paperwork will be pushed aside for the teacher to spend a few moments shaking and crying instead. Teachers are human, and assaults at work are serious, however stressed by paperwork the management seem to be.
Therefore, no paperwork means no exclusion, no referral to educational psychologist, no assessment of behavioural need.
I wish I were exaggerating.

So, the preliminary documents for a consensus-structured Code of Behaviour are floated in the staffroom. All very positive and precise and helpful.
Except for one line.

"Our school does not believe in a tariff of sanctions."

I beg to differ. All classroom teachers believe in a tariff of sanctions. The country's legal system operates upon a tariff of sanctions. Our school currently - where a student cheeking a manager results in exclusion, but a student actually assaulting a mainscale classroom teacher is ignored - is, effectively a tariff of sanction, one that is merely determined by the social standing of the victim.

The meeting to discuss this will be interesting.