January 24, 2022

The Editor Speaks: Government, schools, teachers, parents, kids. Who is at fault?

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Colin WilsonwebThis is my second editorial in as many months on the subject of the behaviour of our kids at school and the assault on the teachers by them.

The Cayman Islands Minister for Education, Tara Rivers, is very prickly when it comes to any criticism and comes back with both barrels blazing.

The Caymanian Compass recently took her to task because Ms Rivers statement to the Legislative Assembly recently didn’t seem to be sufficiently “outraged”. I had to agree with the Compass as the Education Minister’s statement seemed to gloss over the disgraceful student behavioural issues as if it wasn’t of major concern.

What the Compass did was to get a very quick reaction from the Minister who gave us some more information that is most welcome namely:

“The internal review of the behaviour management system is now complete. Detailed action plans are being developed to create a system that sets clear expectations and accountability of students, parents, teachers, schools, DES and Ministry administration, to better utilize resources within the school system and to foster more effective collaboration between the schools and other government agencies concerned with the welfare and protection of our children and residents at large. Continuing with the status quo is simply not acceptable.”

She also said, “no amount of ‘tough talk’ alone will help to address the issue. My approach to leadership is and has been less dramatic yet quite simple — assess the situation and then take action to address the situation as presented.

Fine. However, there did not appear to be any action that was addressing the situation.

In my first Editorial on the subject published in iNews Cayman on March 27 2014 “It’s a major problem with teachers” (go to: https://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/the-editor-speaks-its-a-major-problem-with-teachers/) I highlighted the major problem, in MY opinion, was discipline, or the lack of it, and parents taking “a hostile approach against the school and teacher for enacting discipline against their ‘precious’ child who might be a saint in their eyes but in the real world imitates a demon.”

I then went on: “With no discipline in the child’s home and parents employing nannies and helpers to look after their child because they are too busy keeping down more than one job, and the kids watching violence on the television programmes, it is no wonder we are having all these problems.

“It is not a mandate of the school to teach discipline and respect. That begins and should end in the home.”

I have not changed that opinion.

However, in researching “behaviour management systems” in schools I found this interesting article on line at: http://topnotchteaching.com/experts/behaviour-management-strategies/. It places almost all of the action upon the teacher.

I am not going to repeat the whole piece but I will give some excerpts. It is written by a teacher and gives her top 5 behaviour management strategies that have worked.

From “The Top 5 Behaviour Management Strategies That Have Worked For Me”

I think one of the most difficult parts of being a teacher is the classroom behaviour management. I remember at University we were required to write a statement outlining our philosophy of classroom behaviour management. Mine is below:

“As a teacher it is my responsibility to maintain harmony and the process of learning in the classroom. To this end a preventative approach to behaviour management will be used. Through a democratic process students will be involved in the decision making of a classroom philosophy outlining rights and responsibilities. Social skills and values will be encouraged promoting a caring classroom community. The purpose of behaviour management is to promote a positive, caring classroom community that encourages student learning, positive peer and teacher relationships and self-motivation. It is not about forcing students to “…comply with teacher demands…” but allowing them to have ownership and success in all aspects of their schooling (Charles, 2002, p.224). Students then become the main decision makers in their lives and accept the responsibility that this entails.”

Looking at this now it is quite idealistic, but there are some parts to this statement that I believe have assisted me with the behaviour management in my classroom.

The following describes the 5 most effective strategies that I have successfully used in my class to assist with the classroom behaviour management.

  1. Be Fair and Consistent
  2. Creating a Belonging Classroom Environment – Rights and Responsibilities
  3. Teaching Skills
  4. Using Low Key Responses
  5. Formal Contracts

Under all the 5 strategies is a very detailed discourse. She sums up:

“Finally, I think that it is so very important to support new teachers and teachers who are struggling with behaviour management. My first few years of teaching were not very supportive and it was very much a ‘sink or swim’ mentality.

“If you notice someone in your school struggling, why not consider starting a support group.”

She also says, “behaviours are having a serious impact on the functioning of the classroom.

Only under Formal Contracts does she mention the involvement of “possibly the parent or guardian”.

I urge all of you with children at school to read it and perhaps hand a copy of it to the teacher. If any teachers are reading this I would welcome your feedback.

I have not answered my own question, though. Who is at fault? Government, schools, teachers, parents, or kids?

The cop out is to say a combination of all five. It could also be the right answer.

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  1. Carol-Ann Rudy says

    Having taught for about 11 years, including three-month teaching stints during the summer, I can say that the beginnings of a sense of responsibility in a child start at home. As a teacher, I could tell from Day One which student had a caring parent who taught (yes–parents are the FIRST teachers) their child to accept responsibility for his or her actions and accept consequences graciously. That same child could be counted on to display courtesy towards others, and particularly elders and teachers.
    On the same subject, how many readers have read, and taken to heart, the recommendations of the American Academy of Paediatricians that “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”
    It’s so tempting for busy, overwhelmed parents to sit children in front of a tv set! Here’s a link to that article: http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx
    Let’s not expect teachers to assume the role of parent to your child, especially when he or she may have as many as 36 children in the classroom. It’s tough enough being a parent to one, or two, or three! Prepare your child to be a good citizen, now and in the future.

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