There is something radically wrong with a school and educational system when such offences are allowed to perpetuate.
It cannot be left in the hands of an individual teacher or students or parent to vindicate their rights. Such a policy has left many teachers feeling isolated in classrooms, stressed students without advocates within the school and concerned parents helpless. It can also mean that teachers under pressure can resort to abusive methods of control or throw in the towel and let chaos reign.
This is not to say that individual teachers, managers, students and parents have not responsibilities to mutually respect and uphold each others’ rights but there are individuals (students and teachers) within schools who are so emotionally troubled that they are not in a mature place to exercise such responsibilities. In situations like this it is the school system that must have clear and strong structures that ensure safety for all.
There are teachers who spend considerable amounts of time attempting to control one or more students who continually disrupt the order of the class. It is well documented that students who persistently offend the rights of teachers and other students come from troubled homes and it is only when the inner and outer conflicts of these children are resolved will they be ready for learning.
Every child has a right to education but some students in classrooms are learning little or nothing because of their distressed states which are manifested in undisciplined conduct. Some teachers and principals are reluctant to remove these students from classrooms as they feel they will be accused of violating the student’s right to be educated.
The contrary is true: by allowing these students to stay in classrooms, where it is clear they are not ready for learning and that they need considerable help before they will be in a fit emotional state for education, teachers and parents are neglecting these students’ right to be educated. Furthermore, the responsibility for helping these students’ family-based problems must rest squarely on the shoulders of parents with the support of the school system.
When parents are refusing to exercise their responsibilities the school needs to contact the Social Services. Putting a child out of class does not mean the school ceases involvement in the child’s education. However, the school needs to recognise that the problems of particular students cannot be allowed to be a source of the violation of teachers’ and indeed other students’ rights. It is amazing how both teachers and parents forget not only about the rights of teachers but also the right to be educated by the motivated students in classrooms where learning is disrupted by the undisciplined behaviour of students who are troubled.
It is not only students who violate the rights of teachers! Passive or aggressive leadership can result in many teachers feeling abandoned by a school system. Poor morale, staff conflict, few staff meetings, poor communication and an ineffective discipline system are products largely of ineffective leadership.
An effective school system will have structures (for example, recourse procedures to Board of Management, School Inspectorate, Department of Education, Parents’ Association) that empower teachers to voice difficulties about principals and vice-principals and ensure action on their concerns. Such actions are caring in nature, not only of the rights of teachers and students but of the principals who are not coping effectively with their responsibilities.
Private industry would not tolerate the ineffectiveness and neglect that some school leaders perpetrate. These individuals deserve professional help to resolve their personal difficulties and increase their professional effectiveness.
I have the right to physical, emotional, social, intellectual, creative and sexual safety.
I have the right to respect from students, colleagues, leaders and parents.
I have the right to teach in an atmosphere of order and attention.
I have the right to demand social structures within the school that guarantee respect for my rights.
I have the right to ask for help when needed.
I have the right to fair, just and effective leadership on the part of the school principal and vice-principal.
I have the right to express any need or grievance I may have.
When any of my rights are violated, I have the right to have recourse to social structures within and outside the school that protect those rights.
Extracted From “A Different Kind of Discipline”
Dr Tony Humphreys is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist in private practice and specialist lecturer for health care and teaching professions in University College, Cork and Limerick University. He is Ireland’s most influential psychologist and leading speaker on individual, couple and family relationships. He is the author of a number of bestselling books, including Work and Worth: Take Back Your Life, The Power of ‘Negative’ Thinking, A Different Kind of Teacher and Myself, My Partner. He is internationally renownedand has done lecture tours and media in countries such as South Africa, Sweden and Turkey. His books have appeared in nineteen foreign-language editions. August 2002 will see the publication of his latest book, Examining Our Times, a compilation of articles that originally appeared in The Irish Times and the Irish Examiner.From the book A Different Kind of Discipline