Stop blaming teachers for difficult children

12th September 2008 at 01:00
Is it just me or are you fed up with the excuses? It seems to me that the establishment is all too ready to justify poor pupil behaviour, and it makes my blood boil.

Blame should never be levelled at the pupil, even if he or she possesses zero motivation, is antagonistic and truants regularly. Do-gooders tell us that environmental factors inhibit the pupil from learning. Yes, it's the teacher's fault again.

The whole issue is enough to send my blood pressure soaring. Why, then, do the co-operative, pleasant, respectful and less-able pupils learn, whereas others of the same ilk do not? Is it because they take responsibility for their own behaviour, commendably making the most of their opportunities?

The burgeoning excuses for bad behaviour often come from a school's pastoral staff. To be fair, they do a difficult job. However, after a honeymoon period of supporting classroom teachers, they too get drawn into the no-blame game. Poor home background is often cited. "You don't understand what he has to put up with at home," is often the excuse trotted out. You are never told what it is, but you are still supposed to make generous allowances for it.

This often means letting the pupil do what he or she wants as long as the equilibrium of school life is not disturbed. This is, quite frankly, pathetic. What has happened to the notion of the pupil being responsible for his own actions?

Another well-used excuse is that your lesson is not interesting enough, causing the pupil to misbehave. There will be many reasons for this, but in this scenario the finger is pointed at bad teaching.

The new credo is that only an all-singing, all-dancing lesson will enable these pupils to act in a responsible manner.

So have you catered for the badly behaved pupil's needs? If the pupil is a kinaesthetic learner, surely you have devised a programme so that he or she can learn? If not, he will misbehave and you will obviously be to blame.

In science, is the lesson mainly practical? Even if he or she blows up the lab or injures fellow pupils, that's all right because you have catered for his needs. This non-blame culture fills me with horror, but increasingly it seems to be the norm.

Even when the pupil has assaulted a member of staff, I have heard teachers being asked: "What did you do to provoke the attack?" The teacher, not the pupil, is at fault again.

We have sunk to an all-time low when this happens, but I have witnessed the situation time and time again.

But what must be remembered is that pupils who misbehave will soon tell you of their rights when confronted. However, as teachers, we also have rights We should keep reminding the next generation that they are responsible for their own behaviour and actions before it is too late.

Jim Goodall is a retired science teacher from Torfaen.

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