Friday, March 29, 2024

John MacDonald: I could never be a teacher

One thing I know with absolute certainty is that I could never be a schoolteacher.

A few more people might be saying that today after the news that the behaviour of school kids in New Zealand has worsened over the past two years, making them among the worst-behaved in the OECD.

And I hope that parents around the country are hearing this news and thinking about what they can do to sort out this mess. Because, as far as I’m concerned, it all starts with us - the people who bring these kids into the world.

It’s not the schools’ fault. They just deal with what they’re given. Just like it shouldn’t be the schools who are left to come up with a solution to the problem being highlighted in this report out today from the Education Review Office - or ERO.

They’re the crowd that go around schools, checking they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Back in the day, they used to call them the School Inspectors. These days it’s a little bit more touchy feely. But, having been on a school board when ERO was on the way, they might not call themselves school inspectors anymore, but the schools still get a bit antsy about being under the microscope.

Today, though, ERO is speaking out on behalf of the schools - telling us about the nonsense teachers and principals have to deal with on a daily basis.

One stat in this report that caught my eye, is the 3-out-of-4 teachers who say they have students refusing to follow instructions every day. So, you imagine that - unless you’re a teacher, and you won’t have to imagine it.

But you imagine turning up at work everyday, knowing that you’re going to have kids ignoring you or just outright refusing to do what you want them to do. It would drive me nuts and I’d probably end-up being hauled in front of the Teaching Council. Because I know I’d lose my rag.

But that’s a daily thing for about 75% of teachers. Not to mention the violence, thieving, and vandalism going on.

I was talking to the principal of a school the other week, and he was telling me that he has full-school assemblies every week or so. And what he has to do there, is stand up and give the kids some sort of motivational talk.

He was telling me that he can really struggle with that sometimes. Because sometimes all he wants to do is get up in front of all the kids and say ‘for God’s sake, stop smashing up the toilets’.

And that’s the reality. Vandalism, violence, disrespect. And the Education Review Office says things need to change and something has to be done about it.

And if we think we can leave it to the Government and schools to sort out, then we’re dreaming.

Because nothing is going to change if parents don’t up the ante as well. And what I’m talking about here are simple things like making sure kids get to school and into their classroom on time. In fact, ahead of time.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m terrible at being on time for things. But if you have a kid turn up at school late, they go into the classroom on the back foot, they start talking to other kids trying to find out what’s going on, and the behaviour of everybody in the classroom spirals downwards from there.

Another thing is this easy-osey attitude that parents have to turning up at work since COVID. The old working-from-home thing has had massive repercussions around the world —not just here in New Zealand— with parents getting a bit slack about turning up when and where they should.

And that’s coming through in parents’ attitudes about the need for their kids to even actually go to school five days a week, let alone turn up there on time.

Then you think, well - what about the 75% of teachers who say they have kids refusing to do what they’re asked, every day? Parents can’t be blamed for that, can they?

Well, yes, they can actually. Because, unfortunately, too many parents have given up. Which probably sounds harsher than I mean it to sound, because I know full well that some kids are just out of control. And, for some parents, there seems to be nothing they can do to get their kids under control.

I’ve had parents call up and say they’re at their wits end. They’re good people these parents. But there are bad ones as well.

These are the parents who were probably the bad eggs when they were at school, and who have had no clue from the outset. And these are the parents who will have very low expectations when it comes to how their kids behave.

Problem is it’s their kids who are going to go, have kids of their own, and repeat the cycle over-and-over again.

So, what do we do?

John MacDonald is the Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch. - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

'These days it’s a little bit more touchy feely.' This is the problem and is driven by our education system. The children need to set their own learning, their own boundaries, there is to be no responsibility for actions, no punishment, not respect required. This is what our leaders and education system demands.

So the principal is wrong standing up and being all nice and pleasant. He should point out that smashing the toilets is the behaviour of an animal and those responsible will be treated as one. Instead of realising he/she is part of the problem, they whine about how unfair it is. No sympathy from this end at all. They have created this disaster and destroyed the future for at least one generation.

Anonymous said...

I discovered my nephew’s class (age 8) we’re unable to stand still and listen to instructions for a game at a party. It just so happened that their school had no male teachers. IMO the two are connected.

Majority said...

In my day there was a particularly effective remedy for recalcitrant pupils: the cane.

Gaynor said...

As a mature teacher, I agree with all the above contributors.

Education warped, decades ago, by Progressive Education (PE) ideology is no longer about teaching children to read, write and do maths. and so on but turning them into socialists, and even more so with Progressive Paulo Freire's more recent influence, even into Marxist's activists.

Takeover by Colleges of Education by Progressives and radicals in the 1960s has very gradually eroded traditional values and effective teaching methods which includes disciplined, systematic learning in an orderly classroom.

Consider the likes of J.J. Rousseau of the Romantic Era, (18th Century) and other major historical influences in our education who were critical of the civilized Christian world-order instead fetishizing the so- called 'noble savage' who to them lived the truer and freer life. Modernity has for them corrupted us. Children must be freed from the authoritarianism of adults. This is the tenet of our current child-centered education and PE whereby the child knows best and should not be overly disciplined and corrected. It could, in this ideological thinking , at least, destroy their self-esteem, enjoyment of learning and creativity. But does it really? Children, often, feel miserable and insecure in an undisciplined class.

We are, I believe,experiencing the inevitable product of ridiculing and cancelling traditional disciplining values, ethics and teaching methods. This has caused both abysmal academic achievement, poor discipline and impossible to control behaviour in students which has been deteriorating for decades.

Anonymous said...

'spare the rod and spoil the child'
PROVERB: if children are not physically punished when they do wrong their personal development will suffer.

although every generation thinks the previous one is stupid & the next one is lazy, it may not always be the case...

Anonymous said...

The focus was different in the past. School inspectors focused on the classroom environment. Are the children well disciplined? Does the teacher interact with them in a positive and helpful manner? Are the lessons interesting and is the teacher prepared for the lesson? Are the children presented with learning material they can understand, complete and thereby gain a feeling of success. Most children, 95%, were there most days, 95% of the time. If children were ill I was made aware of the situation. There was teamwork between teachers and parents. What evidences is there to ensure individual students are learning?

Today schools are inspected. Do the teachers provide for the Maori students in a culturally sensitive manner? Is all the paperwork necessary for lesson planning available. Are the RAMs for activities available? Do the children receive opportunities for cultural practice, sports practice, and drama practice within the school day so that they are successful in sport, in waka ama, Polyfest and Stage Challenge? Is attendance tracked and is absence followed up? Are lessons well presented and marking of student work completed in a timely manner? Is the teacher using Maori language in an appropriate manner in the presentation of lessons?

Today school encompasses much more than reading , writing and maths. Making room in the school day for an ever increasing curriculum of content results in less time for delivery of the basics. The focus has changed in both the curriculum and those who ‘inspect’ the schools. We live with the consequences.

Anonymous said...

For a start, we need to repeal the anti-smacking law. It's been a disaster as the outcome is as you've just outlined above. Has it stopped kids being murdered, maimed and abused, no it most certainly hasn't? Have they learned to push the boundaries and be untouchable - they sure have. We truly are fools to ourselves if we think for a moment society is now a better place for it.

Don said...

I agree with the title of this piece. Completing 50 years teaching service at the end of the century I retired. When I began pupils were mostly well mannered and pleasant and if they were not discipline was applied to help them regain normal behaviour. Twice daily the Class register was checked and absences noted and followed up. Towards the end of the century the register seemed to have faded away and discipline was a memory. To begin pupils approaching a door would open it for a teacher, at the end you might be shouldered aside and rudely answered if you remonstrated. Teachers are partly to blame as they dress as if going to the beach, allow over-familiarity with use of first names and casually not noticing infringements of behaviour.
A plethora of roles are expected today with family counsellor, food provider
and psychiatrist being among the many. I think I would barely last 5 minutes.

Robert Arthur said...

Never mentioned is that no other OECD country has a large percentage of maori/pacifica. It is no longer PC to give statistics but my guess is maori contribute disproportionately to trouble as the case in so many areas. Maoridom has been indoctrinated with the imagine decolonisation mantra preached by Moana Jackson, Margaret Motu and a myriad malcontent others. The application is a challenge but most simplify it to an anti convention, anti authority, anti anything civilisation originated attitude. Pacifica identify with maori and behave similar. Hence the intransigent attitudes. As the ancients recognised until 50 or so years ago, without fear of real penalties (including possibly in an afterlife), there is no incentive to conform, and many incentives not to. It requires superhuman powers to win over students programmed to oppose. With the help of strap and cane and students at their levels, older teachers worked wonders, especially with vast classes in the 1920s.