Here it goes:
Once upon a time on a random Tuesday afternoon, a teacher set aside her lesson to scold her class of form ones (11-13 years olds). They had been behaving badly in recent times and they needed a shake up to try to bring them back to reality.
When the teacher was finished and the bell had rung signalling the end of the school day, she had scarcely reached her office and begun to pack up when she was confronted by another teacher who indicated that two girls who were part of the class to whom she had spoken earlier, had instigated a fight with another female student that very minute. The teacher was aghast. Hadn’t she just spoken to these students about their deportment and their lack of discipline? Was it simply a matter of her 35-minute sermon going in one ear and coming out the next? Had she lost precious teaching time for nothing?
The teacher went outside and proceeded to call the two girls who proceeded to delay in walking toward her. This got the teacher annoyed because she began to think about her own biological children who needed to be picked up from school a whole 60-something kilometres away while she had to be there dealing with that nonsense. She began to shout with authority at the girls about the mere stupidity of their actions and insisted that they go to the office.
Concurrently, one of the girls had a boyfriend who was in another class who decided that he would jump into the fray to save his girlfriend from the teacher who was admonishing her. Upon realizing that the boyfriend was addressing her, the teacher turned to the young boy and spoke to him directly, indicating that no one had called him and he should excuse himself. The boyfriend muttered. The teacher asked for clarity and indicated that if he had something to say he should come to her directly. The young boy bounced up, pointed a finger in the teacher’s face and said she should mind her business. Unrelenting in her purpose, the teacher told him that he had no authority to point at her to which he replied “Hush your cunt”. The teacher replied that she didn’t know that he was aware of any body parts belonging to her and then turned to the girlfriend and said, “You have great taste in men.”
In the office, while writing up the notices to see parents for the two young girls, the teacher’s annoyance switched to amusement. In all of her years working at the school, never had she been so disrespected but she felt as though if it had to happen, it should have been someone a bit more worthy. She jumped in her car and went on her merry way, eager to give her husband the joke about these students’ obvious loss of mental capacity, ruminating on her strategy for the following day and boy would it be a good one.
The mother picked up her own children from school and after her usual pleasantries, realized that something was wrong with her son. He was unusually quiet. He then randomly asks (or maybe not so randomly) when was the next occasion for Confession at their church. This made the mother anxious. At home she realized that he was shadowing her and kept asking for hugs. She didn’t ask him anything but merely waited. Eventually he said he had something to tell her and after almost five minutes of fidgety eyes and playing with his fingers, he said that he knew she was going to get mad but he proceeded to outline what happened. Apparently he was part of a WhatsApp group with boys commenting using very strong obscene language. A parent found out and the boys got in trouble at school with their teacher. He looked at his mother and said that he was sorry and he knew it was “out of his character” and that he got “caught up”. The mother sighed and said she was glad that he told her and she spoke to him about being responsible on social media and not bowing to peer pressure. She imagined that it would be the first of many like conversations but boy was she proud that he found it enough on his conscience to recognize his missteps and to come clean. She trained her son to be sensible enough (not perfect but sensible!) to identify a basic right from a wrong approach and wondered why other parents couldn’t do the same.
Last week Son-son was in a fight. This is the first time in his whole 5-year primary school career that he has ever been in a physical fight so I was understandably stunned. He didn’t start the fight but he was in it, and by in it, I mean he was punched and kicked twice by one boy while he lost his footing and fell to the floor. Now thankfully he was not bruised and no bones were broken but I quickly grew to rage as I saw his face swollen, imagined the visual and realized that there was nothing I could have done about it at the time as school was already dismissed.
He’s fine and the matter is settled now with the school but I think in all what really ticked me off was this expressed sentiment by a few that my son couldn’t have defended himself or that he ‘does take licks easy’ and that he’s too ‘sorf’ (soft). “He didn’t know to hit that boy some tap?” Now there was a point in time where it was just my son and I and since then my family has grown but there has always been this idea by some that because he grew up with me in his younger days, he was too ‘up under me’, too sensitive and not ‘tough’ or ‘fearless’ enough.
I don’t know why people don’t understand that my son is not a fighter and that is perfectly OK. He does not like conflict, he does not engage in it and does not want to be caught up in it and that is perfectly OK. He does not like karate and that is OK. He is not devoid of physical activity because he is always on-the-go, sweaty, smelly and speaks excitedly at break-need speed. He is normal, functioning and intelligent. When the time comes he will be able to defend himself wisely and nobody will have to teach him how to throw a punch or to block and that is what it is. I always thank God that he has never been the subject of the bullying that is so rampant in Trinidad and Tobago’s primary schools these days and this was a random, wild incident by a peer who temporarily lost his mind it would seem.
I asked him why he didn’t defend himself, he replied that all he was thinking in the quick time that it happened was that he didn’t want to be expelled from school. He suffered as a result of it but after the fact that answer worked for me especially as I see the result of the tit-for-tat school scuffles bleeding into the secondary school system. I’m raising my son to be a thinker not a fighter and the pure fact of the matter is that the thinkers, the ones who see consequence before action, are the ones who succeed in this life. Plain talk.
Some children these days seem not to be taught how to be responsible for their actions. They exist with a sense of deniability and YOLOness that prompts them to be so capricious and carefree that there is almost no thought to their actions far less their consequences. By children I mean young teenagers, the ones in secondary school who should be focusing on getting their education who to my mind are still children as they are under eighteen.
I say this mainly out of frustration because I’ve endured a day where the new 11-13 year olds seem to be under the impression that they are ‘running tings’ in the school. The behaviour is so appalling and outright boldfaced that I wonder if their primary school teachers were happy to see them go. Parents have been called to the school left, right and centre and it continues tomorrow. Most parents are in agreement that the children need to settle down and get on with their work. They yell at them about ‘makin dem shame’, give warnings and threats and keep massive leather belts in their bags but the youth themselves are in such a headspace where they don’t care….in the mean time, I am tired. I just want to teach and go home, not deal with repeated discipline issues from children who should know better because they are old enough to know right from wrong.
I think that the powers that be have become so ‘child-centred’ that they have lost sight of the fact that as they progress in age, children (teenagers) ought not to be babied and coddled into a sense of dependency,expectancy and entitlement. How is it right for society for young adults not to feel ownership to the development to their country and to feel as if they are entitled to everything? In addition to this, there have been years and years of government handouts to compound this. Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely agree with the rights of the child and their right to be protected and the role of the government and the educators in this. I absolutely agree with providing relevant resources and technologies particularly to children who are in low-income families which is the vast majority at my school. But should I have to TELL you not to put porn on your laptop? Or not to fight over girls? Or not to eat the meat out of the boxed lunch and fling the rest of the food in the bin? Steups…..Sometimes my role of ‘in loco parentis’ is one that I would prefer not to accept because I need to preserve my energies for my own gremz but then again, I am the one who signed the paper right? Sigh…..