PHONES AT SCHOOL SHOULD BE A ‘NO GO’.

This piece was published in the ‘NT Sun’ on February 13 2018. I would welcome reader feedback on my position. This reflection takes account of my experiences with mobile phones in schools while a school principal.

 

PHONES AT SCHOOL SHOULD BE A NO GO

The issue of mobile phones and students accessing them while at school has again come to the fore. The issue has become more critical because of self harm and suicides apparently motivated by the receipt of macabre messages.

Cruel messages and heartless pictures have a deleterious impact on the well-being of many students. From anecdotal evidence it seems that the impact of these messages on younger students is particularly pronounced.

We hear of students misusing their telephones during the school day to send such messages. They are also being used to “steal” photographs of others which can then be shared online. There are also stories of older students (in both primary and secondary schools) using their mobile phones during recess and lunch periods to share pornography between themselves and with younger students.

That this sort of thing is happening in schools is mind-boggling! The suggestion that it’s okay for students at school during the school day to access mobile phones when ever they want, is beyond all common sense.

We are also learning that very young students have their own devices which they are able to freely use, seemingly, whenever they wish

The latest scenario is that federal and state politicians suggesting that students should not be able to use mobile phones at school during the school day. This should not even be a point of debate. Students should not have phones and free access to the use at school during the school day. That used to be the way it was. If there has been a relaxation of the “no phone“ rule, it needs to be immediately reinstated.

Children and students bringing phones to school should be required to hand them to the front office or to a teacher for minding until home time. It would be better in the altogether for parents to resist pressures from children to supply them with “phones without operating rules”.

There are mobile phone options available which can be programmed to limit incoming and outgoing calls to pre-set numbers. The use of a limited device should be sufficient to enable necessary contact between parents and their children.

While some schools require students to bring their own devices to assist in study programs, these are usually laptops and iPads, which lend themselves to better control and monitoring. To continue unfettered phone use at school will continue the bullying and harassment trends which should not be a part of school culture.

IT’S THE FAULT OF ADULTS

Race and Gender Awareness in Schools.

You look at and watch young children interesting and they are generally free of the qualification of gender, race, colour (and so on) bias. THE BIAS COMES FROM ADULTS. Those adults may be parents, relations and others these young humans see and hear.

The purity of innocence is ruined for these chilldren by ADULTS.

VIOLENT REACTIONS NEED TO BE A ‘NO, GO’.

Teachers and school leaders can sometimes wear abuse from parents and caregivers when it comes to students and things not going well. The reaction of venting when it comes to unhappiness is a not on response that is acceptable.

The unleashing of verbal or physical abuse against principals and teachers cannot be accepted or tolerated.

The issue of violent threats in their various forms is one I believe needing careful address. It’s the matter of “issue” rather than “individual incident” that needs careful consideration. The matter is not new – but rather has been ongoing over time.

From time to time systems and various support professional organisations look at the matter and consider process that might be taken into account when reacting to matters of threat. That to me is part of the problem; our systems are reactive” rather than taking a proactive role in engaging the matter.

Threat in its various forms is not new. However, responding to the matter seems to be one that causes embarrassment. Often Principals and staff members feel that to air issues occurring within the school organisations is tantamount to a profession of weakness. There seems to be a preference to manage within, making sure that word about problems does not get out. Over time there have been assaults levied against Principals and staff members where it seems that departmental management is to mute the issue almost in some sort of “we are guilty because it happened” fashion.

I think that issues of this nature have to be put right out into the public domain and addressed with responsible but justified professional aggression. “How dare they” ought to apply. The response being developed needs to have full system support and it ought not to be that recommendations on process point and direct the whole matter back to schools at the individual level to manage.

EDUCATION NOT A JOY FOR ALL

It is a distinct and continuing concern to me that so many teachers and those working in schools, absolutely long for the day they can retire. I have known educators who are looking forward to their last day of teaching, anywhere up to a decade from that eventuality. These are teachers and leaders who are locked into the teaching profession by age. They are too old to jump ship and go into some other occupational area. This means they carry on by sufferance.

Many educators of more youthful years, with keen desire to teach and make a difference, realise their profession is more about accountability and justification than it is about teaching and developing students in a holistic manner. They come to understand that students are pawns in the system, rather than being main players. So they leave, glad to have a chance to exit.

There are students, too, who resent having to stay at school until their late teens because that is the government’s way of keeping them from being unemployment statistics. They have to be there; they don’t want to be there. That does not help them, their peers or teachers.

The stampede to the Education departure gate is a sad systemic manifestation.

VIOLENCE AGAINST TEACHERS IS OVER THE TOP

While written and published with the Northern Territory (Australia) in mind, the content and tenor of this paper has traqctrion eveerywhere. Frankly it is embarrassing that Education Departments and professsional associations are keen to water down the consequences of attacks on school principals and staff members.

Issues of this nature should never be downplayed.

 

VIOLENCE AGAINST TEACHERS IS OVER THE TOP

Teaching is becoming an unsafe profession. Increasing incidents of violence being perpetrated against those working in classrooms and schools. There have always been issues of severe misbehaviour, including violence against teachers. However the incidence of such behaviour is on the increase. The matter is one that needs to be brought into the open and fleshed out.

While some instances of physical abuse by students against teachers get media airplay, this may be the tip of the iceberg. Violence against teachers may not be an everyday occurrence but the threat of it happening can undermine teacher confidence.
Too often unacceptable incidents seem to be played down. There are also attempts by behaviourists to rationalise what is unacceptable behaviour as normal. Some years ago, students swearing at or back-chatting teachers was frowned upon. There were consequences. It now seems that the verballing of teachers is often accepted as normal behaviour.

Teachers taking stress leave is becoming commonplace. A major factor contributing are mental stresses placed upon teachers by non-compliant and aggressive students.

There were 22 more physical assaults on teachers in the Darwin/Palmerston area in 2014 than in 2013. Physical assaults against teachers increased in the Arnhem, Barkley and Katherine regions. (Aust. Education Union NT source) The ABC reported that 37 student assaults on teachers in 2012, had risen to 253 assaults in 2013. During the same period (2012/13) assaults by students on each other rose from 10 (2012) to 3000 in 2013.

The 2013 numbers took a huge jump because reporting requirements for incidents changed. Until then, occurrences were not always reported.

On your own

There has been a feeling that assaults, if reported, will not result in any follow up. Teachers can feel isolated after being on the receiving end of student abuse. There have also been allegations that abuse has not been reported by school leaders to the Education Department.

From time to time the Department and the Teachers Union have considered behaviour management. However, rather than having a bilateral agreement, follow up is largely left to individual schools.

The assault mentality and its magnitude are a blight upon our system and schools. Downplaying issues seems to be based on the perception that public revelation is bad PR for schools, principals and staff. I believe the responsibility for assault should be lifted from schools and owned at departmental level. Rather than a softly softly or minimalist approach, the matter should be managed assertively. This should include expulsion and prosecution. The days of excusing and offering soft response options, should be consigned to history.

BE ON GUARD AND EVER PREPARED

In this age of litigation and blaming others for one’s own short-comings, it may be useful to consider the following.

PROGRAM CAREFULLY AND WITH REMEMBRANCE

There are some great things about teaching and I would never underestimate them for a minute. However, care and caution are also needed in order that what happens in the here and now is not revisited upon teachers and school leaders in future times.

One of the areas requiring careful consideration is that of programming and teaching. The problem is not one that relates to children and students who are willing learners but rather to those who are reluctant to non-compliant.

Cases increasinglyare being brought against educators by students from the past. They allege that their failure to learn had to do with poor and incomplete teaching. These cases can be visited years later. It can be very hard for teachers to refute allegations, even though they are faults, because evidence is not available to support their defence. To this end I strongly advocate that teachers keep a comprehensive detail of what they teach and the outcomes. In respect of students who are idle, lethargic and deliberately disinclined, keeping of notes specific to your efforts and their disinterest can be useful. If in times to come your efforts are taken to court, you then have refuting evidence. It can be quite easy to determine whether students fit into this category of being future threats to teachers.

In some parts of the world teachers and educators are now taking a professional indemnity insurance. That hasn’t gone anywhere in Australia just yet, being an insurance form still in its infancy. However my advice would be to “watch this space” and consider professional indemnity insurance when it becomes available. Premiums would be tax deductible and may well save heartache in the years to come. Sadly, the litigation all era is upon us and teaching is not exempted.

DOCTORATES SHOULD NOT BE GIFTED

By and large I appreciate universities and the efforts made to extend tertiary opportunity to students both internally and externally. Universities have to work hard to balance their research and teaching arms, with funding being a constant consideration. Neither do I believe it unfair for students to contribute to their tertiary education through fees charged. Many governments underpin universities by advancing student loans which begin to be paid back when those graduates become earners.

However, my concern has always been the way the university play up the conferral of honorary doctorates. This for mine discounts the honour due to hardworking students whose degrees come at great cost and substantial debt. I feel a focus on honorary qualifications degrades the quality of their work and effort.

Sportspeople, politicans, community contributors and notary publics should never be recognised with honorary doctorates or conferred professorships. Universities who indulge in this practice for the sake of attaching a prominent person to the university discredit academe