MOTTOS ADD MEANING

Mottos can reveal a lot about any organisation. Allow me to share two.

My teachers training college had as its motto ‘Non Nobis Solum’, translating as ‘Not for ourselves alone’. This to me was an expression of teaching’s aim. We are there for others. For me as a student teacher and then as a new teacher going forward, it was a pointer about the perspective I would do well to embrace.

My last school as principal was at Leanyer in Darwin’s Northern Suburbs. Our motto, born in 1992, my first year of twenty in that place, grew from a need to express an ambition that needed reinforcement at that time. ‘Together as One’ became our motto. It’s application and remembrance did a lot to draw us together in oneness and unity of educational purpose.

It might sound simplistic, but mottos are important as statements underlining school organisation and ethos.

I.T. WE ARE YOUR SLAVES

A decade or more ago, when Information technology was all the rage in our schools, when nothing else mattered, I was moved to write the following. It seems to me that nothing has altered. We remain beholden to I.T.
____________________________________________________

I.T.

I.T.,
Idealogue,
To you alter ego,
We sacrifice our educational souls.

BAAL
Of the modern era,
To you all things are beholden.
Servant,
Now master,
Bowing low in supplication,
We are putty in your hands.

Hydra
With seven heads,
Your resource appetite is enormous,
Knowing no bounds.
Barely satisfied,
By the dollars,
The tens of thousands of dollars,
Poured into your thirsty gap.

Venus Flytrap,
Your scent entices,
Your jaws snap shut,
You suck our vitality,
Eschew our energy,
Spitting our dry, skeletal remains.
Quickly forgotten,
We blow away on the winds of change,
While you seek,
Your next victim.

Praying Mantis,
Upon us you prey,
Grabbed!
Our heads serrated by your pincers,
You feast upon our brains,
Injecting numbing belief,
That YOU,
I.T.,
Are ALL that counts.

Prince of Modern Darkness,
You command attention,
We look upon you,
Falling like blind souls,
At your technological feet.
Stunned by your intensity,
We let all things,
Other than YOU,
Slip from peripheral vision,
Plunging,
All considerations BUT I.T.,
Into never-ending darkness.

I.T.,
You are a drug,
Seared into our psyche.
You are an aphrodisiac,
A demigod,
Exciting our desire,
Driving us to worship at your altar,
NOTHING else matters.

Pied Piper,
You have lead your rats to the brink.
Stand smilingly aside,
Witness from your screens,
As we sink,
Further and further,
Into a hopeless abyss,
Of eternal servitude,
From which,
We will NEVER emerge.

POH

MORE ON FALSE ABUSE ALLEGATIONS

To someone who more or less suggested ‘so sad too bad’, that these things happen and it is just a fact of the matter. I take your points but there needs to be some change. ‘Guilty until you prove yourself innocent’ is wrong. To be abandoned by system supports as happened to the Victorian teacher is wrong. The detained records do help. If an allegation is made and you are a person who keeps careful detains of contacts and context, omission can well demonstrate that what is alleged did not happen. It is not a total panacea but it is certainly a help. It is an absolute travesty that false accusers can walk away free from the train wreck they create. With abuse reports now being flavour of the month (1600 in Victoria alone since all the inquiry processes started I am told) reports and allegations are growing in frequency and going further and further back in time.  There is a multiplier effect that must consider what happens in other states and territories. There has to come a point when the way in which children are contemporarily appreciated, meets a point of where it was acceptable for what is now seen as abuse, to be practised. If not, we will finish up back in the nineteenth century. False accusations that are deliberately inserted into the reporting system with character destroying intent held for the accused, are deliberate and wicked. The fact that this is dismissed as an accidental ‘aside’ is not good enough.  Too many lives belonging to good and innocent people have been trashed and this is not good enough. The fact there are two sides to every issue needs to be remembered and not so summartily dismissed.

A PLEA: BE A VISIBLE AND RECORD KEEPING EDUCATOR

BE VISIBLE AND KEEP DETAILED RECORDS

I offer this vignette in cautionary terms. Teaching is a profession that requires increasing vigilance in human relations on the part of teachers, school leaders and principals.

In recent years, the issue of child abuse has increasingly come to the fore. Lots of abuse issues, most of a historical nature, are being raised. Various Royal Commissions and Inquiries have highlighted the matter. I have heard that from Victorian inquiries, around 1,600 issues have been and are being followed up (July 2015).

Without doubt many of the allegations being brought against alleged perpetrators of past abuse, especially sexual abuse, are justified. However, there are instances when allegations are made with mischievous and malevolent intent.

The recent program on ABC “Four Corners”illustrates this point. A female teacher in Melbourne was accused of sexually interfering with two boys around 30 years ago. She was dragged through a messy court process, including being accused, found guilty, and jailed. The case was subsequently appealed and another grimy court process ensued. At the end, she was found not guilty of these crimes and acquitted. Her career, of course was absolutely ruined. The protagonists who had brought the case against her, two men in their early 30s (they had been boys of seven or eight at the time referred to in the allegation) have not to this point in time been charged with their own gross criminal conduct. The story’s inference is that they have simply shrugged it off! Significantly, the Victorian Department of Education, Teachers Union and Teachers Registration Authority appear to have offered no support to the teacher.

Allegations made against teachers presume guilt until the teacher proves his or her innocence.

I have sought advice on what recourse is available to people who are falsely accused of interference with children, particularly when cases are brought years and years later. The response I have received is that it is very unlikely prosecution will be brought against false complainants. The only recourse available to someone falsely accused and acquitted, is to seek redress through the civil court.

The purpose of this particular vignette is not to pursue issue of recompense. Rather, to strongly suggest educators keep a clear, detailed and time noted record of instances when they have been connected with students in counselling and developing them. Nothing beats a detailed diary. When moving schools, retiring or otherwise moving on, take these records with you (I would suggest a diary). Always keep them in accessible place. Under no circumstances destroy or discard those records.

If allegations are then brought, there is a clear record to show the date, time, place, and nature of the counselling. Often details brought by the complainant are fairly vague and being able to refute them with accurate data is if inestimable value.

There are one or two other points to keep in mind.

If counselling children, make sure that you do so in a space that has visibility from the outside. A room with a see-through window, a common area within, a learning module, or a location within a linear classroom close to an open door are suggested. In the circumstances it’s not a bad idea to write down the names of people who observed, or were in the “visible” proximity at the time.

If the classroom teacher, it is always useful and indeed recommended that you report matters of counselling and discipline to a senior or to the principal along with having kept a written record.

Those who have false accusations brought against them, regardless of outcomes, are never the same people again. I understand they look at life differently. Their outlook becomes tinged with suspicion. They wonder if they can never be part of trustful relationships again. This issue is one of growing consequence and something all educators need to take on board and carefully consider. Don’t live in fear but never think it can’t happen to you: It can.

FALSE ALLEGATIONS LEAVE PERMANENT SCARS

False allegations hang over one like the Sword of damocles suspended by a thin thread

False allegations hang over one like the Sword of damocles suspended by a thin thread

FALSE ALLEGATIONS LEAVE PERMANENT SCARS

These days it has become somewhat of a fashion to levy accusations against people for offences allegedly committed by them in years past. Specifically, allegations of sexual impropriety, misconduct or abuse seem to abound.  While some complainants have a legitimate case and while those who indulge or have indulged in such behaviour need to be brought to account, there seems to be an epidemic of fallacious, mischievous and malevolent reporting.

While the matters after investigation may resolve and be found to have no substance, allegations have a huge impact the accused, so much so that the accused becomes the victim of the piece.

Whatever the reason for the reporting mischief, it has a deadly impact upon the psyche, inner feelings and wellbeing of the person against whom accusation is made.  This impacts on the accused, affecting feelings of physical wellbeing and mental equilibrium.  Although not guilty of sin the accused would feel like an abomination because these sorts of allegations cut very deeply.

Depending  on occupation, a person being investigated will have various authorities (ie Registration Boards) being notified of the inquiry and processes suspending that person’s right to participate in employment will be instituted while the inquiry in under way. A significant field of people probably know about this ‘highly confidential’ matter. Teachers if still active are declined the right to continue teaching at the moment and registrations would be suspended.

Given the present climate and the plethora of commissions that are dealing with historical cases of child abuse, matters can be alleged many years after they supposedly happened. Very few people keep diaries and records of daily transactions going back years and years and years so refutation is based on memory. My strong recommendation to school principals, leadership team members and teachers is to keep a record of daily transactions with students and take it with you from appointment to appointment, then with you when retiring.  Some allegations are THAT old.

No-one should sin against children and students. Neither should false and malicious allegations be countenanced with little if any comeback against false accusers. No matter how false allegations are found to be, mud sticks, careers are ruined by these falsehoods and the mental health of those falsely accused is impaired, often fatally.