Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We need more options.

In yet another fun rant about education in Victoria, I'd like to vent my spleen about how difficult it is to get rid of "problem children" in schools.

Politically incorrect though it may be, the simple fact is that some kids really are a problem. There are some students who are rude, nasty, and a bad influence on their peers. I have students who are generalliy nice and reasonably well-behaved. While their friend, the Problem Child, is away. As soon as that child turns up, the kid you were finally making some progress with forgets all that good behaviour and all those rewards and falls under this influence. You are back to square zero.

These Problem Children are the ones with no respect for authority, and not just that of the teacher. I've seen them lash out at co-ordinators and nothing short of calling the parents in is enough to make them behave, because they know that there isn't much we can do.

We can give lunch-time detentions, but they don't really care because once that's over, it's over. Back to normal.

We can give after-school detentions, but parents have to be given 24hrs notice. This is done by giving the student a letter to take home. I've found more of these letters ripped up and in the bin than I can count. I'm also quite used to the phenomenon of the student mysteriously being ill on the day that their detention is scheduled for. So this is not a credible threat, and not one which works well past about year 7.

We can suspend them, but the grounds have to be extreme. Students are well aware of how difficult it is. They can swear at teachers, be as rude as they like, say things that would get them questioned by police if they did it out on the street, and yet they get away with it in schools. So that threat doesn't work past about year 8.

Expelling students is nearly impossible. They cannot be expelled unless they can go to another school, and I've had a student say "What are you going to do! You can't expell me! No other school will take me!", and he was right.

We can't ask students to leave, because they can't leave unless they are at least 16 and have a trade or apprenticeship to go into.

You can't get them moved into a different class because classes are so damned full that there is no room for movement. So threatening to remove them from their friends doesn't work either.

The simple fact is that, if you have students who are not only poorly behaved but also savvy, you're pretty much stuffed and so are the students who could do so much better if they weren't being disrupted by these Problem Children.

We need more options. We need more consequences. We need to be able to actually send them off for intensive behavioural therapy, and have it be on-going.

The bottom line is that we need more support, because when you've had that kid shout at you, at other teachers, at school leaders, and then still have them show up in your class the next day, you start to lose hope. It's crushing to think that they can get away with abusing people in that way, and yet they do.

This needs to change.

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