Have Teachers Lost Control
KERRI-ANNE: When it comes to disciplining their pupils, it seems that teacher’s hands are absolutely tired these days and it’s the kids that are ruling the ruse. Recently, a 12 year old girl who was caught wagging school claim that she was attacked by her teacher even though she was the first one who threw an egg on him. Take a look at this.
Well, now children of course have to be protected, there are definitely cases when teachers have abused the trust put in them. But of course, there are a lot of cases out there of pupils wrecking teachers’ careers upon making accusations that very often just prove absolutely false and untrue. If you got a view email us this morning, firstname.lastname@example.org, but who’s protecting the teachers?
This morning, parenting teacher and expert Sharon Witt joins me with 2UE commentator Jason Morrison, one and all good morning.
SHARON WITT: Good morning.
KERRI-ANNE: Just this one particular example here, Jason, a twelve year old girl, she throws an egg and you can see the drama that unfolds. I mean this is not a unique case.
JASON: Yeah, question mark, what’s this doing on the news? It’s not news worthy. It is because a parent called a TV station and bitched about the treatment of, I’ll be frank, her little bitch who threw an egg on a teacher. And then the teacher responded in the way that any human would be and, I’m told didn’t even grab at her, kind of said “Come with me to the head master”. By the way, it was the deputy of this school, a very decent, respect teacher. Now, think about what had happened next. Up to the head master’s office, kid’s in there. She starts saying “I’ve been abused and assaulted”. Teacher was suspended and moved into a desk job somewhere else. Girl is suspended. Who do you think is the hero of the playground?
KERRI-ANNE:: Oh, twelve year old.
JASON: Yeah. Of course. Madness.
KERRI-ANNE: And this is not a unique story. Now, you are a teacher parenting expert Sharon, when teachers are complained about, what happens?
SHARON WITT: Well, usually if the teacher is complained about it would go to the principal, the deputy principal, and it’s followed through. You know, sometimes, I mean teachers aren’t perfect. There are times when you know teachers might do the wrong thing. And, especially, you know, we’re with students. You know, 30 students in a classroom, you know, 80 hours a day, and I think you know if we think about parents, if every single thing that we did wrong was reported, I mean, this you open a mind field.
KERRI-ANNE: Where we’re going here, I guess, is the fact that if a pupil makes a claim against the teacher, what sort of recourse, from your experience in your research Jason, does the teacher have?
JASON: Well, none. The teacher will be investigated by, in my particular state, a new staff analysis, kind of secretive body which is almost like police internal affairs. Look, we’ll assume from the moment the complain has been made, that the teacher has done wrong and act as if the teacher has done wrong and work back. So it seem, in fact, inverse. You are guilty until you can prove yourself better.
KERRI-ANNE: Has this ruined careers of good teachers?
JASON: Oh yeah. Well, I’d say this fellow here at the school. Though he’s got his job back, you know, that there will be a mark forever on his statements.
SHARON WITT: yeah, and Kerri-anne, it undertakes, you know, one little hint of something, and it’s like, for example, wildfire. You can just imagine students all gossiping, getting on Facebook talking about this. And, you know,
JASON: On the news.
SHARON WITT: Yeah, exactly. And even if these teacher is innocent, and didn’t ever lay a hand on his student, their gonna black mark against on their name.
KERRI-ANNE: Do you, talking about kids on how smart they are these days and knowing they are right, what’s your experience? Do they actually know every legal step of the way?
SHARON WITT: No, they don’t Kerri-anne. And I’d like to think that they do, but kids don’t know every legal right. They like to talk it up a little bit, but you know, in essence they’re still quite immature. But in this case, yes, the kids do know that “Hey, you can’t lay a finger on me, you can’t do this”. And they know that you know by speaking to the parents they know how the media will blow things up out of proportion. They know that they can push buttons.
KERRI-ANNE: But they do know that if you make a complaint, there is a method in investigation.
SHARON WITT: They know it will be followed up.
JASON: Well, I don’t know, I’m with you. I’m not sure if they know that this is the system, here’s the flowchart. But they know that if they make the complaint there’ll be a reaction. Now, I want most people, just for a moment, to suspend this discussion and think about their schooling and think if I had gone to the head master and complain about a teacher in your schooling days, what the reaction would be? The difference is that, we don’t apply that anymore. We work from the position that the student and the teacher it’s like a workplace, they got rights and we tell the student all the time “your right is..”, you have an open access in which to load your complaint. The next thing you know, we’ve got this. And, I mean, even in my state in New South Wales this week, we’re talking about getting students to grade teachers in the classroom. So, the same kind of kid that was the one that threw an egg at a teacher, manufactured a story with the mother who I think we all made a judgment the moment we saw the mother in that particular story just then, was prepared to go and rather the media with this fictitious story which is then showed to be wrong. That student is going to have a say in how that teacher is judged professionally.
KERRI-ANNE: As a teacher how to do you feel about the potential system of being judged by your students?
SHARON WITT: Yeah, I don’t agree with that at all. I think that it opens up a potential mindfield. I don’t think that our students are really able to have judgment on teachers. Really, they’re not really mature enough to do that. And because, I mean, we have bullying surveys in school, I mean, they’re just, people put down people’s names just for a stir. It doesn’t work. I think parents may be able to have a say, but really there are assessment processes in the schools, anyway.
KERRI-ANNE: Overall, are there teachers, who absolutely have their lives, their careers, put on hold, simply because a bad behaving students know their rights.
SHARON WITT: I believe there are, absolutely.
JASON: I had a teacher contact me the other day who picked apart two bullies in a playground. I mean, it’s the old cliché. The pretty girl who picks on the least attractive girl on the playground, he dragged the pretty girl up to the head master’s office. By the time they got there he was accused of some, I mean something that’s too grotesque to talk about on television, it’s actually in propriety. He is being suspended, has to go home, tell his adult children, his wife, that he is being suspected for demanding something from a girl in the playground. His life is on hold.
KERRI-ANNE: Well, I gotta tell you, I just think it is outrageous that the lack of respect in authority, generally, in terms of what teachers can’t do with kids these days. There are dozens, I don’t know what the answers, but we wanted to discuss this one with Jason Morisson. Thank this time. Sharon Witt thank you.
SHARON WITT: Thanks Kerri-anne.
JASON: Thank you.
KERRI-ANNE: Okay, we’ve got a lot more coming up, but this could help you prepare for your holiday.