When it comes to my career as a teacher, I’ve worked something out. It’s not that I don’t care about teaching. It’s that there are a number of fundamental faults in our system that everyone seems powerless to do anything about.
There’s one flaw in particular that will take a long time to come back from, if it’s possible to come back at all. It’s the reason so many teachers are flooding out of the profession, it’s the reason I am feeling so disillusioned with a career that was supposed to sustain me for the rest of my working life.
Consequences. Or the lack thereof.
With our students, how many chances are too many? Do those chances ever run out? It seems they only run out for those students that take their choices to the very extreme – violence, aggression, severe anger issues. These kids might be the ones we hear about. Those who get suspended or expelled and are bounced from school to school wreaking havoc in every setting they are placed in. Their Individual Behaviour Plan ticking the paperwork box but not actually achieving anything in the real world.
What if those kids were given consequences well before they reached this point? What if those students (those students that all teachers know from kindergarten are going to be problematic as they progress through primary school) are faced with consequences immediately? As in, even for the smaller offences? Swearing, backchat, attitude, refusing to complete work, refusing to follow instructions, being disrespectful. What if these kids faced consequences for those actions as soon as it happens? Would it still progress further? It goes back to the age old saying – give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.
Would things be different if we didn’t give them that inch in the first place? A child quickly realises that they can behave a certain way and not receive any consequences so they push further. When they realise even that doesn’t result in a consequence, they keep pushing. The cycle becomes ingrained and their behaviour choices continue to become more extreme as time goes on. In my eyes, we are doing students a disservice teaching them this way. Ultimately, we set them up for failure because we don’t get so many chances in the real world.
The amount of times I have had to give a student an extra chance/chances because they ‘are not ready to make a good choice right now’ is too many times. The same kids the school continues to have problems with. The same kid who never seems to be in the right frame of mind to ‘choose to make a good choice’. I put this line in inverted commas because this is common language spoken throughout schools today. I’ll be the first to admit I have used it myself.
Gabbie Stroud, author of Teacher, speaks to Mia Freedman about falling out of love with teaching on No Filter:
But what is this actually saying? Its purpose is to give the student some extra thinking time in the hope that they use it wisely and make a better choice. But where is the consequence? We give chances but the consequences don’t seem to come.The way we think, the way we act, the way we interact is all based on habit. What habit are we creating for these kids? ‘Choose to make a good choice,’ but when you don’t feel like choosing that option, that’s OK because you won’t get into any serious trouble anyway.