Monday, December 14, 2009

Spare the rod….

When I was a nipper, if I  got into trouble at school I kept quiet because if my parents had got to know, then I would have been in for a second belting – no questions asked.  In those days teachers were well respected by parents and trusted to make appropriate decisions about punishments.

Things have changed though. During my teaching career, I remember lots of occasions when children’s parents would come up to school to complain about their children being punished. In most cases, the parents had only heard one side of the story - their children’s and soon calmed down when they found that their offspring were not as innocent as they made out. It happened to me once. The child’s father had come up on “the bounce” but very soon regretted it when he discovered the truth about just what his son had been up to in the lunch queue.

It seems that parents here in Spain are no different. An article in Euro Weekly explains that a teacher from the Juan Bautista Llorca State School in Alicante was put on trial for punishing a 10-year-old girl in primary school for not doing her homework.

Apparently the teacher made the pupil copy ‘I must do what I am told’ 100 times, and sent her to the back of the class, which is not anything out of the ordinary, but the girl’s father accused him of abuse and humiliation, and took him to court.

The father also said that the lines had to be copied in class, preventing her from paying attention to lessons, and that when the girl was sent to the back of the class, she vomited and was forced to clean it up. The teacher says the girl didn’t vomit and claims he has always had a good relationship with the girl, who he defines as sociable and willing to collaborate, although on the day in question, she did cry. However, later that day he held an amicable conversation with the girl’s parents and therefore did not expect the father to complain to the council of education.

The judge considered the case had no legal content to back it and was just an attempt to do away with a particular way of teaching. The judge backed the teacher’s decision, as the girl has no reason not to carry out the promised project, and claimed that if teachers have to fear being reported and taken to court because they are attempting to discipline their pupils, they cannot do their job properly and children will learn that no matter what they do they will not be punished so there is no need to obey the teacher.

Of course teachers are not infallible and there are occasions when they make wrong decisions and meter out punishments that are either unjust or are directed at the wrong child. In relation to appropriate punishments, these are thankfully rare and are usually dealt with amicably. Taking a teacher to court does seem to me extreme; it is gratifying to find that common sense prevailed on this ocasion.

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