Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Teachers who Bully (3)

In contrast to, me my sister was a whiz at maths. Not sure why, but she seemed to "get" all the little bits that defeated my sense of logic ! Maybe she just picked up little subtleties that escaped me or maybe she just accepted the rules as presented and didn't question them, I don`t know.
There were several children from middle class homes who were in the top half dozen in all subjects in this class a few years below me. All through my sister`s primary education things went well, usually with her vying for top spot in the class against the odds determined by favouritism.
Then something very strange happened: the Headmaster marked her way down for maths in her last report. When she arrived in secondary school she was in a C.S.E. set. Not only was this deeply upsetting to her to be down-graded and split from her friends, it was also a serious injustice because her maths was always more than excellent. Of course, no one questioned or challenged teachers in those days so nothing was done. My sister had to go through Secondary School in this set and received a CSE in maths. Since she wanted to be an architect or a surveyor this caused massive problems later on.

This example is a classic in the annals of animal behaviour. My sister was deliberately disadvantaged by a man who clearly did not like us and who, as a bully, was able to hurt children in any way he wanted to off the bat of his paranoia. Of course other children were very badly disadvantaged by his displeasure at them too; me included ! The reason for exploring this though, is to demonstrate just how the jockeying of our animal drives plays out in a group environment like a Primary School.
Whether a child wins or loses in school has little to do with their intelligence. When I arrived in Secondary School, a refugee from teacher bullying, a child made to fail, I would obviously fail in an even tougher animal environment. There would be no one to pick up the pieces, no one to restore my pride, self-esteem or love of learning. I absolutely loved history, music, reading, nature studies, well everything, actually, at the start of my learning, and left Primary School stupid and utterly defeated. The greater tragedy is that this is the sob story for a huge percentage of young children.

But I promised to talk in this blog about why, in the face of my biggest scoff at class teaching and its population of non-specialist teachers, I am a supporter of Home Education. Surely, you might be thinking, the same problem would apply? Parents are non-specialists in many, if not most, of the subjects required in home learning.. so why should I accept this at home if I don`t accept it in schools?

I think the simple explanation is that in a classroom a teacher cannot attend to detail, even if they wanted to. "Rote" is the hammer of necessity. At home, even if a parent is not the most understanding of maths, he/she can search-out why a child does not understand and learn more himself to enable greater understanding. The learning together process is the enabler. Further, a parent does not want his child to fail. This seems obvious doesn`t it, so why state it? Well, as we have said in this blog, a class teacher has inbuilt animal motivations,usually not conscious, let`s be a bit kinder and say that they show "expressions of their own psychological makeup" which impacts in different ways upon the children they teach.(For example,the willingness of teachers to see children with so called A.D.H.D.as needing medication is a conformity to the larger animal pack`s need to label and "runtify"*,as I call it, children who are a problem to the healthy and successful larger social picture.Teachers accommodate and support doctors' needs to push these children onto medication because they instinctively want to support the medical profession. Please see my later blog, "Psychiatry in Medical Damage".) They disable and disadvantage some, teachers-pet-ify and feed success to others. If your child, in a classroom environment, is the child the class teacher does not like or maybe your child doesn`t "get it" in the way I didn`t, he/she may be seriously disabled by the teacher. Parents who home educate their children are wanting to make learning enjoyable and to furnish all its joys and success. In a class situation it is not possible to give this to every child, both because of the numbers of children involved and group dynamics.

Please join me again later.

Some of my readers may have had experiences like these and I hope you will tell me about them......If you have been educationally damaged, please always remember that the class system is a master of imposed failure! Just because you have been made to fail does not mean that you are unintelligent. It is very hard to escape being made to be stupid, I know. That kind of imprinting is hard to shift. Maybe some of you have reached a point where you know that you are intelligent after all, maybe some have not realised this yet, but I think that knowing how classrooms function and why will help us to support ourselves.

* Runtify: this is my pejorative term for "natural selection".

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Teachers Who Bully (2)

So, my Primary School Headmaster was a big bully. This took many forms on different levels. He overtly bullied lower class children, sometimes he was bullying concerning their education too, as he was with me.

I`ll outline what happened to me personally to enable some thought on this.. Well, I did not "get" sums at all. I tried very hard to arrive at the answers he wanted, yet failed even when I thought I had cracked how to do it. Failing led to ridicule, name calling and his vicious temper. I remember one day being kept behind after school because I could not understand fractions; he went on and on about cutting various slices of cake. I was too frightened to listen. I felt ashamed and humiliated and very disturbed by the implication of guilt levelled at me by being detained.
But there is not just a random, temperamental need to bully in a person like this: a child like me unwittingly probed his deepest feelings of inadequacy and loss of control. Of course, someone who is not a specialist maths teacher will fatally flounder when they attempt to teach even primary school children in a class environment:they don`t understand the subject. I triggered the vulnerability of his mathematical stupidity and he saw me, little frightened me, as a threat. Indeed, he attributed my inabilities as defiance, a personal affront to him ! The compartmental conscience kicked in and he therefore "saw" me as the guilty party and himself as the "abused".

A classic example was in class one day when I was giving the wrong answers to some basic sums to do with adding up apples, oranges, bananas,etc., pictures of which were up on the board... With mounting anger he was trying to force me to add up some apples and oranges. I sat there terrified and befuddled. How can you add up apples and oranges ? I thought. He was foaming again, "Answer meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee", he yelled. "Surely you can add up three oranges and two apples. What is the answer?" Thumping heart. Terrified. He wants the wrong answer, I thought. I can`t give the wrong answer because it`s wrong, so I`ll give the right answer. "Fruit juice", I said. Rage, white foam on his lips, shouting. I sat rigid. Somehow the ridiculous man didn`t know that he had asked me to define these items as "fruit" before I could add them up !!! Of course, as an adult, I knew this problem to be one of the "class paradox", but as a child I just knew that I could not do the sum.... Well, there were numerous examples of his having learned maths rote, with no understanding whatsoever......

He would teach something as an unbreakable rule, like adding together and subtracting zero: 4 + 9 - 0 = 13. He would then be incredulous at a child`s stupidity when they did what they were told them to do in another situation: the unbreakable rule !!!!!! Thus, doing my best to do what he told me to do,as exampled in 4+9-0=13, I was certain that 0 x 4 = 0 and 4 x 0 = 4. If you have zero and you times it by four,I thought, you still have zero, because you had nothing in the first place, and if you have four apples and times them by zero, you still have four apples! It is THAT obvious he must be mad to tell me otherwise ! If you say that 4 x 0 = 0, what happened to the four apples you had ? Anyhow, so you get the idea :)

I was frightened of maths forever because of him and switched off. Mind you, he made these absolute assertions in other areas, too ! One classic was, "there`s no such word as can`t " !!! Now, this was something I knew to be untrue ! I had seen "can`t" in lots of books and I now knew this man was stupid and a liar!

This both illustrates how a teacher can damage someones learning potential with bullying, but also shows just how non-specialist teachers do incalculable damage to children in Primary School. Fact: unless you understand a subject fully, which this man patently did not, you cannot teach it to children except to the level of your own ignorance. It is a myth that children, being at such a low level of learning, don`t need specialist teachers. The contrary is true: if you don`t get teaching right at this early age, you can destroy a child's learning potential in this subject forever.

In later years I saw just how true this is. In my direct experience as a specialist recorder teacher, I saw how the teaching of this instrument in class by teachers who are no more than dabblers, damaged the potential of so many children to play the instrument,advance as musicians, and to fulfil themselves. Why? Because incorrect articulation, breathing, hand positions were taught on a huge scale. And what is worse, this was thought to be OK, simply because they were little children and it didn't matter. I remember taking over at a Prep School and receiving more than 30 boys to teach individually. All had been disastrously taught and the mess had to be undone.....somehow!

Well, it is as true for maths as it is for recorders.

In general terms, though, damaging kids learning, setting them up to fail, making sure they go into the bottom set.... This is how groups reward the kids they want to be winners and make fail the others. It is not a mistake. It is all part of societies animal structure and is carried out as part of our natural instincts. My Primary Head liked parents who were "well to do", who flattered him, people more like him, he hated those who were lower class, whose children didn`t wear a uniform or were problematic.(He wanted the children he LIKED to do well.) So how did he make sure certain kids failed? Well, it`s simple, you are unkind to them, you shout, make them wrong, all the things you can to make them fail at their learning. Little of this is conscious, of course, we work on basic instincts, group animal motivations, and these behaviours we learn when we are children and grow up largely unaware of our motives. People of more awareness and sensitivity will be less likely to behave like this, many, though, are functioning, sadly, at a much lower level.

So there is actively making kids fail with bullying and less directly with disapproval and criticism and not SHOWING them how things are done.

So, why am I so passionate about Home Education if I so much disdain dilettantism in teaching?

Please join me shortly.....

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Teachers who Bully.

My Primary School Headmaster was a bully. He mostly bullied children of parents he didn`t like or children from poor families, considered at the time to be "lower class".

Well, this is nothing unusual. It has always happened in schools and still happens today. In those days it was considered to be acceptable to use corporal punishment and "bullying" wasn`t a focus for human rights like it is today. Still, even in those days, there were really sadistic bullies in powerful positions who could virtually do what they liked in their schools with no fear of parents or police.(How things have changed! It used also to be the case that a call to the police for domestic violence would meet with a "it`s of no concern to us"! response !!! )

Where was Robert Donat?

Well, I jest, but the movie "The Winslow Boy " made a huge impression upon me when I was a child. I was a sensitive child, deeply aware of injustice and deeply concerned for other children. Films like this gave me a sense of external justice, outside of myself, and demonstrated "right" in a way that helped me appraise any situation I was witness to. I have always carried this following example of my Headmaster`s cruelty and injustice with me, not just by the power of its cinematic imprint: it really shaped me as a person who would speak up for victims all of my life. The scene has never left me. It`s not just that I was powerless to stop it, but that I watched the interrogation of two children who were terrified, right up to the singularly sadistic conclusion of this bullies callous and demented vengeance and I will never forget that the women teachers stood by and did nothing... ( I hope to come back to why women, or anyone with lesser power, cannot raise their courage or awareness to intervene in this kind of situation.)

What am I talking about?

I was a child in a Church of England Primary School. The Headmaster was subject to rages against lower class children. One day he was at the front of the class with twins, furious, foaming at the mouth, accusing them of stealing a Mars Bar from the village shop. The shop keeper had seen one of them do it, but he did not know which one because they were twins. The Head went on and on at them, assailing them verbally, relentlessly, they would not say if they had taken it or which one of them did it. We all watched in horror. As their refusal to speak made him more angry, the stakes became higher and higher. They had disgraced the school. How dare they pull down the reputation of his school? He was foaming. I knew the signs: he had reached the same state of insanity when I couldn`t understand how to do fractions. Tension increased. I felt so sorry for the children.But I could not stop it. Two women teachers were turning a blind eye. Even if I could have done something, I would have been too scared to try. I wanted to.

He then delivered the mind-numbing ultimatum: "confess which one of you did it or I will cane you both." Silence. Their little faces blank with fear. They said nothing.

He ordered them into his office behind the classroom and caned them. We all heard it. I never forgot. And to me, it says everything about power and powerlessness. Everything about injustice. Everything about human nature and the ways of the world.

Where was Robert Donat?

I am coming back to this blog very soon to discuss the damage teachers..and especially bullying teachers... can do to children. If you would like to chip in with some comments, please do.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Why Improve Ourselves (3) ?

Hi Everyone! Nice to see you!

What do you get if you are in a fidelitous relationship? Well, assuming that both parties don`t stray, the gains are trust and security and closeness along with knowledge of rightful conduct. We feel good about ourselves when we know that we are loved exclusively and when we know that we can trust that this has permanence. But fidelity alone doesn`t make for a good relationship. There isn`t much gain if the relationship is abusive or without mutuality in the first place, though loving someone whom you also know to be loyal to you is a tremendous bonus.

Now, are these conclusions just moralising in disguise? I don`t think so. The point is to find out what we get from a position that could be seen as moral and right. However, let`s look at what happens when we don`t behave in this way at all, when one or both people in a relationship have intimate liaisons with others unbeknown to each other.

Well, it`s a thrill for many to cheat and to try not to be caught. Most cheats have a great time hiding their behaviour and things only begin to unravel when they get caught. I see this behaviour as founded in the way a child begins to hide from their parent, seeking an identity of their own: the spouse or partner becomes the parent, in fact, and the straying adult seeks an affair as a sign of independence against the parent they still carry with them in their adult world.

The main thing to realise is that once a person has had an affair, the pre-affair level of trust cannot be reclaimed. Cannot. Anything following is just a patch-up. Both parties suffer, one knows that they will not henceforth be trusted and the other feels pain at having been lied to and betrayed. To both the blemish is unrecoverable. There is a stain forever. The guilty party who has had the affair, feels guilt, of course, and venom from their partner, and the guilt they suffer compounds the problem, making it MORE likely that they will have another affair as they need to escape guilt and recriminations. I am tempted to say that the offending party needs to "start with a clean sheet" elsewhere!!! Well, let`s say that they need someone who views them in a positive light, which approval they now cannot get from their partner. With their partner enraged at them, they need someone with whom to seek solace and good regard! Indeed, the reaction of their partner can be cited as the cause of their straying behaviour.

So a whole cycle of guilt and anger and revenge and embitterment is set up by one indiscretion. Promises of faithfulness now ensue... and the stakes are very high indeed. "If you do it again, I`ll leave you!" Mistrust is a corrupting enemy, causing loss of respect for the other person and loss of self-respect too. No one gains from feeling that they have to spy on their partner... and how do you love someone whom you disrespect enough to spy on them? Indeed the erring partner now becomes a child, to be watched, controlled and maligned and the other becomes the parent, with the moral high ground. We can see that a relationship can hardly be conducted in terms of parent-child and this, of course, is the central problem when breaches of trust occur.The parent role here destroys adult love because a parent-child relationship is one devoid of sexual love,being rooted in a nurturing inequality.. (It`s funny how we snap back into our relationship model, our parents, at every juncture!!!) And it is the quality of our parent's relationship with each other, and thence with us, that dictates our spousal behaviour. What a surprise !

The difficulty with the fidelity issue is when one person in a partnership is "able to be" faithful and one is not. In open relationships too, satiety does not ultimately bring the gains that liberty might be seen to offer. Jealousy still pulls people apart, it eats away at consensual adultery and certainly does not earn the peace and security ostensibly bound up in "lets both be guilty". It really is just an attempt to make acceptable polygamous behaviour and, essentially, circumvent any guilt that might otherwise be felt. Hmmmmmmm..... Guilt avoidance yet again !

Back soon....