Monday, 20 June 2011

A Difficult Day

Not sure what to make of today’s school visit. My early morning training was reduced to 30 minutes owing to traffic chaos in town and the fact that the school janitor had forgotten to unlock the classroom where I was to deliver my training.
The training seemed to go OK until lunch time (ie noon BST – not a time to eat!) when I met a teacher who said she had understood nothing and neither had her friends. After a short conversation it seems she /they did not know what I meant by objectives, self-evaluation or child-centred learning – though she has been to most of my previous trainings. Perhaps they have all understood nothing!  In this instance I performed a brief bit of remedial work and left for my office. On the way I spoke to another teacher concerning  my next training which will be on the subject of discipline. She expressed her  dislike of the use of corporal punishment, which I was delighted to hear.
I made it to my office and started to prepare some notes. A short time later there was a kerfuffle outside. The whole of JSS@ was lining up outside my office – which just happens to be in the heart of the punishment zone (you may guess what’s coming). An emergency assembly had been called. The entire cohort of girls – about 400 of them, were lined up and told ‘not to talk, not to pass any comment whatsoever , nor maker any noise and to keep you mouths…..’
‘Shut!’, replied the 400, with military precision.
The assembly had been called because an example had to be set. This was the worst behaved group of girls EVER and things were going to change as from that moment. Did they understand?
Five girls were led forward along the raised path outside my office so as to be visible to the rest of the assembly. A mobile phone had been stolen. Two girls had been apprehended and would be punished. The other three were the victim and two friends who had left the premises and gone in search of a ‘herbalist’ (witchdoctor to you and me) to arrange for some bad ju-ju to befall those who had stolen the phone. The offenders would be visited with some grievous misfortune, they hoped. In the event grievous misfortune befell all of them. An example had to be set so that others might learn. The punishment would be carried out by... Mr S. (gasp of horror from the assembly). Mr S.  is a big guy and a lashing from him would be felt well and truly. He is Head of PE. My heart was pounding and I was starting to feel queasy. I considered what I should do. I could storm out and make a very public display of my view of this treatment, but that may have repercussions for any future dealings with this school and its management. I could go and stand outside and watch, but I would be watched and possibly my attendance would be interpreted as condoning what was going on.  I decided to sit it out – just three feet away on the other side of the office wall.  I could feel the power behind each of the six to eight lashes that each girl received. I noticed that the management team were not in attendance – two of them were in my office.
Then I realised that the person who was conducting the event was the same person I had been discussing corporal punishment with earlier that morning.
Coincidence? I don’t know.
The girls have been suspended for the rest of the year and their parents summoned. No doubt they will be in for another beating and will be the shame of their family for weeks to come.
Counselling is not an option, I have been told – there aren’t any.
What about the role of form teachers and heads of year?
They are not trained in these matters and they are here to teach. They have other things to do.
What, like sleep on tables, purchase food products from on-site hawkers?
Leaving a class does not seem to be a big deal so why not engage a teacher with their form to effect some lasting behavioural improvement?
I was given a lift home by two senior managers. We did not speak on the way back. I think they know why!
Next week’s training should be interesting.

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