Schools claim to be teaching “values needed to become a part of a democratic society” – “values” – to me, this is a “heavy word” suggestive of concepts like responsibility, integrity, openness to new people, new ideas, and a recognition that students may make mistakes. What lesson will a student learn when a punishment for an action is much greater than the crime? Is it wise to teach students that one slip is never allowed? I am not perfect, and when I tutor I may be “encouraging excellence in those I teach” but – why do some school administrations persist in believing that draconian measures might teach students “values”? When a punishment is so much greater than a crime, will a student really learn anything more than that bullying is allowed as long as the school administration is the group doing the bullying? And then what? When they grow up and the school years are long behind them do they practice empathy- or operate from a “holier than thou plateau” – the latter message implicit from their observations of their own school years.
Teachers and administrators model behaviour. How a school administration deals with students on a one-one or group basis sends a message loud and clear to the entire population- some student families have more clout than other student families. Unfortunately that is almost the only message that is transmitted. When a teacher continuously picks-on and embarrasses a student in front of the group – this is bullying. When a Vice Principal behaves in one fashion with a parent present only to do an about face when only the child is present – this is bullying. When a child contributes hours of overtime to school groups and causes , when a child actively works for the benefit of the group, that student is modeling positive behaviour. And students can see it. As a private tutor I am one step removed from the formal institutions, and an ear for both parents and students. I have learned to trust the students’ evaluations of what they are hearing and seeing taking place in the space where they spend so many hours- their school.