“He Didn’t Knock”

The lines in the title for this post come from a 1995 movie Dangerous Minds. “He didn’t knock” repeats the character of LouAnne Johnson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNLZjVmcHh8 – wondering at the amazing disconnect between the principal at the school, and the students the teacher had come to know and care for. As mentioned, the movie came out in 1995- I wish I could write that things have changed, that such a scene in varying degrees couldn’t possibly continue to be played out in real schools today.

I know of a school where many of the teachers actually do “teach from the heart” and so can see their students as individuals – looking beyond type to real character. Such teachers are not unique, however they are at times hobbled by a system that would neglect the child in favour of a “rule” – I have said it before and I will say it again- people make mistakes- and children are people. And each child’s transgression ought to be viewed independently and in light of the whole environment in which an action took place. When I hear or see an administrator who is so bound up in punishment and whose attitude has demoralized staff I know that politics has taken over and the kids individually and collectively will suffer. When students attending a school function spontaneously chant the name of a former principal they are sending a strong message – when that same principal- who cannot punish everyone – decides to make a scapegoat out of one child in reaction, a child who wasn’t even involved in the chanting but who happened to be aware of the event- that principal oversteps the bounds of the job.

Teachers are continuously encouraged to be “life long learners”; to continue to learn and grow, and to take seriously their responsibility to the students in their charge. Do we really not expect as least this much from the administrator? To be able to demonstrate flexibility in relation to situations may stave anarchy; to be rigid and cruel is to practice behaviour associated with the term demagogue. Sadly, the “He didn’t knock” syndrome isn’t restricted to characters in film. LouAnne Johnson, whose text School is Not a Four Letter Word notes “too many rules can impede a child’s progress”; the wrong restrictions do damage. Principals needn’t demonstrate the overwhelming ignorance of “He didn’t knock” – such characters are modeling only one thing- power.

I have been on a soapbox today having recently met a “He didn’t knock” style principal. Have readers any advice how to awaken such a closed mind- the truly most dangerous kind?

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