School Discipline Party (SDP)
We are interested in hearing about your experiences – whether you are (or were) a teacher, a parent or a student.
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We are happy to accept anonymous contributions. We understand, for example, that currently serving teachers may be reluctant to put their experiences out in the public. Simply choose a name and put it in inverted commas so everyone knows it is an anonymous contribution eg. “Beth of Campsie”.
Obviously using your real identity is even better as it has more credibility. No one can accuse us of making up your story!
We reserve the right to edit stories for space – but in a way that does not change the nature of your experience. We also reserve the right to correct spelling and 'improve' grammar. However, we will seek your permission before making any more significant alterations.
Peter Doulis (Melbourne)(This is an excerpt from Pia Akerman, '$750k for teaching 'feral' students,' The Weekend Australian, September 6-7, 2014.)
(A) court yesterday awarded more than $750,000 to a teacher who suffered psychiatric injury from teaching 'feral' students.
Peter Doulis sued the Victorian government for breaching its duty of care, arguing he was allocated an unfair number of lower-level classes that were “impossible to teach” during his six-year stint at Werribee Secondary College in Melbourne's western suburbs.
Supreme Court judge Tim Ginnane found the public school failed to minimise the risk posed to Mr Doulis and it was “reasonably foreseeable” that he might suffer psychiatric injury because of his teaching allotment...
Mr Doulis said he had been threatened with assault and students ignored his attempts to punish insubordination, tearing up detention slips.
On one occasion, a boy told him “you're gone, I'm going to get you,” he told the court.
He said the boy directed a gesture at him in which he ran his finger across his neck in a throat-slitting motion...
Justice Ginnane said Mr Doulis had changed from an active, bubbly person as the stress took hold.
“He's said to be a shell of his former self, with suicidal thoughts,” he said. “He cannot participate fully in his family life and this places great strain on his wife. He can barely cope with the most basic tasks at home.”
Granville Boys High (Sydney)
(This is an excerpt from Laura Banks, 'Knives crisis at Sydney school,' The Daily Telegraph, June 16, 2015.)
A Western Sydney school will hold a knife amnesty in a bid to disarm students and halt a trade in weapons.
It is understood pupils at Granville Boys High were asked to hand in blades last week after the suspension of two students, thought to be 14, for “incidents involving knives."
Staff were told of the inherent danger in a “student welfare” email from principal Linda O'Brien on June 2.
“Apparently students have been buying knives from other students,” the email, seen by The Daily Telegraph, reads...
Granville Boys High has a history of troubling violence. The latest incidents follow the 2011 stabbing of (a) student in a schoolyard fight...
A source close to the school said they held grave concerns for staff and students if “drastic changes” were not implemented. “Kids are building fires in the front yard regularly,” the source said...
The source said in the last two weeks a “lockout” punishment had been introduced whereby students who “can't be handled by teachers” were locked in a confined area and left unattended.
The source said students of all year levels were locked together and left to fend for themselves: “It's a circus.”
“Mary” of Regional Queensland(This is an excerpt from Trent Dalton, 'Class Warfare,' The Weekend Australian Magazine, July 19-20, 2014.)
On her second day at the regional Queensland Prep to Year 12 school she taught at last year, a boy in her Year 9 class turned to his friend and said, “Hey Dean, if there was her and another teacher and you only had one bullet, who would you put it through?” Dean was undecided. But the boy looked straight at Mary. “I'd put it through her.” He'd known Mary for about 20 minutes and hated her with a passion that would not bend. “You'll be gone in a week, pedo,” the boy said. “Excuse me?” she said.
Mary transferred to the school because she relished a challenge... “I thought, 'I've seen some things, I've been in rough schools, I've been called “slut”, I've been spat at, I can handle this',” Mary says. “That's why they employed me.” She shifted her husband and their two primary school-aged children to the township. But after two days in her new job, she hung her head in dread: Oh my God, what have I done?
The Year 9 boy repeated himself. “You'll be gone in a week, ya f..kin' pedo.” And Mary knew that the boy knew the system, a volatile education system where mud sticks and stains run, where the role of the teacher has never been more complex and more scrutinised, where school teachers in her state over the previous five years were paid more than $10 million in WorkCover claims for psychological damage in the classroom and schoolyard; where state school teachers in South Australia were experiencing an average of five assaults every school day; where 506 assaults and 439 sexual assaults were reported in Victorian schools between 2011 and 2013; where a 2013 Safe Work Australia report listed school teachers along with police and prison officers as the nation's most frequent mental stress claimants. Reading, writing and arithmetic and panic attacks and smear campaigns and online trolling and knife threats and teachers locked in storerooms and false accusations and depression and suicidal tendencies...
For a year, Mary endured. Boys exposing themselves, kids jumping out of windows, students destroying bundles of completed assignments, kids eating and swallowing A4 handouts, a boy's face smashed into a wall in a classroom brawl, Year 9s breaking into the classroom at night to have sex on school desks, kids urinating over verandas. “This was my place of work. I had this naïve idea that they were going to do what I asked them. But it was chaos the whole time...”
Earl Taylor (Qld)/Philip Riley(This is an excerpt from Trent Dalton, 'Class Warfare,' The Weekend Australian Magazine, July 19-20, 2014.)
Earl Taylor is a former principal who now supports and coaches overstressed principals through the minefield of an average school day. “About 15 years ago I woke up to the notion that the job's a stressful job,” he says. There are roughly 10,000 school principals in Australia. Between 2011 and 2013 some 2005 principals responded to Monash University's extensive Australian Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey. The survey found principals experience six times more physical violence at work than the general population. Some 82 per cent of principals said they found support in their partner; only 6.4 per cent said they found support in their “department/employer”.
The study's author, Dr Philip Riley, says a “surveillance culture” caused by Naplan testing and a national curriculum has led to bullying of educators by parents demanding better results. “Forty years ago educators were rated the least stressed population across a number of professions,” Riley says. “Today they are the highest stressed..."
“Even if you do know what you're doing and you know the curriculum, that doesn't stop parents who are out of control and there is an emotional cost of that. The parents who indulge in offensive behaviour are on the increase and the principals have no training in dealing with that stuff because it's not part of their training and it probably needs to be."
“Ms Heart Palpitation” of south of Brisbane(This is an excerpt from Trent Dalton, 'Class Warfare,' The Weekend Australian Magazine, July 19-20, 2014.)
“A particular student with learning difficulties tried to stick a broomstick handle up my rectum.” she says. “I don't know how many other workers in Australia expect assaults when they go into the workplace. I went on stress leave in 2011 after an assault in a classroom. I was trying to get the students under control and I kept them in past the bell for 60 seconds as a consequence of their behaviour and they didn't follow my directions and about 10 of them just rammed me. The whole class just walked out, pushed me up against a wall. I'm five foot seven. En masse they just rammed me.
“You don't feel safe. It's like a prison mentality. The school starts to feel like a juvenile detention centre. I've started having panic attacks. Heart palpitations.”
She's getting out. She's studying a law degree by night. She has coped with fear for 13 years in education but what she can't stomach anymore is what she calls “the pretence of mild concern” from deputy principals and principals. “In most instances they'll put it back on you,” she says. “They will imply that somehow the teacher's classroom management skills weren't up to scratch.”
… “You start to feel worthless. Really crushed. And you want to tell them to stick it but you don't because you're scared of not having a job. I'm fearful all the time. I feel sick in my stomach. I'm not a suicidal person but I could see how someone could be driven to that.”
Editor's note: The SDP does not blame deputy principals and principals in these situations as we believe 'the system' does not give them nearly enough support to do their jobs effectively (including supporting teachers).
“Amber of Ermington” (Sydney)I live in Sydney and have decided to get my eldest child “Andrew” baptised in the Catholic Church. I am not a Catholic and don't go to church. My husband was educated at a Catholic School and is very negative about the Church. Nevertheless, we want to keep our options open of sending “Andrew” to a Catholic School because we just don't know what the State high schools in our area will be like when “Andrew” is ready for high school.
We need to find a godfather who, apparently, needs to promise to raise our son in the Catholic faith if we died. We are giving this role to our son's grandfather who, while not in any way religious, was raised as a Catholic and has had relatives who are Catholics. All this is farcical. We resent the fact that we cannot necessarily trust our government schools with our son's education.
We want to support our public schools. We send our son to a local State primary school and are very happy with his education experience. But we know that some primary schools in our area don't function as they should. And we just don't know if our local high schools will be suitable when the time comes.
“Joshua of Wyong ” (Central Coast, NSW)I was educated at a State school on the NSW Central Coast until Year 10. At that point I asked my parents to move me to another school because of major school discipline problems. As a result I ended up completing Years 11 and 12 at a Catholic School even though I was leaving my friends behind and I was not a Catholic.
Kevin Donnelly (Melbourne)(This is an excerpt from his article, “The Lost Art of Discipline,” The Australian, October 9, 2013.)
Forget arguments about school funding...or what is the best way to reward teachers.
The real problem – and one of the main reasons so many teachers leave after three to four years in the profession – is noisy and disruptive classrooms.
Australian classrooms were ranked 34th out of 65 countries in a recent OECD survey that asked 15-year-old students to describe the levels of noise and disorder, the time it takes them to start working, whether they are able to work uninterrupted and whether they listen to the teacher.
It found Australian classrooms, compared with those in places that achieved the best results in international tests, such as South Korea, Singapore, Japan and Shanghai, are noisier and more disruptive and more time is wasted as teachers try to establish control.
Not surprisingly, the OECD study argues “orderly classrooms – regardless of a school's overall socioeconomic profile – are related to better performance” and “students in schools where the classroom climate is more conducive to learning tend to perform better.”
The OECD study also suggests one of the most effective ways to improve the performance of disadvantaged students, especially those from low socioeconomic communities, is to ensure schools promote a positive and disciplined classroom environment.
And the problem with badly behaved students and disruptive classrooms across Australian schools is not new. A 1997 study carried out by the Australian Council for Educational Research, involving 45 countries, concluded “Australia ranks among the top handful of countries” in terms of badly behaved students and poorly managed classrooms...
If standards are to improve, especially for disadvantaged students, Australian classrooms must embrace a more disciplined environment where teachers are authority figures who engender respect.