………when it comes from a teacher?
Over the last 12 months I have witnessed two very unpleasant incidents directed at children by an adult in my local park. The incidents were very similar. Both incidents involved a grown man shouting at the top of his lungs in the face of a young boy.
In the first incident the man was instructing the boy to run up and down a hill and when he failed to do it fast enough or in the way instructed, the man shouted at the boy. I mean really loud shouting, aimed to humiliate, belittle and exert power and control.
Today I happened to witness a second incident whilst walking the dog. A man in a position of power bent down so his face was level with a young boy’s face and shouted so loud that I was alerted to it from half-way across the field.
In incident one, passers by were so disgusted (and rightly so) that the police were called.
In incident two, everyone paused, feeling slightly uneasy and then just carried on. The group of Nordic walkers continued to stretch, the two women continued with their yoga workout under the trees and the jogger ran past.
What made these incidents so different to the spectator?
The first one was a parent, a father with his sons and the second was a P.E. teacher with his not overly large class of secondary aged pupils.
There was outrage from the public about the father’s treatment of his sons, so much so that the police were called to deal with him. It is true that people physically flinched at the angry yells of the P.E. teacher, most likely they were transported back to their own school days for a split second, and then what? A shrug of the shoulders, a sigh of relief that they have left those days behind, a feeling that y’know ‘that’s the way it is in school’.
Just to be entirely fair to the teacher in question, the lesson involved javelins. They are sharp and could cause horrible injuries. Health and safety would have been his top priority in the lesson and it’s stressful to guide 20 or so kids through a lesson like that. It involves 100% co-operation from all the children.
Discipline is always going to be problematic when children are forced to attend school. However I can’t honestly think of one good reason, javelin’s or no javelin’s, why a teacher needs to bellow loud enough into a child’s face that he could be heard as clear as day across the field.
I was very tempted to march over and tell him what I thought. I stood and watched another 10 minutes of the lesson, feeling uncomfortable and trying to decide what to do. He was on his own, and trying to talk to him in the middle of a javelin lesson would have meant taking his attention away from the children in his care. I also had my stranger fearful dog with me.
I took note of the uniform so that I could be sure which school they attended, and then I went home and contacted the head-teacher.
I also talked to my husband and children about it, and as always it led to an interesting conversation; mostly about how being shouted at makes you feel and how we all loose our cool sometimes.
It was, in this instance, more than just a teacher shouting at a class (which isn’t acceptable either), and after observing a chunk of the lesson I didn’t feel it was particularly out of character. He shouted most of the time, and the incident itself was far worse, it was on another level.
Let’s stop turning a blind-eye and start calling it what it is; abuse.