After an incident with the discipline teacher when she was in Form 3 (Grade 9), my daughter begged me to transfer her to another school. She said she's had enough of Chinese-type schools where students had no say and teachers get into a rage over small things like the color of your hairband. I did transfer her because I was confident she'd do well in any school (she was an all-rounder good academically and athletically), and she told me years later, when she was in university, that that was the best thing I did for her, because those two years in 'A '(an 'English' school) were her happiest school years. To me, 'A' was a little too liberal. Teachers and students were truly like friends.
The incident with the discipline teacher was really a small thing. The school's rule was that students are to be in their uniforms at all times except for sports. One day after sports, they asked the art teacher's permission to keep their T shirts on until after art class, to which their teacher agreed. Some of them went to the water fountain and were 'caught' by the discipline master who then lined them up and started shouting at them. Yi stepped out of the line and informed the teacher that they had the art teacher's permission. Typical of an authoritarian with a super ego, the discipline teacher declared that Yi had challenged his authority by speaking up, and imposed demerit points for all the students. If this is not a clear case of intimidation I don't know what else to call it. Long story short, I didn't step in and Yi made her own arrangements to leave school. It was October, a month from the end of the school year. When she got into my car after meeting with the principal, Mr T, to get her school-leaving certificate, she burst into frustrated tears. The principal was insulted that she dared leave the 'top' school for a school like 'A', and warned her that if she goes to 'A' she'll never be a person of anything because only students from his school will excel in life! This, from a principal of what most people think is a top school! I was upset but I had never been the type to barge into the principal's office about everything although looking back I should have. Two years later, we got our sweet revenge when Yi was one of the top 3 scorers in 'A', mentioned in the local papers for scoring 10As in her SPM (at that time nobody here knew about sitting for 16 subjects).
So you see, I was not exactly the type of parent who wagged a finger at the teachers all the time. Recently, my friend F told me that when her daughter was hit on the head by a teacher, she had gone to the principal and told him that 'if the teacher ever ever touch my daughter again, I will slap her in front of the class!" I thought "Wow, cat woman, a real fighter!" But you know what, recent happenings at Wey's school has made me resolved that that's what I'll do too if they ever hit my child. (Not slap the teacher, but I'd threaten to do so.)
At SF where my boys spent their primary years, I have heard of many cases where parents made trouble for the teachers over disciplining of their kids. The main reason for the parents' bigger presence (than other schools) was that SF was a private school and parents were usually more educated and thus more vocal. Contrary to what most people think, kids at SF are very polite and well-mannered. When I went to the school, I would always be greeted by the students and the teachers but when I went to the government Chinese-type schools (which erroneously are famed for raising well-mannered kids who in reality are being raised as a bunch of suppressed rebels because they aren't allowed to speak up), the students never greeted me, and worse, the teachers too. Yet most people have the opinion that the non-English type of schools are doing a better job disciplining the kids. To me, those schools are not disciplining, they are controlling the kids. Discipline involves teaching and correcting. Point again? Oh yes, my point was I tried my best to let the schools do their job and not meddle in anything, not even when Ming was made to kneel in the corridor with his schoolbag on his head in Form 4 (Grade 10) and even punched by a teacher at one point (correction: he was caned instead, in Form 3, for failing his Chinese. The teacher apologized when he found out that Ming came from a non-Chinese school). I felt that schools are having a hard time with kids and parents should be supportive of the schools. The old me used to think that parents like F are trouble-makers who are too defensive of their precious kids. That was me then.
Me right this minute is very troubled. There have been two clear cases of bullying by a certain teacher in my son's class. In last Wednesday's incident, a boy (Form 2, 13 years old) was talking to his friend when the teacher was teaching. She flew into a big rage, went over to the boy and struck at him but he held out his arm against his face to defend himself. Since she didn't manage to slap him, she grabbed his hair and banged his head on his desk, then slammed his head against the wall. And we wonder why kids are getting more violent! Later, some of the boy's classmates encouraged him to tell his parents but the boy said (listen, parents!) his parents aren't the type who'd come to his defense. Come on parents, talk to your kids! The real bullies are the teachers, especially in this country where the Education Dept is never on the parents' side. Take the case of the kid who collapsed last month and was left unattended for an hour until his parents came, and it was too late when they took him to the hospital. The education people actually defended the school by saying it did right because no one knew if it was safe to apply first aid. Excuse me, he passed out. He wasn't bleeding. For one hour he was on the floor, totally unattended to.
Two days ago, the same teacher again flew into a rage. She was upset that another boy didn't do his work and was walking around/talking (I need to confirm this) so she went to him and pinched him hard, then scolded him while wagging a finger at his mouth, screaming at him and calling him "Kurang ajar!" over and over again because he had replied that he didn't know he was to do that much work. Suddenly, the boy, like her, lost it and slammed his fist on the table. Long story short, the discipline master and form teacher were called in, the boy hauled into the office for some interrogation (and confession I suppose) and yesterday the parents were called in and told the son had been given a 'black mark' (3 black marks and you are expelled). Wey said some of them spoke up in defence of their classmate but their form teacher not only was biased, she said it was good that the teacher pinched the boy because he deserved it. And when they told her about last Wed's incident, she said so what, that was last week. As Wey vented his frustrations, these things came to my mind: that these aren't dumb kids, they knew their rights, so they were angry and frustrated with unfair treatment by the powers in charge who use humiliation, intimidation, condemnation and finally, dismissal from school to keep them under control instead of kindness, understanding and mutual respect. Students can't respect teachers who don't deserve it.
So the teacher can loose control but not a kid who's 30 odd years younger? And she can lie that she didn't touch the boy when the whole class of 50 saw it?(Another teacher also blatantly lied about another incident, and my son wondered to me how a teacher can so unashamedly lie to the whole class). Is that the example to the kids, that teachers can lie and get away with it? What kind of kids are they raising who aren't allowed to speak up? What is the message to these kids? That teachers can be violent and out of control but not the students, that teachers can lie to save their asses, that teachers can preach but not lead by example? If anything, the kids now totally do not respect this teacher. All she has is tyrannic control, not respect. If I was the teacher, I would earn respect by apologising for loosing my temper and ask that the black mark be deleted. We all know teachers are human and it isn't easy to teach a large class of unruly kids. But kids will be kids and they will make more mistakes than adults (ideally) and if it isn't really life-threatening and treacherous (you know what I mean), there's no need to take these incidents to such limits. My Hub, when I told him about this, remember being pinched by a 'Teacher Wong'. But Hub said he has deep respect for this teacher because while he pinched, he never did it out of anger. It was his method for reprimanding students who didn't do their homework, and he did it in half-jest. Hub's opinion is sometimes teachers can cane the primary-level kids lightly, not as a punishment, but to correct, and never to be done in anger. This was Teacher Wong's way, firm yet loving, and that's why the students never took his punishment negatively. I however think that teachers are not to punish kids physically, because many of them are just half-crazed egotistical tyrants who can't and won't control themselves.
Parents, please talk to your kids and assure them that you will always be on their side (provided they are right), and that they are to tell you if their teachers ever are mean to them. (I have deleted part of this article bc I don't want to attract any legal action, not by the school but by the parents against the school. Case closed) I want to urge parents to know their rights and not let teachers get away with such crimes. If we continue to accept these practices, these teachers will never change. The whole system works against kids whose parents aren't well-informed or assertive about their rights. However, I must tell you that there are good teachers in the school too. I was driving out of the school compound one day last month when I saw, away in a corner near the teacher's car park, a female student crying on her teacher's shoulder and the teacher hugging and comforting her. It moved me to tears, especially since a suicide had just taken place a week or so before that, and I really want to uphold that teacher, Teacher M.Yap. If I was a teacher, I'd want to be the type whom the troubled kids want to run to.
I chose this school for Wey and Ming because I find the principal a very approachable, encouraging and humble person. Unfortunately many of his teachers are not like him. The fact that this is the same school where a boy jumped to his death last month because he was accused of cheating in his exams makes these incidents even more troubling. Some of you may have read my post on the suicide before I took it off, because I felt it was too tragic and out of respect for the family, I felt I shouldn't write about it. But today I'm writing this post because as I had pointed out in that deleted post, while I do not blame the school for the suicide, I had asked that the school be kinder to students (I talked to someone 'higher up' in the school) and adopt a better discipline system so that this boy's death will not be in vain. It looks like the school's not learnt anything from that tragedy.
p.s. I would love to hear from you, parents, students and teachers.