Ruminating on educating

Damien Morgan – items of interest from the world of education

Appropriate behaviour or compliance and acquiescence?

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Some years ago when my wife and I were moving through the process of getting a diagnosis of our son’s condition, we were told by one paediatrician, “His behaviour could well be considered normal in another society.” I was so taken aback at the time that I didn’t give the obvious response, “Yes, but he has to manage in this one.”

Recently I have been thinking about the behaviour we expect of the students in our care. We teach them to behave appropriately for the situations they find themselves in. Or are we simply demanding compliance and conformity?

From a teacher’s point of view, it would always be much easier if all children were “well behaved”, and we have all wished at some time that the whole class would be as good as one particular child. Clearly, that’s wanting conformity. We would work towards all children behaving the same way, so as to make our own life a little easier. As teachers, we can justify that by saying that we would get through so much more of the curriculum if everyone behaved well, and were predictable.

How boring would life be? By saying that I’m not wishing severe disruptive behaviours on any teacher or class; but everyone the same? How could one’s students learn from one another?

In my role as Deputy Principal, I have over the past couple of years had a bit to do with N and his mother.  When he first came here two years ago as a 5-year-old in Prep he displayed an explosive temper which he took out on other children and sometimes his teacher. In turn, she learned to read N well, and I would be contacted before a situation arose to take N for a walk and a chat. Believe me, we walked for kilometres that year, and had odd conversations where I was doing my pseudo-psychologist thing, and N would be asking all manner of questions: “Why are those kids there? He kicked that ball hard, hey? What are they doing? That smells good, hey?” and on and on it would go.

Late that year, after lengthy discussion and heartache by his parents, N was medicated. Miracle result? Of course not. Still a problem sometimes, but not so extreme, and not so often.

So, has N learned to socialise better, or have we achieved medicated acquiescence?

Ultimately, I think it’s probably a bit of both, and that the medication has allowed him to socialise better. He certainly gets into trouble less frequently, and when he does, it’s not as serious as previously. One problem N has now, though, is that his new teacher (he had the same teacher in prep and Yr 1 – at her request) doesn’t understand where he has come from. Her expectations probably need to be modified a little, to let him learn to behave, rather than demanding perfection from him.

It’s probably a truism, and something of kick in the pants for schools, that those children who succeed best in a school are those who learn quickly to be compliant. Most schools are not happy places for those who walk to a different beat. And that’s something we have to get better at accommodating.


Written by Damien Morgan

February 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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