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Archive for the ‘Kids at School’ Category

A few weeks ago, Ryan mentioned he the only male primary teacher in his school. My theory (in his comments section) was that in several countries (like in India) teacher pay is graded by class taught, with those teaching higher classes getting better pay. Moreover, teaching a higher class may have a longer, or more strenuous work-day. The two facts combined with the traditional role of the man as the primary bread earner results in men choosing to teach higher classes (or alternately, the long hours keep some women off this vocation).

 

Now it seems that part of the reason may be attributed to a selection bias. It seems that the stereotype of the male sexual offender is making men are less attractive to school Boards and Administrators an/or making teaching in elementary school less attractive to qualified male teachers.

A Wall Street Journal article has more:

Are we teaching children that men are out to hurt them? The answer, on many fronts, is yes. Child advocate John Walsh advises parents to never hire a male babysitter. Airlines are placing unaccompanied minors with female passengers rather than male passengers. Soccer leagues are telling male coaches not to touch players.

Child-welfare groups say these are necessary precautions, given that most predators are male. But fathers’ rights activists and educators now argue that an inflated predator panic is damaging men’s relationships with kids. Some men are opting not to get involved with children at all, which partly explains why many youth groups can’t find male leaders, and why just 9% of elementary-school teachers are male, down from 18% in 1981.

I’m not sure I agree with the reasoning here. I feel it may be a selection in favour of women not a selection against men that leads to the skewed percentage of male elementary-school teachers. You can however, read the entire story here.

Further Reading (click on numbers)

#1 Sex Offender Alert: Know when a Sex Offender moves into your area (Couldn’t help noticing that all the offenders profiled on this page were male!

#2: Men’s Awareness: A blog that showcases several examples to flout the male sex offender stereotype

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YOUNG GIRL WITH VIOLIN

I took music lessons from age six to fourteen, but had no luck with my teachers, for whom music did not transcend mechanical practicing. I really began to learn after I had fallen in love with Mozart’s sonatas. The attempt to reproduce their singular grace compelled me to improve my technique. I believe, on the whole, that love is a better teacher than sense of duty.

– Albert Einstein

Image Courtesy: Bill Viccaro

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number-of-students-beaten-in-school.jpg

Data from India. Source: The Telegraph

Think of it another way. If you have two kids, it is highly probable that one of them will be beaten while at school.

I don’t know whether the numbers looked at all strata of society and whether the percentage represents number of school going children beaten every school-year or number of children beaten over the course of their school going years.

I don’t think I care. These numbers are terrible in either event.

Further reading:

#1. School children electrocuted in Hyderabad as punishment

 

#2. Factbook on Corporal Education in India (snippet from Delhi School Education Rules, 1973: Rules for caning in schools in the Delhi area of India – if a cane is used, it is supposed to be applied to the palm of the hand, max. 10 strokes)

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Personalising things, people, situations makes emotions run high. Personalisation can be a bad thing (e.g. someone opposes my opinion, I think she is opposing me).

It is often a good thing, too. Whenever great upheavals have happened, history has documented passionate men and women who have personalised the cause. Made it their mission.

The same thing can be seen in everyday life. My five year old niece is not interested in gardening. Her mom, avid gardener has tried to get her interested in gardening. No luck. Last week we gave her a potted plant. Did a naming ceremony. Now little Anouska dotes on the green plant, on every little bud that sprouts from the tender stem.

Whenever I visit a school, I try and get a student to show me around. I find they are more frank, opinionated and more aware of the subtleties in the school culture than are teachers. I look out for how they refer to the school and their teachers. Is it My School? Or The School? Or no pronoun use at all- Just ‘school’?

That tells me a lot about what kind of school it is.

It seems I have a new friend who uses this technique too. Robert Reich, former secretary of Labour notes,

 

 

“For six months now, I’ve been visiting the workplaces of America, administering a simple test. I call it the “pronoun test.” I ask frontline workers a few general questions abut the company. If the answers I get back describe the company in terms like “they” and “them,” then I know it’s one kind of company. If the answers are put in terms like “we” or “us,” I know it’s a different kind of company”

Thanks Hoopscoach for the tip.

Here’s a cartoon on Teachers and on Pronouns 🙂

 

Pronoun Test

 

I had to smile at the Grandmother above. I can be like her sometimes.

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This one is a rant.

If you had a student who missed one-third of the classes, arrived late for 20 sessions, turned in half the required homework assignments, failed 11 of 14 tests and quizzes, and never took the final exam, what would you do?

I would have probably:

a) Checked with the administrative department on news from home the first time she skipped class.

b) The second time it happened, I would call home.

c) The third time, I would write and inform the Principal.

I wonder if any of these steps were taken by Austin Lampros, Mathematics Teacher in Manhattan when his student Indira Fernandez careened of-course at the Arts & Technology High School.

If he did, what did the school authorities do about it?

Truancy Superhero

Whatever the case may be, I was shocked to read in the New York Times article this morning that the student in question, who had been failed by Mr. Lampros was given perimission to take the exam separately after being coached by another maths teacher for 2 days. After her aggregate score still fell below the pass mark, Mr. Lampros decision was over-ruled and the student promoted by the Principal. Apparently the school has a poliy that all students who turn up for even one class in the term get a minimum of 45 marks (of 100) when 65 are needed to pass.

Mr. Lampros quit.

What it worth it?

I don’t know. The student still graduated. The school still goes on unaffected. Hopefully he will find employment in native Michigan, but knowing the rather conservative administration of schools, I don’t see many jumping enthusiastically to have him working on their team.

Was it the appropriate thing to do?

Maybe. If he had indeed done Steps 1, 2 and 3 I mention above and has reason to believe that Ms. Fernandez’s absences were better categorized under truancy than illness, I can see why he was disillusioned.

Would I do it?

I would have probably brought the walls down if someone skipped 11 of the 14 tests I gave. Matters probably would not have come to head. But assuming Mr. Lampros did create his share of noise and the student was passed only to keep graduation rates soaring, I’d have to side with him. It would probably be the honourable and loyal thing to stick with the school and try and change things from the inside but lets be realists. As rookie teachers, none of us would have had the clout that early in our careers.

Frankly, I could not have worked under a head who I felt had compromised on the reasons for which we become teachers.

If change is what was important, I’d say Mr. Lampros has made a useful first step by talking to the press.

What’s my view on the action taken by the Principal?

This one action has probably seriously jeopardized the culture of the school, plunged the respects students had for her, made the other teachers feel a little distanced from their jobs and seriously undermined the confidence and the will-power of Ms. Fernandez who may never learn to take responsibility for her actions.

If the Principal may be in duress (low graduation rates may mean less money or no job) – the policy makers and boards deserve a swift kick in the pants.

If the Principal did this to cover her own inadequacies in not having discovered Miss Fernansez’s prolonged absences earlier, she is the one who should have quit.

Chivalry notwithstanding, maybe even received the aforementioned kick in the pants.

This is the kind of thing that gets my goat. What do you think? Let me know by writing in the comments section. Thanks.

See our latest EduPosts here.

 

(Image courtesy: Comics Reporter)

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Aside: (Don’t forget to read our post on Sexual Harassment in Schools here)

In July 2005, I was to travel to the UK. Then day before I was to leave the London blasts happened.

A few days ago, the day Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister, blasts rattled London yet again.

Security was raised to ‘Critical’ status and again reams of newsprint were devoted to finer intelligence gathering, national security and a consequence of this, a loss of privacy. Fingerprinting of citizens has been debated around the world since 9/11 happened six years ago, and to date remains unimplementable because of the huge public outcry against it.

I was surprised then to know that in the UK, increased security, lower ID costs and quicker queues in libraries and canteens have been driving a nation-wide finger-printing exercise at schools, in many cases, withour parental consent. Schools have been implementing this, led by governmental mandate and subsidy carrots.

 

big brother is watching you

I want to point you to a post on this by Jonathan Calder who writes:

 

“Schools maintain databases (mirrored on government servers) store 300 bytes of data that form a map of each child’s fingerprint. So you can see the danger that children’s data will be stolen or haunt them years later.”

and

 

“… they are silent on parental consent. Many of the 3,500 schools took prints without consent. Children as young as five have had their dabs taken on the pretext of a game of spies.”

 

Two different worlds in the same country. Weird.

Further Reading: Have a look at “Leave the Kids Alone” – a UK website against government fingerprinting in schools. They present comprehensive data, though, quite obviously it has a strong anti-fingerprinting bias.

They rally against fingerprinting for the common reasons: irreversible identity theft and children losing value of their ‘identity’.

A YouTube video on their site calls Fingerprinting a Social Control Experiment- very Orwellian, very 1984. A little grave for my taste, but worth a watch.

 

 

As far as I am concerned, I wonder why fingerprinting is necessary at all- at least for cutting queues and issuing library books. Why can’t the school just use plain smart cards? Provide incentive for keeping the cards safe (and lowering re-issue hassle) by tagging a high cost for a duplicate card.

However, if fingerprinting were to come to ID and some men in robes turned up to ID my kids, i’d probably say yes. After all, the next time they travel to the Unites States, Uncle Sam will ID them anyway. Better our government then theirs.

(image courtesy: rit.edu)

 

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child cowering down

This article seeks to present an overview and provide tips of sexual harassment in schools in the US, in India and look at some measures taken around the world. It also provide resources for further reading.

I have 2 nieces. Since they were born, the male domestic help has been replaced by ladies who come to help out.

I notice how sensitive my sister-in-law is about the events the girls will attend, about who will accompany her and how late they will be allowed to stay out.

In most schools I’ve worked in, there are rules to make sure that no girls are sent on errands alone and if there is training for the girls-team after school, a senior lady teacher is always at hand.

How real a problem is sexual harassment? Does it affect only girls? What about the boys?

This post is not intended to be an opinion or experience piece. Thankfully, outside of reading about the subject, I have no direct experience of this phenomenon. This post will be used to point you to resources that you may want to look up if this subject interests you.

A. How real a problem is sexual harassment at schools?

Lets start by defining sexual harassment. It includes intercourse but goes much beyond it to include: Sexual jokes and cartoons, slurs, repeated meeting requests, invitations for intercourse, sexual remarks, insults or innuendoes, attempted kissing, unequal facilities (lesser or no restrooms for girls or shared restrooms), nude or suggestive pictures and posters. Another important consideration is: Would the Behavior be different if the victim were the opposite sex?

I pulled up Google News on my browser. I search for “sex offences in schools”. I got 4 separate news items in the last 20 hours. When I broadened my search to include the wider definition discussed above, the results jumped to over 20 unique results.

Two days ago a leading daily in India screamed about a boy being sodomised for 3 months by 3 male teachers.

Lets look at some data from the US. This information is primarily from Hostile Hallways (published by the AAUW) and Sexual Harassment in Schools (published by the NASBE)

  • Students most often experience sexual harassment for the first time during sixth or ninth grade … but some instances ccur before third grade. — Hostile Hallways (AAUW Educational Foundation, 2001)

  • 91.5 percent of LGBT students report hearing homophobic remarks frequentlyor often at school—but 82.9 percent report that faculty never or only sometimes intervene when they overhear such remarks being made. — J.G. Kosciw, The GLSEN 2003 National School Climate

  • Boys are nearly as likely as girls to have experienced some form of sexual harassment: 76% of boys said that they have experienced sexual harassment, compared with 85% of girls. However, girls were more likely than boys to report that they had “often” experienced sexual harassment at school (31% for girls, compared with 18% for boys), and girls were more likely to report that sexual harassment had a negative impact on their education.

  • Nearly one-third (32%) of all students who have been harassed first experienced harassment before 7th grade.

  • Perpetrators of sexual harassment in schools are far more likely to be fellow students than adults. Of students who were harassed in school, 18% said they had been targeted by a school employee, while 79% said they had been harassed by a current or former student at school.

  • Students who have been sexually harassed are most likely to talk to friends about such incidents (63% report that they have done so). Roughly a quarter have talked to parents or other family members and another quarter have told no one. Only 7% said that they had reported being sexually harassed to a teacher.

– All 4 statistics above from the NASBE report

What is the scenario in India?

I could not find hard data on schools and sexual harassment. There are cases reported in the press (read one here) and the frequent report about Goa as a pedophile paradise but nothing concrete in terms of data about schools and sex offences has come to my notice.

 

  • Almost one in two children is sexually abused.
  • 70% of the children never reported the abuse.
  • Compared to those in the age group 13-18, younger children (5-12 years) faced higher levels of abuse (not that more children in the lower age group are affected, but that an affected person in that age group would have a greater order of atrocities committed against him)

  • The highest percentage of abusers were known people — friends and family

 

 

(graphic from Indian Express Article)

Given this situation what is disturbing is the debate around what is possibly the most important step in the control of sexual offences is often debated in India- Sex Education. Lets look into that here.

 

There is a strange situation in India: kids are learning about sex earlier and earlier- a survey in Mumbai showed that the age of access to pornography has dropped from 16 to 12 for boys and I posit that the same is true of connected communities over the world. At the same time schools and the government are becoming increasingly prudish about sex education.

Some months ago Madhya Pradesh banned sex education in schools (aimed at classes 9 and higher) because “illustrations in an the texts intended for teachers to instruct from were found obscene!” The obscenity in question? Diagrams of human bodies.

Other news reports indicate that: Maharastra has banned sex education (Mumbai, the city noted earlier is its capital!- BBC News, April 2007), so has Karnataka, there are appeals by the BJP for it to be banned in Delhi as it this could lead to schools becoming sex spots and compel a large number of girl students to drop out (Yahoo news , July 2007) and only ten days ago our honourable ex-Chief Minister of Bihar and sitting Minister for Railways said that Sex Education was a blot on Indian Culture and should be banned (DNA, July 2007)

It seems that most of the religious, social and political voices who discourage sex education have misunderstood it. Sex education is not about teaching kids “how to do it” it is about making them aware of themselves and their sexuality so they are more prudent, discretionary and alert in their sexual behaviour to response to that of others. If implemented thoughtfully, sex education can control or avoid sexual offences, increase hygiene, check unwanted pregnancies and HIV and clear many a confused adolescent mind.

abuse-ad.jpg

B. What can be done? Sexual harassment can be a torment. Apart from the huge emotional stress it results in, Targets of bullying and harassment experience anxiety, distress, confusion, loss of self-esteem, depression, and loss of concentration on schoolwork. Severe consequences may include psychosomatic symptoms, avoiding school, and committing suicide.

It is clear from the data presented that both genders are susceptible and that smaller children are more susceptible to sexual assault involving intercourse while older chidlren may be more at risk for harassment including abuse while the numbers of sexual assult may dip.

It exists in both, rural area and in cities and shockingly, your near ones may the one you need to be most careful of.

The data presented effectively kills any misplaces notion of “this happens only in poor families” or this happens only when “parents don’t care.” It can happen anywhere, anytime but thankfully there are several small initiatives that can go a long way:

1. Establish and Follow a Sexual Harassment Policy: A good policy should give a clear message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. There may be be two policies, one for students and one for staff. In any event, the policy statement should be comprehensive enough to include student-to-student, student-to-staff, staff-to-student, staff-to-staff, and supervisors-to-staff harassment. It should define sexual harassment and give some examples of unacceptable behavior. It should have a clearly explained complaint procedure and make it easy for the victim to contact responsible authorities. The policy should be posted in a conspicuous place in theschool, included in the student handbook, and an effort should be made to ensure that all concerned students, staff, and parents — are aware of and understand the policy.

Survey a sample of your students periodically to find out attitudes about sex, information about harassment at school, school culture and information about school policies etc.

 

2. Start Young: Most people balk at sex education for little kids. This is because the labelling of the term is incorrect. I would call it self-awareness, where the child is made understand his body and what kind of touch is clearly inappropriate. For example, being touched anywhere under your clothes is wrong. If it happens, what should be done? This is the kind of simple information that can be given to kids.

Sex Education then should be introduced systematically. In addition, students should be encouraged to speak to parents and counselors (as opposed to peers) in the event of an incident taking place.

It is important to communicate that anyone engaging in improper touching or fondling should be discussed with the parent. In schools, especially in hierarchical societies, in India actions of family elders and teachers are not questioned openly as children are told to ‘obey elders’ and going against any of their actions is usually poor manners.

 

3. Start Conversations: Conversations can be started by talking to parents- making them aware of model parental behaviour (not laughing at lewd jokes, for example), encouraging them to discussing information about peers and schooldays with children etc. Information should be made available to students clearly and explicitly through special workshops and through integrated curricular elements.

In school and in homes, encourage open discussion. Repression will lead to ‘experiments’ with the body, urge to access (unsafe) materials or adults for enlightenment on this subject.

 

4. Run background checks: This is obvious, yet many of us, in our hurry to recruit candidates skip this step as it takes time. Research has shown that most crimes or cases of harassment at school take place through older students or employees. While one can’t predict how recruits will turn out, one can surely restrict past offenders from working on campuses that we serve.

 

5. Control access through online pornography: This one is extreme- yet is it is a rising data point in sexual harassment scorecards worldwide. Research has established that on-line Pornography plays an accessory role in negative social issues such as child abuse, violence against women, rape, inequality, relationship and family breakdown, youth crime, promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases. Access should be controlled until children have been talked to about the birds and the bees and is easily made possible by browser settings and specialised software like NetNanny. Online pornography can easily lead to access to other forms of sexual content on the net, including chat and video- putting a child at risk.

But these tips are just me. To know what the experts think about this, do read some interesting (some with ready-to-use tips) here.

 

Further Reading

1. Hostile Hallways: The seminal work from the AAUW. Read their report here and access a complete guide for students, schools & parents here. It has sample surveys, questionnaires and guidelines for policy-setting and following.

2. STOP Project: Chad Harms at the Iowa State University has done some interesting work on identifying sexual predators on the internet. His articles delineate strategies they employ and what parents/schools/counselors need to be aware of. Access his useful website Stop and Help, here.

3. New York Times: On How you can Distinguish a Budding Pedophile from a Kid with Boundary Problems. An involved, but very readable article.

4. Global Measures against sex offenders and their employment in school: A BBC report on what the UK, US and France have done in this regard. Also read about the Vishaka guidelines, the lame effort by the judiciary in India to control sexual harassment here.

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