Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are our kids behaving badly?

If I could answer the above question succinctly and without the passion and possibly ‘loaded’ manner in which most of us would, then I could be living at an address far more salubrious than the one I live at now! Not that I have any complaints or desire to change that. BUT---are not you all sick of hearing about how the ‘kids of today are so badly behaved,’ as evidenced in the rates of youth crime or just through our coming into contact with our young people? Ask any teacher and you will hear the whole range of answers depending on the experiences they have had. A short answer to the question could be: ‘they do so because they can.’ That is usually followed up with the adage that—‘there are no real consequences for their behaviours.’ I have been hearing that since I began teaching four decades ago. What was said then about abhorrent behaviours, is said now. What the ‘kids’ did then,’ is happening now. Those very same ‘kids’ on thinking of their behaviours and comparing them to their observances now, say that ‘they had respect for their elders and teachers,’ and ‘that they would never have spoken to their elders in the way that they hear happening now.’ Mmm—my memory is that---well they did! Is this looking at their pasts with rose tinted glasses or is it a fact? Is the possibility that many teachers are afraid to confront the negative behaviours of their students a fact or something that does not exist? From what I am hearing from colleagues in a range of schools’ it is a fact f and a terrible reality for a few. The answers as always lay somewhere ion the middle. It is so easy to get carried away, when we hear anecdotal evidence about the more extreme behaviours of our young people. Without a doubt, the vast majority of our ‘kids’ respond to good teaching and classroom management. A small minority of students are the group that drives’ the energy of teachers down. That has always been so, but what has changed is the nature and extremes that this group now exhibits. A huge amount of ‘specialist ‘time goes into working with this group, some would say at the expense of that cohort that would benefit more, just above the extreme group. I am not going to put figures on that group, because there is not enough credible evidence to do so. That this latter group exists is a fact, that they take away from the chances of other students is undeniable. That schools are introducing programmes and work alongside other agencies to change behaviours and outcomes is also true. The bottom-line is that schools do not exists as a vacuum. They are part of society and they receive their ‘young people,’ from families that also have ‘difficulties. When a family is well housed; warm and safe, with the necessities of life as a taken, then there are less issues feeding into problems at school. Yes, there are always young people from the latter familiars who are problematic, but the resources and energy to handle these issues are more apparent and the school is better abode to engage with the families when ‘things go wrong. That is called ‘cultural capital, and it is not about ethnicity! If the means, examples and ‘stories’ exists within a family whereby a young person has a ‘mirror’ to look into that shows that he or she ‘can do it,’ because the pathway is accessible and believable, then many of the issues that arise for all young people have a way of working out. When these ‘assess’ are not present then the possibilities for success are dented. No amount of pontificating from politicians on the ‘right’ of the political spectrum about ‘if I can make it, through shear hard work, then anyone can,’ will explain away lost chances. Oh, if this was only true. It is too simplistic and shows a complete misunderstanding of how it is ‘out there.’ So, why are our kids so badly behaved? Well they are, for some, but they may not be that different to the ‘kids’ of years gone by. The issues that we faced are still there; the task of being a teenager, the same forces that face us---but at another level, we have changes as a society. It seems that schools are expected to take on the role that parents would have considered theirs in the past. Unless there is an effective partnership between schools and families, with other agencies linking when needed, then yes, behaviours will appear to be far worse. Where there is real energy and the basic needs of families are being met, the problems are able to be addressed, with energy, zeal, passion and effective outcomes. For those who cannot access help or ‘feel alone,’ then the problems are vastly magnified. It all goes back to the—‘it takes a village to nurture and care for our children.’ We need to expand that concept in this entirely new and faster moving society. www.authorneilcoleman.com