I never thought I would find myself opening a blog post with the following sentence - "I really wish I didn't feel I have to write this blog post because I am too close to the subject of it and I still find it painful to think about the subject.". In fact - it is only thanks to three people that you are about to read a blog post on a very difficult topic for me to talk about (even though none of them knew I was considering writing about it) because they have all - in their own way - convinced me to be totally honest with you and be myself.
I was reading an article which really upset me recently - so much so that I didn't know whether to cry or get extremely angry. In the end I just ended up feeling very sad that the same mistakes appear to be being made as when I was at school (back in the Dark Ages).
I have told you that I was bullied at school and the effect it has had on me (in fact - the only two things I didn't mention are the fact that my time at school put me off the idea of ever having children - as well as the fact that, unless I know either the child themself or their parents personally, children scare me).
There is a flip side to the bullying which - strangely - never seems to enter the minds of the people who are dealing with the results of it. The victim will do practically anything to escape the situation - up to and including trying to get themself excluded from school. I should know - I have done it myself. It even got to the stage where I told my Year Head to his face in the first term of my first year at Secondary school that I wanted to be transferred to the Secondary school in the village I lived in.
Things like Detentions and being put in what was known at the school I attended as "Solitary" (where you spent the entire day on your own - with the occasional supervision from a teacher - and got detention at break and lunchtime) were supposed to be a punishment but, to be totally honest, they were things I lived for in that first year. Why??? Because they were the only times I felt 100 percent safe in that school. (If I had thought I could get away with it I would honestly have preferred to have spent all three years in that school working in "Solitary" with the only breaks provided by lessons with the only teacher in that entire school who I could stand being on the same planet as. No prizes for guessing which teacher that might be or which subject they taught.)
The whole "crime and punishment" debate, as far as misbehaving in schools is concerned, scares me to death. Not only do the current levels of punishment seem Draconian to me but I have yet to find out about the preceding actions as far as trying to find the causes of the misbehaviour in the first place are concerned. We are always told that there are preceding sanctions and ways of correcting the behaviour of a student before it gets to the Detention stage but what about if there is a serious cause - like bullying???
Of course, people react to being bullied in different ways. Some people who are bullied somehow manage to seem able to cope with it and act like nothing is wrong until they are in the privacy of their own bedroom, others may Self-Harm or even attempt suicide, whilst yet others (myself included) end up feeling as though they have committed a crime by the mere fact they exist (especially if - as in my case - they honestly feel they are being bullied by most of the teachers as well as the other students) that they might as well "play up" in class as it won't make much difference to the outcome anyway (and any so-called "punishment" seems like a holiday compared to being stuck in a classroom where you feel like you are being bullied on all sides).
Yes - I agree that students who misbehave in class should be punished if there are no mitigating factors which might explain the reasons behind the misbehaviour. However, I feel we still need to be very careful about the type of punishment doled out. Luckily even I escaped corporal punishment (the cane, etc). But some of the punishments I read about in the article would probably be considered to fall under the category of torture if they were applied to an adult.
I am not saying that school days should be seen as a time of hearts and flowers where nothing bad ever happens (after all - it is meant to prepare you for life in the adult world) but to go through the majority of your schooldays wishing you had never been born in the first place (and feeling extremely jealous of a girl who died of a heart defect similar to yours - the only difference is yours got mended when you were a baby but hers didn't) is not exactly the kind of scenario I would wish upon anybody else.
We need to have a grown up debate about bullying in schools, punishment in schools, as well as Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Education (as in - is it really appropriate to mix the two without certain caveats?).
In my personal opinion (based on my experience - as well as what I have been told by a friend of mine who has a child with Special Educational Needs and is in Mainstream Education) I think that - unless schools and the Government are prepared to understand that students with Special Educational Needs actually need more attention and careful handling - as well as role models they can actually relate to (in my case I would have loved to have a teacher whose sight was obviously at a similar level as mine) they might as well go back to the days where students like me were autiautomatically enrolled in Special Schools. In fact, when my Mum told me that my parents had the choice of sending me to a Special School I nearly told her that I wish they had done that instead of forcing me to go through the hell of Mainstream Education.
When I say "we" need a grown up debate I mean one which includes those of us who have seen the blackest of black sides of Education as well as those of us who have apparently sailed through school without a care in the world and got top grades in all their exams. Only when we are all included will we get a proper idea of the kind of Education system which would benefit every single child both now and in the future.
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