Tuesday, 30 December 2008

What chance do they have?

I suspect that this kind of thing isn't unusual... A couple took their baby on a drinking sesssion and have been prosecuted for its neglect. I suspect they still live with their baby though. As teachers we have to be vigilant and look out for indications that need to be reported to a designated child protection officer. And it's not unusual to discover quite disturbing things about children's home lives from their conversations or from what they write in lessons or form time.

Children with alcholic or drug dependent parents are more usual than you'd think. And with this comes the neglect: poor nutrition, dirty clothes, children looking after parents, no money for school dinners or trips... what chance do these kids have when they look at the role models in their lives? In the past I've had to report on a child who wrote about being given sleeping tablets so her mother could go out and leave her for days; another who looked after an alcoholic mother; a child who unwittingly brought in some of their parents' drug stash to show their mates... and the list goes on.

And very occasionally you get the pleasure of meeting these parents at Parents' Evenings. Mostly they don't show up, but sometimes they have an axe to grind so make the effort. I had one recently. The daughter is well on her way to delinquency and takes great delight in telling me how her mother thinks that we, the school, should be sorting her out. And all I can think is: why doesn't her own mother "sort her out"? Why doesn't she take some responsibility for the delinquent she has spawned and nurtured? Meeting the mother was a very unpleasant experience. Just as I was about to fill her in on what I was doing to try and steer her daughter towards some sort of exam success I could sense the seething rage bubbling up from the mother. And having come across this type of parent before I knew there was only one thing to do: agree and tell her whatever she wanted to hear before she exploded with indignation. The mother was looking for a fight, but I wasn't going to give her the opportunity.

I don't know what the solution is. Maybe school is the solution: give these children a chance to develop properly, away from their piss-poor backgrounds deprived of love and opportunity. But I don't feel like I should be responsible for all this too. I don't mind giving it a go in passing, but I'm judged on my exam results and not my nurturing abilities. I became a teacher to teach, not sort out the mesh of social mess. There are workers in school with those roles: the social workers and counsellors and pastoral team. But it's not me and I don't feel qualified to have to deal with all this too. There needs to be some other agency to help with this.

1 comment:

Caz said...

I agree 100% with what you say in your last paragraph. These kids need help somehow, but in the most severe cases, that help isn't going to be found in the classroom where they will disrupt the education of the rest of the kids in the class.

Expecting schools to reverse, in the number of hourse the children are there - the traits learned through years of bad parenting is ridiculous.

Until we abandon this ridiculous "one size fits all" attitude to education, the disaffected pupils you're talking about will continue to learn nothing while ensuring that many of their peers do the same.