I got away from the Refuge for a few shifts in various children's care homes and supported housing units for 16-25 year olds over the last few days. At one care home I had to accompany a 13 year old boy to a special school for behavioural problems where just himself and one other boy attend. They have been deemed not ready to attend your average comprehensive. Personally, they would fit right in at the comprehensive I used to work at and many others that I know of. They swore at the teacher and the teaching assistant and made sexually suggestive remarks to them and invaded their body space. They threw things across the class. They fought, surfed the internet, played music on their phones and worked only if it suited them and for short periods of time.
However, what amazed me the most is that all of their negative behaviour was ignored by the teaching staff. I on the other hand didn't ignore it. I challenged it. I informed Benson, the young lad I was supporting, that it was wholly inappropriate to ask certain questions and swear and be rude to the staff. He just ignored me. More worryingly was the reaction of the staff. When I admonished the young lad for calling the teacher a "fucking bitch", the teacher responded by defending him stating "Oh he doesnt mean it." I told her that's not the point he shouldn't be speaking to adults like that. The teacher looked at me like I was from another planet. I was later told that they don't focus on the negative behaviour of the students as this just feeds in to it. This is called 'disengagement', I call it a euphemism for ignoring a problem. The reason it's ignored is because adults no longer have any real authority.
The classroom had a sign informing the students that they would never be put down which included a crude cartoon of a stern, cold, emotionless, authoritative teacher waving his finger at a vulnerable puppy eyed adolescent.
At lunch time myself and another support worker accompanied the two boys in to the town centre for lunch. Whilst walking around the town the fruits of the trendy educational style they are being subjected to was on display. They intimidated old ladies by being overly familiar with them as they walked past. They purposely spat on shop windows and cars and called people names as they passed by. The other worker more senior than myself ignored most of this. I take it she was successfully "disengaging" so as not to "feed in" to their behaviour.
Now, I know these two young lads sound detestable, their behaviour certainly was, but I have seen and worked with a lot lot worse. They had some redeemable qualities. Benson can be generous and is actually quite intelligent, he is a good reader, well above average ability for his age. However, the school and the care home are failing to give him consistent boundaries by not punishing him with consequences for his negative behaviour. He needs to learn right from wrong. Why have these concepts become unfashionable? Is it the legacy of post-modernism and cultural relativism? Whatever the reason, it is failing the likes of Benson. If this lad were disciplined and taught right from wrong he could go far despite his awful background.
How would I start to discipline him? Well, for a start I would take away the playstation and TV in his room and not just before he goes to bed. I would then inform him that the usual scenario where staff drive and finance him and his hooded partners in care to the cinema, bowling alley, games arcades and fast food outlets will depend on a very high compliance rate with acceptable standards of good behaviour. I would completly ban "incentives", a fancy word for what is commonly known as a bribe where the young person gets a monetary reward for things like getting up, showering, brushing one's teeth, going to school on time etc. etc. Instead, I would inform them of what they will lose when they swear at their teachers and call old ladies names and committ petty crimes.
The reason I would be strict is to help Benson develop a sense of right and wrong. Surely this is a laudable aim and should be one of the components of caring for a child and sending him or her out in to the world a responsible and relatively well developed young person? In some homes this does happen, not all the care homes are failing their children, but unfortunately from what I've seen many are. More will be revealed.
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