Tuesday 31 March 2009

Couldn't Care Less

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.


Nationalist said...

These little toe-rags should be caned. That used to work fairly well. The staff member who "disengaged" is not carrying out her duties - which include discipline - and should be fired unless she bucks her ideas up.

Anonymous said...

i have an 8 year old son and would be horrified if he ever spoke to anyone like these two boys do, altho he does have his moments!! if my son is naughty i take away his playstation3 and games dvds etc n also ground him. the thing is these boys are in thier teens and it should of been drummed into them by now, unfortinatly there are people in this world who think it is ok to act in that manner as they get what they want and sometimes get a kick out of terrorising people. something needs to be done but unfortinatly teatchers now days are too scared to do anything the children rule the class room, i have a few friends that are teatchers at secondry scholls and some of the stories they have told me i cant just cannot believe, how do they get away with it?? i left school 15yrs ago and i would not of dared act in that way although i can remember a few boys that used to and it really frightened me, i think those boys are all in jail now!! teatchers need more rights, or is itthat some teatchers just dont care?? to be honest i am dreading my son growing up and being around other children like that. but 1 thing i know is my son will not turn out like that over my dead body. manners cost nothing and neither does respect!! i was on the bus thismorning with my son and there was a girl of about 14 yrs old sat behind me, she looked innocent and nicely dressed, most people had gotten off the bus and there was only a few people left on, her phone rang, she answered and all i hear was " alright bitch, when i get into school i am goin to fucking snapp jodies fucking jaw and kick her c**t in!! the stupifd fucking bitch!" at this point i look round and said politely "excuse me but can u please not swear like that infront of my son hes only 8" i expected to be told to f off but she appolagised and i turned around. we need to stand up to these kids because thats what they are kids, they get away with far too much and it is about time it stopped!!!

Anonymous said...

sorry i accidently put my comment as anonymous!!

Anonymous said...

Those kids you describe sound like they've got Tourettes syndrome. If they do not have Tourettes and are just spitting and swearing uncontrollably from a rotton upbringing then that is really very sad and horrific. It makes me think of people who have Tourettes and would do anything to be normal.
Do you think they have Tourettes syndrom that has not been diagnosed properly?
It has happened before under the NHS- No Health Service.
I might be wrong but I was just wondering.
Thanks for writing this blog. I do not hear much about childrens homes and care services outside of fictional things and TV programs so I find your blog very interesting.

MidSouthJP said...

Unfortunately Winston we will see your little darlings in court as soon as they're about 16. And they will be horrified to find out that, occasionally, actions do have consequences. At that point it may well be said that they have tourettes/adhd/been looked-after and a few allowances will be made, but not for ever. YOIs and prisons are full of them I'm afraid, still railing against the justice system and society. And rich people. And shopkeepers. And the police of course. And us. And I am beginning to better understand why, having read your blog. They are being set up to fail. How very depressing.

cartermagna said...

I tried to post a comment this morning but my work server booted me out so I'll try again.

As you already know it's all to do with boundaries.

I was going to ask if you had read Frank Chal.. sorry, I mean Mr Chalk's book as your views mesh very nicely with his. A quick look at your blog roll and it would appear that you are at least aware of this unsung hero of academia. Which I think is somewhere near Torbay?

Anyway, I quite agree with you both, without discipline how the hell are these pair going to get on when being told what to do governs whether you are a success or not?

I was no angel and my school were pretty weak when it came to getting me to behave but thankfully I had Mum and Dad. They were hard as nails man!

You never know, you may get through to one of your charges, I sincerely hope you do but I doubt it. There are too many people with a vested interest in people like you and Fra.. Mr Chalk failing.

Anonymous said...

I think that in this post you may have just hit upon one of the root causes for so many of the problems in this country right now. Kids need boundaries, its how you learn about social interaction, responsibilities, and the miriad of other things that go towards making someone a useful member of society. I'd put Jacqui Smiths expenses on it that these kids didn't have parents that showed them boundaries. I know that there are some out there who are just inherently bad but generally kids are the product of their upbringing, they aren't born bad. Unfortunately by continuing to not address their behaviour all these "teachers" are doing is compounding the problem by effectively endorsing the crap parenting in the first place! And all that does is store up whole world of trouble for some other poor soul(s) further down the line.

Anonymous said...

My parents put it simply: "You're not here for you, you're here for others".

They backed up this simple truth with consistency, love and the intelligent application of violence.The measure of their success is the pride they expressed in us on their deathbeds.

There are still countries in the world that repress children for their own good, and while those countries may be rich or poor, democratic or not, at a personal level the inhabitants are charming, helpful and welcoming.

Anonymous said...

Boundaries. I'm all for boundaries. Sanctions too. If they misuse a freedom it should be withdrawn. But "punishment" is a problematic word. It is so easy for it to sound vindictive, to be about the exercise of power for its own sake, because you're bigger and older and in charge. That can cause resentment. Let the punishment fit the crime. Let them understand why.
There is some sense in ignoring inappropriate behaviour (eg, when they are swearing at you, you don't listen, and they'll realise it is ineffective and they are ineffectual). but not when it impacts on third parties. On the whole, discipline has to be very focused. Removing a play station because he swore at an old lady is so random it just looks like power play. Telling him you will refuse to take him down town next time on account of that behaviour is much more targeted. Better still, put him on notice that he's on probation before he even goes out.

What appals me most from these recent posts of yours - and maybe it's your own gloss on things - is the unthinking sense of entitlement among your "clients".

I'm assuming Benson isn't his real name, btw.

WinstonSmith33 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WinstonSmith33 said...

Hi Anonymous.

Im not in to punishing people to be vindictive but rather so they learn right from wrong. You suggest ignoring Benson's behaviour in the classroom. I disagree. The reason he behaves the way he does in the street being abusive to people and intimidating, although it's all an act, is because his primary carers and the school he goest to do not take punitive action when he is seriously out of line. How else will he learn that certain things are wrong if adults dont at least try and guide him in the right direction? I dont expect teenagers to be all little angels but I believe that we have far worse problems today with a large minority of young people than ever before. The problems extend across the classes as well, thought the majority of problematic youngsters do hail from the underclass.

By the way I deleted my own comment not anyone elses. It didnt make sense due to tiredness. Im just stating this as I dont want people to think Im going to be heavily censoring this blog. Im all for courteous debate and not at all censorious apart from abusive or nasty comments.

walklikeacat said...

This tragically reminds me of a case I am dealing with (I am a lawyer for social services) where the father is in his teens living voluntarily in local authority care (parents said they could not cope with him once he was a teenager, same happened to his older brother). For over a year he has used the residential home as a occasional dormitory, comes back wasted on drugs, gets into fights (never with anyone really dangerous), smashes up the place and all they do is act as an occasional taxi service for him. With no sanctions on his bad behaviour he just gets worse.

Anonymous said...

Winston, I had an experience at a local cinema where a group of young scrotes were being unruly and disruptive. Not a single adult in the cinema had the "bottle" to get up adn ask them to stop. When the film started on young scrote began throwing sweets at the screen. At this juncture, my anger got the better of my common sense. I discreetly moved into the row just behind this group and sat directly behind the offending little bastard. I waited until he threw his next sweet, on sitting back I spoke softly yet firmly in his ear and said that if he did that again, I would rip his fucking head off and put it on a spike in the town centre. Do you know, there wasn't a peep out of the entire group for the rest of the film.

Perhaps a similar word in your young ward's ear might not go amiss.

WinstonSmith33 said...

Never mind a word in the ear its a good clip round the ear he needs. Instead, he gets a playstation and the choice to design the way he's taught. None of it helps him improve his life but we carry on regardless because some idiot of a policy maker has decided that this is the best way despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Ranting Teacher said...

Henry Crun, you sound like a hero of our time! Many years ago, before even becoming a teacher, I was on a bus on an edge of London where some kids were pissing around. They stuck stickers all over a woman's back and she was oblivious, but the other people all around weren't. I couldn't help myself. "Take those off," I heard a voice order the boys. Then I realised it was me. "Wha-a-a-a?" replied the boys. "Take those stickers off that lady's back," the voice ordered again. There was a horrible moment of perhaps 5 seconds that seemed like enough time for them to pull out knives and stab me, but instead they mumbled "sorry" and took off the stickers, before jumping off the bus at the next stop.