Friday, October 26, 2007

Graffiti and punishment

Today I encountered my first unsupportive parent. I guess I'm doing quite well, really, considering I've made it nearly to the end of October.

After a term and a half of almost no graffiti, the first science lesson this week ended with serious marking of almost half the desks in the room. Who knows why it happens like this? Anyway, as instructed by my HOF, I implemented firm consequences: after the next lesson, all the students sitting at each group of desks where graffiti had been found joined me on the playground for litter duty.

Today I got a letter from a parent: “My daughter has been brought up to respect furniture and would not dream of writing on a desk.” (I'm paraphrasing.) “Yet apparently she was punished for what some other child did. I want a written apology to my daughter from the teacher who accused her of writing on the desk.”

So I called the mother back after school, to explain the situation. Yes, I understand your point of view; yes, I agree, your daughter is a lovely girl. However, at least one of the four lovely girls in her group left some serious graffiti on the desks. (And it's not the first time, either. But I didn't say that.) “I don't believe in group punishment.” I'm not trying to punish the many for the sins of the one, I'm trying to inculcate some respect for school property and to build some responsibility for preventing re-occurrence. (Not quite what I said.) “But my daughter was not responsible for the graffiti.” Perhaps not, but then she sat idle while she watched her friend damaging the desk. “You didn't even ask my daughter whether she did it.” Correct: I've tried that before. Every student disclaims responsibility. Then what? Nobody did it? It just happened all by itself? (No, I didn't actually say that. Just wanted to.) “Well, that's your responsibility. It's the school's responsibility, and the teacher's.”

What I wish I could have responded with was: Fine, you come in to the next science lesson, I'll line the kids up for you, and you can try to figure out who did it. They're all yours. (Perhaps when you see how hard my job is, you'll reconsider what you're asking of me. Oh, this isn't the perfect environment you envisioned for your daughter's education? Then maybe you ought to consider home schooling.)

Instead, what I actually said was: I understand your point of view; I'm doing the best I can.


Josh Paech said...

Do they draw penises? At my school, everyone's books have crude penises drawn on every second page. It is a genital epidemic.

Ian said...

No. At MCC they'd probably be suspended for that. They certainly graffiti their books (usually each others', not their own), but it's mostly words and nicknames.

Trish said...

Try working at a state school! A couple of weeks ago, one boy drew a penis on another boy's lower leg! This happened in a Maths class, and so quickly, that by the time I got over to the boys to stop it, the artwork was complete.

As for what you really wanted to say to the parent, I'm with you there, Ian. Parents don't know what we have to put up with. They just think that it's like being at home, where parents only have a maximum of five or six children to manage. We've got at least 20-25 students to deal with, and none of them are angels!