Are schools less tolerant? I was waiting in the queue for fish and chips last week. There were a group of lads, 12 or 13 years of age maybe, waiting in front of me for their burger and chips.
A small lad came running over, jumped up and tapped one of them on the head and shouted “3 bad behaviour points! I threw a rubber across the classroom to ***** and I got 3 bad behaviour points and I was written up by the tutor”. One of the taller lads roughed his hair and laughed.
I chuckled at the interaction and reflected on the behaviours of our students, and why they are simply unable to cope in a mainstream school.
Are schools less tolerant?
I also thought about my own time at school, a long time ago now, and how mainstream schools seemed more tolerant of misbehaviour back then, throwing a rubber would have resulted in a verbal telling off and nothing more.
Now I was no angel at school. But I used to keep my head down and stayed out of trouble most of the time.
However, I remember ending up in front of the Head Teacher three times in one week for wearing a coat that wasn’t the right style or colour. Someone had seen me cycling to school in a none uniform coat. Even now, I feel it was a trivial thing to tell a child off for; especially when they tried to explain repeatedly that they couldn’t afford the very expensive school coats that we were required to wear.
Then there was the time when I had an argument with my history teacher over covering my exercise book. We weren’t allowed to draw on them, but ever the doodler I couldn’t help myself.
The argument went like this:
Teacher: I told you to cover your book
Me: I don’t have anything to cover it with…
Teacher: Well use wrapping paper
Me: I don’t have any – we cant afford to buy any…
Teacher: Well how about brown paper?
Me: I don’t have any – and we cant afford to buy any…
Teacher: What about newspapers?
Me: My mum doesn’t buy newspapers
Teacher: You must get free ones through the door!
Me: No, we don’t…
At which point I got thrown out of the class. But that was the end of it. I covered the exercise book in the most unappealing paper I could find. As soon as I could, I gave up history!
Have our schools become less tolerant of poor behaviour? Or are the behaviours more extreme these days?
These are complicated questions and I am not the person to answer them. I can only reflect on what I know and have experienced myself.
Firstly, if a student can get three bad behaviour points for throwing a rubber across a classroom, then I can only assume that throwing a bench, stick, mud, and other slightly larger projectiles would instantly result is a more severe punishment in a mainstream school.
For a child with autism, ADHD, or attachment and trauma etc, who struggles to regulate their behaviours it is clear that a mainstream school is going to be an extremely challenging environment for them.
When a child is unable to express their emotions or even understand them, and as a result cannot cope when it gets too noisy, or too busy, or they are simply in sensory overload… in a school where there are hundreds of children, no open spaces and nowhere to escape to; then they are going to have explosive moments where they simply cannot hold their frustrations inside any longer.
Even in a special needs school there are times when students become agitated, unable to express why they are feeling so bad, unable to keep themselves safe, with aggressive and violent outbursts too.
So what is the answer? More special schools? More tolerance in mainstream schools? More bad behaviour points for throwing rubbers? More tutor write ups?
There has to be a better way.