Standards matter

My attention this week was drawn to the behaviour of parents or caregivers towards the principal and teachers of a school because their child or ward was suspended for breaking the school rules or code of conduct. The negative comments about some teacher’s appearance (having pierced body parts or tattoos) also caught my attention.

First let me say up front that I support and agree with the head teacher of the school for suspending those children. I did not have a conversation with him but I can only imagine that if he had tried to call those same parents in for counselling and discussion about their children’s performance or behaviour he would be unable to reach them.

Secondly, I would like to see other schools insist on proper deportment and dress code like the school in question. I believe that if other schools followed suit the outcry would not be that loud. We as a society seem to be letting our standards slide in trying to “keep up with the Joneses” or other countries, notwithstanding that these countries have myriads of social problems and as a result we can be accused of “throwing out the baby with the bath water” in our quest for change.

Before I go on let me add here that on a recent visit to Trinidad I could not help but notice the length of the uniforms on the school girls there, which was just an inch or so above the ankle and I did not notice them falling down. I believe that wearing a long skirt will protect the dignity of the females and having the correct fitting trousers will protect that of the males.

At the risk of being called a prude, let me state this, the manner some females (school children included) sit does not leave anything to the imagination. Moreover, we all know that the boys for some reason like to show off their butts to the public whether it (the butt) is covered by clean underwear or not. The article this week is about the importance of maintaining standards.

According to an article published by the University of Western Australia, people are most productive in an environment which is marked by respect and dignity that supports learning. In other words, a positive learning environment supports increased performance. As a result, the study environment should not be compromised with the presence of inappropriate behaviour.

One of the key elements of this article was the promotion of zero tolerance for negative behaviour (such as bullying) and the resolving of issues that can create a hostile learning environment. It is therefore important that the prevention of unsatisfactory conduct and performance by taking the appropriate disciplinary action when needed is the mandate of any leader whether in education or commerce. So whether a teacher is wearing a tattoo or has pierced body parts is no reason to encourage insubordination.

One must understand that it is the responsibility of the head of the school to ensure that children conduct themselves in a manner befitting the standards of the school (both explicit and implied). Furthermore, not wearing the appropriate uniform (not only the length of the skirt) or behaving in an inappropriate manner not only speaks to the background of the child but also of the school’s principles.

For instance, only this past week one former school child died tragically and according to the media his former head teacher was asked for comments concerning his behaviour. This implies the level of responsibility the school has over shaping the behaviour of individuals. I believe that it was Haralambos and Holborn who said that “education … also helps shape beliefs and moral values… young people learn their lessons … by joining in the social groups” (at the school) and learning is mainly acquired by imitating examples set by adults (there).

I also examined a view of education as posited by Durkheim who, according to Haralambos and Holborn, argued that “to become attached to society, the child must feel in it something that is real, alive and powerful, which dominates the person and to which he also owes the best part of himself”. This in itself speaks to the contribution the school makes in shaping the behaviour of the child and future citizens of society.

Therefore a child’s deportment must be of paramount importance to the school and leaders of all schools must encourage the reduction of inappropriate behaviour wherever possible. If every head adheres to this advice the school will definitely be the organisation that produces and shapes individuals who will behave in a manner that will result in the development of constructive members of society.

It is amazing that the parents and guardians of the students in question seemed more interesting in the punishment than the crime. As to the parent who was concerned about his son running about when not at school, this behaviour speaks to your parenting style and is not the fault of the school. They (the parents) could do well to remember the lyrics of one of the Mighty Sparrow’s songs which stated “… children go to school and learn well; otherwise later on in life you will catch real hell. Without an education in your head, your whole life will be misery, you better off dead…”. Until next time…

* Daren Greaves is a Management & Organisational Psychology Consultant at Dwensa Incorporated. e-mail:, Phone: (246) 436-4215

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