Teach­ers vs. stu­dents

The stu­dent-teacher dy­namic seems to be slowly chang­ing – for the worse.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE - By VIVI­ENNE WONG and CLARISSA SAY allther­age@thes­tar.com.my

BUL­LY­ING hap­pens. We all know that. We’ve got the sta­tis­tics, the anec­do­tal ev­i­dence and the news re­ports to back it up.

The prob­lem we’re see­ing now, how­ever, is that bul­ly­ing is hap­pen­ing be­tween stu­dents and teach­ers as well.

Over the past cou­ple of weeks, we’ve had a case of a teacher punch­ing four stu­dents, a teacher forc­ing stu­dents to wear cow bells and eat grass, and a stu­dent send­ing a rape threat to a teacher.

There seems to be a grow­ing dis­con­nect be­tween stu­dents and teach­ers in our schools. Most stu­dents we in­ter­viewed said they would never speak to a teacher if they were bul­lied, be­cause they didn’t feel they could trust them with such sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion.

The sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Na­tional Union of Teach­ing Pro­fes­sion (NUTP), how­ever, said it is the stu­dents who are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for teach­ers to deal with, caus­ing them to oc­ca­sion­ally act out in frus­tra­tion.

We’ve heard lots of opin­ions on both sides of that di­vide, but one thing’s for sure – to put an end to the bul­ly­ing cul­ture in Malaysia, which al­ready drove 13-year-old T. Kav­in­raj to kill him­self by con­sum­ing pes­ti­cide two weeks ago, stu­dents and teach­ers need to con­nect.

Are teach­ers bul­lies?

Even be­fore the re­cent cow­bell and punch­ing in­ci­dents, the is­sue of teach­ers bul­ly­ing stu­dents had been raised by The Star be­fore, in 2011.

Back then, it was re­ported that a girl was told by a teacher to quit school and be­come a pros­ti­tute.

An­other case saw a stu­dent who was as­saulted by a trainee teacher be­ing given RM50 to not re­port the case.

Per­sonal as­sis­tant An­gel Ong, 24, said it was some­thing that used to hap­pen to her in school as well.

“This teacher used to have some­thing against me. It was like she didn’t like my face or some­thing. If I didn’t hand in my home­work on time, she would hit me on the head with a file so hard I’d have a bruise the next day. She called me lazy and rude,” said Ong.

KDU Pe­nang stu­dent Qua Mei Rei, 20, said she too had wit­nessed bul­ly­ing from a teacher. “When I was 16, a class­mate’s par­ents had just gone through a di­vorce. One of our teach­ers was re­ally in­con­sid­er­ate. She kept ask­ing her ques­tions about it and ver­bally as­sault­ing her. My friend didn’t show up for school for months af­ter that.”

Speak­ing in de­fense of the teach­ers, Na­tional Union of Teach­ing Pro­fes­sion (NUTP) sec­re­tary gen­eral Lok Yim Pheng said these cases of­ten hap­pen be­cause the teach­ers in­volved are un­der too much pres­sure.

“Some­times, they suf­fer from de­pres­sion and un­in­ten­tion­ally re­lease their stress on the chil­dren,” she said.

“To me, I feel that it’s not re­ally bul­ly­ing. Maybe they’re just not emo­tion­ally sta­ble at that point in time.”

The prob­lem is, some­times it takes just one lapse in judge­ment from a teacher to af­fect a stu­dent for life.

“Even the small­est form of bul­ly­ing can leave a scar on the vic­tim and al­ter their per­cep­tion to­wards the per­son, es­pe­cially if it’s phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally dam­ag­ing like the re­cent cases,” said ed­u­ca­tional and clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Selina Ding, who works mainly with chil­dren and ado­les­cents.

Are stu­dents to blame?

There are many who be­lieve that part of the prob­lem is that stu­dents to­day are be­com­ing too spoilt.

Re­cently, a memo said to be from the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia, con­tain­ing the list of pun­ish­ments that teach­ers are not al­lowed to use on their stu­dents. Ap­par­ently, teach­ers to­day are not al­lowed to ask stu­dents to do their home­work while stand­ing, run around the school field, go for de­ten­tion dur­ing re­cess, or stand for a long pe­riod of time in­side the class­room.

There were a to­tal of 23 items in the memo, di­vided into phys­i­cal and men­tal/emo­tional pun­ish­ments.

Lok said: “The prob­lem we’re fac­ing is that chil­dren nowa­days are not like

they were in ear­lier times. now some of them don’t even re­spect the teach­ers. With lists like that go­ing up on­line, the teach­ers know what they can­not do. They don’t even dare. They have to fol­low all the reg­u­la­tions when they want to pun­ish a stu­dent.”

HeLP In­ter­na­tional School coun­sel­ing psy­chol­o­gist Dr Ger­ard Louis, how­ever, feels that as much stress as a teacher is un­der, and re­gard­less of whether that stress comes from the stu­dents’ in­sub­or­di­na­tion or not, there should be no ex­cuse for the kind of vi­o­lent out­bursts and men­tal bul­ly­ing we’ve been read­ing about in the pa­pers.

“Any sen­si­ble adult – and I’m not talk­ing about teach­ers only – will tell you that (the bul­ly­ing of stu­dents) goes against com­mon sense. Pun­ish­ment in school is meant to be re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive. You want chil­dren to re­spond to pun­ish­ment. Hu­mil­i­at­ing a child won’t help the child change. If any­thing, it dam­ages the child,” said Louis.

More­over, teach­ers have sup­port sys­tems - in­clud­ing the nuTP - to help them if they are un­der stress. In fact, Lok urges teach­ers who feel they are stressed out to get in touch with the nuTP. On the other hand with stu­dents, es­pe­cially those who are be­ing bul­lied in school, the teach­ers are some­times all they’ve got.

But at the same time, Louis was quick to re­mind stu­dents that de­spite the few teach­ers who slip up, there are in fact a lot of “very sen­si­ble teach­ers who know their bound­aries and treat their stu­dents with re­spect”.

“It’s im­por­tant the kids re­alise that just be­cause you’ve been hurt by one teacher, that doesn’t mean all teach­ers are bad. When they learn that distinc­tion, then the trust be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents won’t be af­fected.”

Tell us what you think! Why is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents in Malaysian schools seem­ingly break­ing down? Tweet your thoughts to us at @thes­tar_rage.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.