Thursday, February 3, 2011

Schoolchildren, eight to thirteen years old, drugged up to their eyeballs and teachers are to blame? That seems to be the thinking and the current criticism. But who can blame the poor school teachers who have absolutely no way of controlling or instilling discipline in unruly kids other than to feed them Ritalin, described as a ‘chemical cosh’ in order to keep them quiet. In the good old bad old days the cosh of course was spelt c-a-n-e and pupils were generally afeard of it. There were exceptions of course, there always are, to whom threat of the cane meant nothing, and they are always the big problem as regards any sort of punishment – those to whom it means little if anything. I can’t say I approve of children being physically abused but which is worse, to inflict temporary pain on their bodies or abuse their minds? Because who knows what these drugs do and what effect it has on their futures? Except for those few real trouble makers who are determined to put the boot in come what may and for whom any kind of restraint is for the birds, they are kids after all, is it natural to expect them to sit still for hours and not get restless? It would seem true their attention span is short and getting shorter by the day and boredom can quickly set in so maybe the way out is to try keeping that boredom at bay. Don’t ask me how. I’m not a teacher. Except for a very brief foray in a boy’s junior school in Pietermaritzburg when I was at university, and theatre schools, my teaching has been limited to young adults at university level which is a whole different ball game as one might say. As far as the theatre schools were concerned the kids were there because they wanted to be so discipline was never a problem. As for the boys’ school I have only one memory of it and that was them sending me up sky high by collectively doing what they knew would get to me. It happened like this: It was a maths class as I recollect and I don’t know why I was taking it as my maths is pretty putrid to say the least but I was trying to instil some information into one little thickie’s head (actually he wasn’t thick at all, he was just pretending to be) and finally, unintentionally and without being aware of it, he did something that really got my goat – while my back was turned for an instant he picked up his ruler and sucked it. When I turned back and still couldn’t get the information into his head I picked up the ruler and dropped it like a hot coal or as if it were a snake about to bite me. Saliva should be in the mouth and not on the end of a ruler so I gave him a little clip across the ear and that, I thought, was the end of the matter. But, oh no, not as far as they were concerned. The next time I walked into that class every single boy was sucking something; pen, pencil, rubber, ruler, you name it. What does a teacher do in those circumstances? I know what I did, I burst out laughing which might have spoilt their little game but gave me any number of brownie points. (If you are reading this in America, for ‘rubber’ read ‘eraser.’)

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