A School at the Disciplinary Turning Point: Coping with Dissident Teachers

It is usually a huge struggle for teachers as well as children in schools with disciplinary confusion. The management of such schools are usually at their wits end strategising for improvement.  Improved staff-training resources and opportunities are provided. Workshops and seminars for students to improve their knowledge and competence on challenging areas are also helpful. The desire of every professional educationist should be to develop children who are morally and academically sound without recourse to abusive practices, even in environments without legal restrictions against corporal punishment of school children. Schools which are able to achieve this are those that have competent and principled administrators, standard and well-monitored school policies and teachers who are qualified and well supervised.

I have realised that teachers who were physically abused by their teachers and parents when they were young tend to cling tightly to their belief that children must necessarily pass through the same experiences. Most of such teachers would boldly describe the various effective child development methods such as Montessori as mere theories. Their unfavourable disposition to any improved method is obvious from their negative comments and rhetorical questions even during workshops and seminars. In fact, it can really be so bad that the only classroom control skills such teachers are willing to accept are corporal punishments and use of negative and abusive words. The undoing of a school at the turning point of embracing any improved method would be to underestimate the extent such teachers can go in frustrating the positive move for change, even if they are in the minority.

Stories have been told of how dissident teachers in such circumstances have done a lot of things to frustrate a good purpose.

  1. They have exaggerated the children’s behaviour to parents to ginger them to kick against the school’s improved method.
  2. They have completely dropped the old violent method but refused to apply the new method. Such teachers have even withdrawn their support to the children and lied against the children so that issues would really be exaggerated.
  3. They have blamed any challenge by any child on the change in approach.

My advice to schools in such situations is to be focused and insist on establishing a better approach in order to achieve improvement. No school should be overwhelmed by the activities of such dissidents. The school should take an inventory of such teachers, ensure that they apply the right standard of practice in line with the new prescribed school policy and monitor them closely. The option they have is either throw in the towel on their own or otherwise be subjected through the school disciplinary procedure for misconduct or negligence.  It is important that the orientation programme of new teachers should include programmes that equip them to relate with children in conformity with school policies. A better approach is always preferred. No school should therefore be frustrated into giving in to cheap blackmail by dissident teachers and abandoning the good purpose of embracing an improved approach of achieving moral and academic excellence.

-Uchenna N. Nduka

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