Updated: Feb 13, 2019
I shouldn't be surprised. Disappointed, frustrated, helpless. Those are words that come to mind. We aren't even halfway through Term 1 and already the education system is getting a hit in the media. I am sure you've all seen it. A principal in Victoria caught on camera dragging a student along a concrete footpath (captured by another student and posted to Snapchat). I am not going to make it easy and provide a link to the story because that would take away from the point of this whole post. If you are that interested in watching the footage, track it down yourself.
My problem with this footage is two fold. I will start with what I believe to be the 'smaller' issue in this whole saga. Regardless of what time it was, how was another student able to access their phone and post this to Snapchat when I assume they were meant to be engaged in learning in their own classroom? Why did it seem so easy for that student to take this video and post it for the masses to see? That meant the media ended up outside the school before the hometime bell had even rung. Journalists flaunting the footage in front of parents, forcing a negative comment towards the principal of the school. No context, no background, no explanation. Just a screen shoved in front of their faces and a 20 second clip.
This brings me to my biggest issue with the footage. What happened before this? In the world of social media you can basically edit your whole life. Turn it into a shiny bubble where everyone's home is a store display and you wouldn't dare look horrible in a bikini. But this isn't real life. Just like this footage isn't necessarily real life either. Let me explain. On first glance, yes it does look bad. But put that aside for a moment.
I have been a teacher for 8 years now. I've seen things, I've seen behaviours I never thought I would see in a mainstream school. Hitting, punching, kicking, spitting, a ridiculous amount of swearing (including the c word and this is in primary school for goodness sake!), appalling and disrespectful behaviour. After working in a school with an Emotionally Disturbed class, I think I've almost seen it all. What the news failed to shed a light on is the WHY behind this principal's decision to drag that student. The WHY is extremely important. The WHY may not look so exciting on a social media platform but it doesn't take away from its value. The WHY should be the only thing anyone is reporting on. Instead of the Education Minister coming out and condemning the principal, he should also have been focused on the WHY. There is a reason this principal has garnered so much support from parents at the school. They know how valuable he is to their children, they recognise how he has turned that school around. The parent support was the only good to come out of this story. It actually warmed my heart as I realised maybe there is hope for education after all if parents can recognise the value of their principal.
Let's go back to the why. I have been a teacher for long enough to watch the footage and immediately wonder what happened before. You see, even though that pesky thing called social media would like you to believe you were watching something horrible pan out, it didn't show anything that led to this moment. In fact, we didn't even get to hear anything that unfolded just before this either.
And before anyone goes and takes this the wrong way because (SURPRISE SURPRISE), political correctness has become ridiculous these days, I am not advocating for students to be dragged across playgrounds regularly even though a lot actually deserve that (I hope all those politically correct people covered their ears for that one. I wouldn't want to offend that perfect child of yours). How do we know this child hadn't become either a danger to himself or, more importantly, a danger to those around him? How do we know this student wasn't completely heightened and started throwing objects across the classroom? (because yes, that happens, that is reality) How do we know that student hadn't physically hurt another prior to this video? That's right, we don't. Because all we want to do nowadays is crucify teachers and principals for always getting it wrong and blaming them for your child's negative behaviour choices.
I heard later on the news this child suffered from ADHD and anxiety. That was enough for me. That was enough to tell me everything that had happened that day. I don't need the media pushing junk down my throat and trying to manipulate something I know far too much about. And as for the Education Minister, go and do your job. Support your principals and teachers, have our backs, get all the facts before you keep giving opinions you should regret. You are doing more harm than good and encouraging the media to sensationalise issues that need real solutions.
I support that principal 100%, all the way, every day of the week. I can only imagine what he is going through now after spending years turning that school around and implementing positive change all to have it ripped apart by a 20 second clip with no context or substance.