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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor Emeritus of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra.

Dancing among wolves, an unexpected challenge professor

Thu, 19 May 2016 10:27:00 +0000 Published in El Confidencial Digital

The film "Dances Among Wolves" (1990) depicts the long journey on horseback of Lieutenant John J. Dunbar to a frontier outpost in the American West that he will find abandoned by soldiers.

Loneliness moves him to interact with the Sioux Indians and wolves. He befriends them all, especially the wolf "Socks", who accompanies him on his patrols.

The plot of this film directed by and starring Kevin Costner serves to introduce the status of loneliness and harassment in which many teachers of teaching secondary schools currently find themselves. Every day they are humiliated with verbal, physical or psychological aggression by their own students, which seems to confirm Thomas Hobbes' thesis : "homo homini lupus".

I understand that some of them have already "thrown in the towel"; but I hope that the others do not imitate them, because that would be - besides a social tragedy - a failure of the school and of the Education. The example of Lieutenant Dunbar can help them to approach their hard status as a challenge educational : that of getting to live peacefully and amicably with their "wolf-pupils".

A challenge educational no less difficult is the one successfully faced by the teacher protagonist of "Rebellion in the Classroom" (Sidney Poitier,1967) exercising leadership and winning over with much skill and perseverance the leaders of the group of class. They were young social misfits with transgressive rebelliousness, while the violent ones of today's classroom are simply spoiled puberts with little tolerance for frustration; that is why any correction from teachers infuriates them.

Such aggressiveness against teachers at such a young age (12 to 13 years old) is an unprecedented and, therefore, unexpected phenomenon.

It is very difficult to impart a class to those who refuse to obey the teachers ("You are nobody to"...), send messages and photos to each other with their cell phones and listen to music on their Walkman, while eating sweets. There comes a time when they do not differentiate between proper and improper behavior at classroom. The school ceases to be a place for learning, and becomes an extension of the entertainment venues.

Teachers, after being greeted with an insult, remain silent (they pretend not to hear it); they receive hair-pulling and continue to remain silent. This leads to a progressive loss of authority and professional identity. The silence of teachers and school management for fear of possible reprisals from these emboldened children is creating a habit of violence.

The resource most used by teachers who are afraid to go to classroom every day, is to call the Teacher's Ombudsman Service, which offers them financial aid psychological and legal assistance. More than 3,000 calls are received each year.

Many teachers end up asking to be transferred to another school or to leave ; they confess that nothing can be done to eradicate this scourge from today's schools.

We have gone from students' fear of teachers to teachers' fear of students. I am reluctant to believe that in the age of the turkey, students act with such boldness and cruelty towards their teachers on their own initiative; I think it is an attitude acquired by imitation outside the school.

It is known that many of these aggressive students heard harsh and frequent criticism of teachers from their parents; also that parents came to school to scold them. The usual reason was school grades, with which the parents were obsessed.

A second cause of the problem is the fashion for egalitarianism between parents and children and between teachers and students; they are on a first-name basis and consider themselves "colleagues". There is no room for authority in this approach.

A third cause: overprotective and permissive parents, who do not correct their children for fear of lowering their self-esteem.

Is it reasonable for us to ask high school teachers to tackle the challenge of straightening out these prematurely crooked students?

They can detect the students who are leaders and rely on them. They can also encourage playful and festive encounters with students outside of classroom (excursions, trips, sports, etc.) so that they can discover the person who hides behind the role professor; they can see that teachers are not the monsters they had imagined. But the most effective is a preventive Education .

Each high school could provide family orientation courses for parents to value and exercise educational authority. Also to highlight the importance of partnership between the family and high school and how to instill in children respect for teachers based on the example of parents. Words move; example drags.