Monday, 23 September 2013

Letter to David Rutherford, NZ Human Rights Commissioner about bullying

David kia ora, nga mihi to you
Having listened to the article on National radio yesterday Monday 23rd here I am compelled to respond.Something you wont like to hear is that the Education System at primary and secondary level is a bullying system, indeed it models it and makes a fertile environment for bullying.If we take Victoria University's Vanessa Green's  description that bullying is about a power imbalance and that it is 'regular', then this fits the teaching profession. In schools,you (a teacher)tell others what they are to work on,when to sit, stand, eat, be tested.When the child resists because they want more freedom or dont want to do whats asked you call him or her 'disobedient' or 'defiant' Then coercion is quickly replaced by force.You then exclude them from rewards such as their freedom or punishments (In my day the cane) or by constant montoring of their attendance etc.How different of this is  from bullying in the peer to peer context?

An overlooked reason why its so prevalent is because the system is creating it.
 I am a trained teacher - recently exiting myself from this system after my involvement for20 years; in part because because it is one that models power imbalances and creates bullying.
I encourage you to read more on the subject and withhold any judgement that I could be so wrong. It seems incredible I know; to question  something as readily accepted as being a model of human behaviour and just a part of life as the primary/ secondary system are.

Bullying also happens when you lump together (by force) one agegroup.In my experience of teaching, and backed up by my research from other experts in the education field, when you have a more natural social grouping you mitigate against bullying. I can give a concrete examples from my experience an area school where the form class was year 9-13, the accidental influence of older youth on younger classes of school children at a state secondary school, to the almost absence of bullying in homeschooled social situations (my children are homeschooled)
Of course we cant single out the school system as the 'cause'-you are right in you analysis that it  reaches deep into out culture. School is a part of this culture.We believe violence and force are legitimate problem solvers and ways of getting what we want.

I only want to point out that the problem is in part created by the people who are being expected to solve it.
Its not just my thoughts.Read California 's ex teacher of the year 1999 John Taylor Gatto and others..

Opening this up will create havoc and defensiveness,and in my experience will not make it to the popular media. We hesitate to question the unquestionable-that the school system is fundamentally flawed and fosters a bullying environment

In a brilliant repaste, national radio this morning held up educator Yong Zhao .He talked about the educational environment that looks to the present situation and the future.He used words like entreprenuership, creativity, empathy when describing the new system yet to be realised. The chicken coop we call schooling is going to disappear, and- when we relinquish our addiction to problem -solving and meeting our needs through violence- with it much of bullying.
I am happy to engage in this debate.I look forward to venues and opportunities to discuss and listen.
As for the solution? Well that's to be negotiated, surely. The first step is to recognise the illness without blame, judgement and retribution!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Communicating betterer; beginning a language of life

I had an unfortunate conversation with my neighbour  over a period of the last 2 days. Their stock animals have been grazing on our land in full view of their house. Over the years I have noted that they never take them off until we complain. So I communicate this and the reasons why we need the grass; or alternatively if we want to share or enter into some kind of arrangement,then lets do so.At the moment its a bit one-sided.
This is a typical farm neighbour situation-trouble over the fencing of stock. The neighbour is so aggressive I have chosen to put notes in the mailbox-a point which I expressed some regret and hope that we could be able to at least talk in the future.
I get a letter back which begins with "You're a liar!" and ends with"So shut up!" It is full of past resentments (the neighbour unsurprisingly has cancer), judgements,  defensiveness. I don't want to go into the details of it; it isn't my point.
I'm disappointed at the way that  we as a culture communicate.I have, in the last 2 and a half years been involved in overhauling my own language, and adopting a new one. Like many old habits, they can be hard to break. The new way cuts out judgement, criticism, put downs etc, and instead asks one to look at feelings and the underlying needs, wants and values that aren't being met. It goes further, to asking oneself and others for something which might help fulfill that need, value or want. The languages intention is to connect with others in a real, deep and human way.
This 'language of life' asserts that negative feelings (such as fear, guilt, anger etc) arise from unmet parts of our lives.And on the other hand, positive feelings(such as joy, peace and excitement) arise from these 'needs' being met.
It is profound and it works. It doesn't work in the currently popular means of getting your needs met at the expense of others- the tough love approach pervading our parenting meetings and schools. The fallout from that is silent resentment, depression, acting out of fear, shame or guilt. It has an unsatisfied party in the conversation.It breaks down connection between people. It also teaches bullying behaviour ie the getting ones demands met by coercion, creating fear and using force. You can see the results of this on the world stage as a country awakes, angry, and rids itself of a dictator.Rather it assumes the worth of the people involved in communicating. It assumes that getting what you want doesn't mean that the other doesn't get what they want.
I'm a fan.Its creator says it embodies spiritual values most of us subscribe to: loving your neighbour as yourself, peace, trust, compassion and so on They always struck me as great words, but how to put them into action-how to 'do' love- was missing. Also I'm programmed to start blaming, judging, criticising,comparing and that's hard to shift.I was bought up with it at home, school and the greater world.
I have successfully used this new language in the classroom, at home and with my family and friends. Dont worry, I still sound like me-you won't need an interpreter. But you and I may feel quite different during and at the end of our conversation.
This isnt an advertorial, but if you want to look at it more there are ways to learn it. Have a look at

Monday, 2 September 2013

Getting rid of teaching as a profession and replacing it with something better

I'd like to propose getting rid of the teaching profession. Let me explain why. T begin with lets ask the question what is a teacher? Surely an exponent or a master involved with the people who want to gain some of the same skills or knowledge. But that's not what we think of when we think of the teaching 'profession'.It has become a stand alone job, like plumber or accountant.And most teachers are not actively involved in their field We imagine it has skills and knowledge of its craft; in reality it doesn't have any.Except perhaps the art of communication; but that isn't an endemic 'skill'.
Many years ago a friend and teacher said to me "I think we have got teaching and learning mixed up"In the ensuing conversation she described this trick of the mind-she thought that they were different things. I thought that the problem was you didin't have to have a teacher to learn, but you could have. You can stand there and 'teach' till you're blue in the face but if you dont have a relationship of the learner wanting what you have, and them seeing the difference it made in your life then "moumou taima" as Maori say, "waste of time". I never once heard this said at training college.
So I'm proposing the ending of teaching as a career as it stands now. Instead, we will have exponents or masters in their field engaging with eager learners.The exponents will need to be practicioners.Current teachers will need to become exponents.Most teachers I know crave the chance to practice their field, but cannot due to the farming mentality of the education system and all- or- nothing employment strictures- too busy, too many students, no time etc
I'm all for decentralising 'education' and bringing into the sphere of normal life-making the links between what we are good at, what we do, and the people that want to do what we do, and can see the difference it makes in our lives. eg joy,contentment, money- and fostering a tangible felt experience of  participation, accomplishment, belonging, competence and mutuality.
I also propose that resources formerly used in schools(funds, equipment etc) be distributed to the places where the masters work from to allow them the training of their students.
Its really reinventing the wheel-its the way its always been done. A friend of mine's eyes lit up when I was talking with them  about this. "Oh like an apprenticeship!" Exactly.
But don't think just trades here. Think services, arts, sports, food growers, ministries, speakers, clothing makers,healers etc