Personal or Personnel Problems?

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Last hour of school on a Friday afternoon and a teacher takes her class out for some games. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? You can just imagine how pleased the students would be to have some organised fun as a reward for a ‘busy’ week. 

I watched this scene unfold for over half an hour. There were three balls in use and therefore three games being played on the oval. At one stage, to the left of this picture, a scuffle broke out between a small group of students. The game in view was marred by arguments and tantrums. To the right and behind the teacher’s back, students were doing handstands on a concrete area and pushing each other over. Other students ran and jumped around the covered area.

In a school with a low socio-economic background and a diverse cultural mix of students, it would be ideal to see the class teacher engaging and bonding with the class in a relaxed manner, as opposed to the rigours of the classroom. However, some matters are more important and this teacher prioritised the tasks on her mobile phone ahead of diligent duty of care. At no stage did she get up and intervene in any dangerous play or disputes. 

After the final bell for the week had rung, the teacher called her class in and started to berate them for their behaviour during the session. “Why do I bother bringing you out when you behave like that?” Threats were made about not have this privilege again and students, (wanting to go home now), were obliged to agree that they would need to play properly if they ever came out at another time. In the meantime the class is having to cope with taunts from other students who had been dismissed.

So the students finish the week with a dressing down by an authority figure and I am still wondering what they would have recalled of this the following Monday morning. 

Whilst we may well bemoan political decisions and policies that narrow the curriculum down to a series of standardised tests and assessment tasks, we must also expect that teachers act in a professional manner at all times. Perhaps this teacher’s actions are a result of the stress caused by student performance expectations; perhaps not. Just who is responsible for this series of unfortunate events?


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