It seems, these days, every time I open a newspaper I am relieved that I did not choose 'teacher' as a career path. How our schools manage to find people willing to take on this job amazes me. I wouldn't take it if it paid a million a year. It pays far, far less than that.
Today, two stories caught my eye.
In the first, a headmaster was found guilty of neglect and fined £20,000 pounds (roughly $40,000) because a child died at his school. My first reaction was the same as yours, I'll bet. If a child has died in his care then he deserves all he gets, right?
I read on. The child was three. He was pretending to be Batman. All three-year-olds do this, every little boy has pretended to be Batman or Superman at some point, and all have tried to fly. Most of us learn the hard way that we can't. We get bruises, sprains, and sometimes even broken bones. This child jumped from the top of a set of four stone steps and injured himself so badly that he died.
It's a terrible tragedy, but he's not the first. Fortunately it's rare but it does happen. He won't be the last either. I don't blame comic books, or even the films that have special effects so realistic you'd 'believe a man can fly'. It's terrible to realise that while adults will marvel at the special effects, children will really believe they are watching a man fly. To them, what they see on screen is really happening. Still I don't blame those films.
Children do risky things. You can wrap them up in as many layers as you like but they'll still do them. The steps in the article were 'out of bounds' which means children were told not to go there. Children, being naturally curious, will be compelled to go wherever they're told not to.
Nobody pushed this child. He jumped. It was an accident. The consequences were dreadful but that doesn't change the fact that it was an accident. The headmaster had told the children to stay away from those steps. They, naturally, were drawn to this forbidden area. He didn't push this boy, he didn't send him to a place he knew was dangerous, he did nothing to put the boy's life in danger.
In this world, there are no accidents. Someone is to blame every time. No exceptions. There's always someone who can be punished, someone who can be sued.
At a school near me, all physical contact has been forbidden in the playground. It must make for some dull football games. I suppose 'tag' is out of the question too. This happened because a child came home with a graze and the parents complained. The school took this action because they are in constant fear of being sued. That’s right, over a graze. A scuff-mark. The natural inhabitant of any child’s knee, elbow, or anywhere else for that matter. Kids do that. It grows back.
But I digress. The headmaster was punished with a fine he’ll probably have to sell his house to pay. Did he deserve that? You decide.
At the same time, in another school, a five-year-old boy attacked another with a craft knife. He cut his victim several times. This was a deliberate and premeditated attack, the boy had even brought his own knife from home.
What was his punishment? He was suspended for the rest of the day and will be moved to another class.
If you’re thinking of taking up teaching, that’s the reality of it. Any child damaging themselves by accident will be your fault, whether you’re around when it happens or not. The children will not be punished for deliberately attacking each other—or you—with a weapon.
There’s not enough money in the world to entice me into that job.