Sometimes, you just need to say something.
*Warning: This isn’t a happy-go-lucky post, but is rather serious, FYI*
When I was placed in my permanent site in South Africa, at the end of 2 months of training, I was assigned to teach at two schools. And for awhile, I did just that. But then the facade started to crack at one school, and things started to go downhill.
You see, in many village schools, corporal punishment is still used frequently in South Africa. Though it’s illegal, these schools aren’t monitored well and teachers aren’t given the appropriate classroom management training to switch from corporal punishment to positive reinforcement. And though I wasn’t there to judge or cause problems, I was there to implement appropriate classroom management and punishment techniques.
So, a few months into my work at that school, I finally had to say something. And after having no success going through the appropriate channels, I finally had to lay out an ultimatum.
They had to stop beating the children, or I would leave the school.
And a few months later, that’s what I did. It broke my heart, but there was another school I worked with that desperately wanted help to change and improve their school.
And for months, I felt like a failure.
And yet, at the same time, I couldn’t teach in a school where children cowered and flinched when I raised my hand to point in class. I couldn’t deal with watching a teacher punch children for not finishing their homework. And I absolutely couldn’t handle hearing the crack of a stick, followed by screams and cries, in the classroom next to me.
Sometimes, you have to say something. Because silence affirms the behavior. And ethically, I couldn’t bear that.
As difficult it was to leave that school, I got to be part of radical change at my other school. A school that actively discouraged corporal punishment and was receptive to new discipline techniques. One which went above and beyond to improve their school grounds, classrooms, and gardens. One whose name can be found here (I found this out today) as a finalist in this year’s school garden competition. Thank you, Mmusi Primary School.
And I still struggle with feelings of failure for that other school. But I can’t let those get me down.