AWRIGHT DEN: Create that culture
There have been many requests being aired in regards to a change in behaviour from our your people, especially young men, as a result of the rise of violence and shooting deaths and injuries between gangs and communities.
In one voice we ask for greater discipline and self-control and higher standards of morality and respect, yet from the top, we receive advice that sends a conflicting message to the very things we seek to achieve.
Those who have followed my column since 2010, know of my stance as it relates to schoolchildren following rules. Children who adhere to and respectfully conform to rules, despite not always agreeing with them, are children who develop characteristics of discipline, self-control and respect.
It was indeed sad to hear the Minister of Education state, in stressing that some schools were placing too much emphasis on wear: “I don’t support principals taking an inch tape or a ruler and measuring [to see] if [the uniform] is six inches above the knee. Once the young lady looks nice in her attire, the uniform conforms, you don’t need to go to these excesses . . . .” As it relates to school shoes, sadly, the minister said, “the important thing is that you have the colour right”.
If this is what we are to accept, we will soon be hearing that it doesn’t matter if they get to school late once it isn’t after 9:30, or it doesn’t matter if they bring games clothes, once they go to PE.
The minister has set a bad precedent and has given both parents and children ammunition to use against their teachers and principals as they seek to challenge the rules and regulations. I am confident that if investigations were to be carried out, the significant majority of those involved in these violent criminal activities are those who didn’t conform or respected the rules established in their schools.
While a teacher at a Government school, I didn’t mix matters with any students or parents as it related to the school rules. I also established a standard in my class that since I, as teacher and adult, couldn’t wear to school whatever I wanted and was subject to a dress code, no student would be allowed to enter any class I taught in breach of the dress code without a written excuse. You can call me excessive, but over time they conformed and it worked.
My returning 5th form class was shocked when I prevented any student who was in breach of the dress code from entering my math class. They protested, pushed up their mouths, walked away but eventually they all conformed. So much so, I would see students, male and female, from all year levels on the corridor fixing their socks, rubbing out the powder, rubbing off the lipstick and mascara, removing the incorrect earings and watches, zipping up their skirts, buttoning up their blouses and shirts, pulling their pants on their waist and even changing to the correct shoes before entering my class.
One of my 4th form students who attended my private lessons off campus was shocked when I prevented her from entering lessons while wearing pearl earings. Her argument was: “Sir, school done and we ain’t on the premises.” My reply was: “Once you are wearing the school uniform, you must abide by the rules that govern it.” Of course she protested, but I stood my ground – either take them out or go home. She hesitantly took them out and entered the class and returned each week for class without them.
I can share many more similar experiences to prove that children can conform to rules. The real issue isn’t the children but the recalcitrant parents. To all you parents who encourage your children to break rules, take a look inside your home and see if you have a challenge with them conforming to yours.
The type of society we want to develop is heavily dependent on the structure and functionality of our schools. A school that has established a culture of discipline is able to instill in its children that very characteristic in the hope that they take it out into society and the world of work.
Children need consistency, firmness and good examples to follow. I encourage teachers and principals to do all in your power to build a culture of discipline in your schools.
• Corey Worrell is a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.