An incident occurred in another classroom this week that lead to a parent asking, “Why weren’t you watching her more closely?” It was a simple question based on ignorance. It wasn’t asked of me, but I’d like to address the problem here anyway.
One of the things that parents don’t realize is that teachers cannot be responsible for their child’s actions. Teachers can monitor. Teachers can supervise. Teachers can advise. Teachers can warn. Teachers can do a dozen things to try to motivate children to behave. However, they can’t actually control the behavior of children. Neither can parents, but they don’t like to admit it.
One of the major truths of life is that we can only control our OWN behavior.
Children are sneaky, manipulative creatures who will find a way to do whatever they want to do. If they are willing to accept the consequences for their actions you can’t stop them. I’ve had students steal from me, cut their clothes with scissors, hurt their classmates, and destroy school property because they found out they could tolerate the punishment for their misdeeds. A spanking is quickly over with. Detention is basically just work in a quiet room for a few days. If the misbehavior is enjoyable enough the child will continue to do it. Only their own shame and remorse will stop them. If parents don’t instill that early: with sound teaching and lots of praise for good behavior, and swift, harsh punishment for bad, then school isn’t going to solve their problems. The Bible says “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it”. It does not say “train now and next week look for results”! I also think that the phrase “way he should go” indicates a way of living, not step by step rules. Our children are going to misbehave and break a few rules. What we want is for them to develop a manner of living, and an approach to life that is basically sound and good.
What all this boils down to in the classroom is that children are responsible for their own behavior. Parents and teachers can teach children how to make decisions. We can model and explain the good choices they can make in a variety of situations. We can make the consequences for some actions unpleasant. However, I cannot monitor the actions of twenty children every moment of the day to insure that they never misbehave. I can’t even control the environment around them. One parent last year said to me, “Well, just don’t let him play with ____ ever again!” That’s totally unrealistic in a group setting. I have students who can’t sit together at lunch because they annoy each other. I have others who poke each other if they stand in line next to each other. I have some who can’t sit near each other in the classroom without talking constantly. But I can’t make each and every situation perfect for each and every student! There are times when they just have to control their little minds and bodies and voices and hands!! They have to be responsible for their own actions. I always tell my students that the real test of behavior is what you do when no one else is looking. Sometimes my students forget that we have cameras in the building and they think I have eyes in the back of my head! LOL
So I would say to that parent, and others, that as teachers do all we can to provide a safe environment. We do all we can to supervise the actions of our students. We do our best to prevent misbehavior. But the bottom line is…where there is a will, there is a way.