Licence to mistreat
FEB 27 — I noticed it was almost 2.30pm and so decided to call it a day. While I was at the office about to sign out, I noticed a couple sitting on the sofa talking to one of the senior assistant teachers (SAT). The wife, who did most of the talking, looked rather upset. Her husband sat quietly next to her with an equally grim look on his face.
They were there to make an official complaint about a male teacher whom they claimed had slapped their son’s face because the boy didn’t bring his book to school that day. I had no idea how true the story was because this particular teacher was well-loved by students and teachers alike. He was a very jovial fellow who rarely lost his temper even with the most difficult of kids.
I guess when she heard her son was “harmed”, the woman’s maternal instinct kicked in. She wanted to protect her son. So based only on her son’s word and nothing else, she had come straight from work to settle the matter right there and then.
It was a scenario that was all too familiar to me. Usually there would be two outcomes. One, the parents would eventually start shouting at the teacher regardless of who was at fault. Two, both parties would talk quietly and try to resolve the matter in a civilised manner without resorting to any sort of abuse or violence. Most of the time, the parents would resort to the first outcome.
Having experienced firsthand as well as witnessing such ugly incidents, I knew I didn’t want to be there. Why would I want to watch another parent yell at my colleague because the teacher did what he was supposed to do, which was reprimand a student who had gone out of line. I also felt sickened by the fact that there are parents who actually think just because they make more money than teachers do, it gives them the license to mistreat teachers whenever and however they see fit.
The mother insisted that the matter be solved right then and there. The SAT, who was very calm and kept a polite tone throughout the whole incident, explained that it wouldn’t be possible. The headmaster was away for a meeting and the teacher involved had already left for the day. Instead, the SAT promised to contact the parents once the matter had been investigated thoroughly.
The mother wasn’t happy. She was baying for blood. She started screaming at the SAT, telling her that she would report the matter to the police and that she would make sure the school gets sued. She also said that the school had deliberately chosen problematic teachers to teach the weaker classes because the weak kids didn’t deserve better teachers. She also said her child had never been smacked at home and so, the school had no right to smack or hurt her child in any way, even if he was wrong.
I really admire my SAT’s ability to stay calm, even as the woman 20 years her junior kept screaming bloody murder to her face.
The most ironic thing was this mother said she worked with the Welfare Department. That day, I saw no compassion or kindness in her. She kept giving my SAT a piece of her mind along with some advice on how to best run a school (she should know, she works with the Welfare Department). After going on for a few minutes, she took her handbag and stalked out of the office. Her husband quickly followed suit. He had kept very quiet throughout the meeting, not daring to say a word because she had yelled at him earlier for volunteering his opinion when the SAT asked him a question.
A few days after that, the mother came back to school for a meeting with the headmaster and the male teacher involved. It turned out that her son had lied about being slapped by the teacher. The teacher didn’t even raise his hand to him on that fateful day. The boy was notorious for not completing his homework or bringing his books to school.
At least the mother had the decency to apologise to those involved about her previous behaviour. Most parents wouldn’t. Maybe out of embarrassment, she decided to transfer her child to a nearby school. My colleagues who had been at the school longer than me weren’t fazed by the incident though. They said the same mother had done the same thing the previous years. She would come to school yelling and threatening to sue the school whenever her child got reprimanded. Whether it was true or not was not important to her it seemed.
That incident left me in shock. No matter how many times I’ve seen such incidents, they always leave me feeling uneasy and angry. Teachers are humans too. We make mistakes. We lose our tempers and we sometimes raise our voices. That doesn’t mean parents should come to school and yell at us, especially when we are not in the wrong. Some parents trust their child a hundred per cent. Instead of investigating a matter first before deciding what to do, they would come to school in a flying rage and start yelling at the teachers.
How is this showing a good example to their children? Children are smart. They observe and they imitate. Sometimes it doesn’t surprise me that parents complain their child is slow in learning or has difficulties in learning because honestly, it goes back full circle. If a parent is disrespectful towards a teacher, then whatever the teacher teaches the child becomes “tak berkat.” The child himself will learn that teachers don’t deserve to be respected and well, the cycle keeps on going.
Sometimes I wonder if these kinds of people even remember that their well-paying jobs have only been possible because a long time ago, a teacher had taught them how to read and how to count. Teachers don’t ask to be revered, but at least have the decency to treat them with respect, especially when they take so much care to treat everyone else with respect.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.