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ESL forum > Teaching material > A poor case in judgement?     

A poor case in judgement?

New Zealand

A poor case in judgement?
I read this article this morning about a teacher whose lesson has not only embarrassed the Head of the school but also infuriated the parents.

This is probably a good example of very poor judgement from the teacher involved but also brings into question what is appropriate and what is not in our classrooms...
The main question for me was "WHY??? What motivated the teacher to do a lesson like this in the class, what outcome where they hoping to receive?" hmmmmmmm
If you were a parent, how would you feel if your child came home talking about this lesson????
The article here:

19 Feb 2009      


It īs interesting that you present this article so soon after the forum entry about a worksheet concerning homosexuality.  What we teach is of course determined by a syllabus but within the guidelines of the syllabus there is indeed scope for īinterpretation ī.  The aim to help children understand the effects of bullying, both verbal and physical is commendable, but our presentation of difficult subjects need to come under cultural and local socially acceptable norms.
To me, the teacher was a bit naive in thinking he could effectively teach this subject the way he did and I don īt blame the parents for complaining.
I honestly think that when it comes to presenting delicate, difficult or controversial subjects in class, then common sense and a realistic assessment of the classes age, maturity and ability should be taken into consideration.  Do you think there would have been much reported about this if it was given to an adult class?  Maybe, maybe not.
I am working in a Muslim environment and there are topics and themes such as the use of alcohol that would not be acceptable in this society, and so common sense prevails - I leave it out.
I agree with you Cheezels, it was probably an excellent example of very poor judgement

19 Feb 2009     


Mornin ī Cheezels,

I read the article and just shook my head... this teacher obviously meant well but over judged her competence in presenting such a topic to her students who were to young to understand (quite obviously) what she was trying to do.

I think that she was trying to show them that "bad words" are just "words" and sort of explain them away. Now, this might have work in an older grade BUT I honestly think it is not a thing a teacher should be doing since the technique is more a "psychological" one and a school psychologist might have gotten away with this simply because he may, or may not, have known how to present the topic in a slightly less "vulgar" way...

Truthfully, I am quite willing to bet that this has happened because there is no real syllabus or guidelines for the "Happiness" subject and the teacher was sort of flying blind and tried something that she had read somewhere, not giving the thing any real thought OR simply that she didn īt realise just how bad the language that kids are using now is... She probably thought it was "normal" stuff (Not that this makes what she did any less wrong) - like b*tch, jerk, fat head... but instead got back stuff that would turn even the most well seasoned sailor īs ears red!!
But like Logos said, it was poor judgement and I am will to bet naiveté on her part. 

19 Feb 2009     


 I honestly don īt think that she meant any harm. Perhaps the way she chose wasn īt the best one, specially dedicated to such young children. Bullying is a problem in every schools and we have to try and guide our ss in order to learn how to defend themselves or even to know how to distinguish good from evil( that īs wahta she was probably trying to do)... However we must not forget to adapt our activities to the place and to people.
 I believe that more than teaching we should try to teach our ss to behave in society...

19 Feb 2009     

New Zealand

The thing is, having taught in the UK for many years over the majority of the year groups... every subject is very heavily prescribed right down to official lesson plans provided by the government on topics - or your school can buy books that various publishers have written that go with the exact topics and objectives for every topic that each year group covers....on top of that your weekly planning (on every topic for every lesson) in detail is always handed in to someone higher up to file and sign.... (Independent schools have a lot more freedom over topics and range)

This for me is a really really unfortunate lack of judgement and above all common sense...
It worries me actually that the basic "common sense" factor seems to be lacking in so many areas today (not just in teaching!!!) and after reading a thread from yesterday I have to ask... where is the good ol ī common sense factor???
I mean it doesn īt take a lot of foresight to realise that getting kids to write down and discuss all the swear words they know is just not that sensible.... its like a big can of worms that is asking to explode.... (Especially not in a UK classroom!!!!!!! YIKES!!!!)

There are also so many activities and units of work available for the topic of bullying... I just can īt help but think that either the teacher was unprepared and did something off the top of their head and made a very bad call... or has no idea of what is appropriate for the age group they are teaching...

I vote that we bring back common sense! A much undervalued but important personal trait!!!!

19 Feb 2009     


Maybe she was trying to make them aware of the importance and effect these words have on any individual . Kids may not understand the activity, but will notice and reflect on the importance of these words,and that  calling somebody names is offensive and harmful.
It could be a way, as well, of knowing to which extent kids are really using these words, if they are part of their everyday life, and so on.
Maybe, people should have allowed the teacher to assess the activity and see what the kids had learnt ,how they had behaved after the lesson and eventually consider if it was useful and appropriate.
I don īt think the important question is where they learn these words, but why they feel the need to harm others with them.

19 Feb 2009     

United States

I don īt know if it makes any difference but the teacher was a Fred Laband. The picture is the principal of the school. (I think)

I don īt think this belonged in the classroom, either, but I can īt help thinking of Lenny Bruce, a comedian who made the audience say derogatory words about people from different backgrounds. They said those words so many times that they lost their meaning, which was his point; they are just dumb words.


19 Feb 2009     


The kids weren īt taught the words by the teacher whom they readily crucified.
They already knew them. Who taught them?!?

19 Feb 2009     

New Zealand

I just re read the article again... and most of the really really bad words which had the starting letter and end letter with the middle ****  have been removed from the article.... The words in the article NOW are quite tame compared to what was there before...  think of all the most worst words you could ever call anyone from any race, gender, sexuality etc.... the article has now removed them all....so to anyone now reading this article you don īt actually get the FULL understanding of just how this lesson was entirely inappropriate for the age and level of the children involved.
And yes we all know the teacher didn īt TEACH them the words... but that is not the point really...

19 Feb 2009     


And somehow I think that maybe we should stop and think "Do they even know what they are saying?"or are they just repeating things they have heard? I know it might be a bit far-fetched to say this but perhaps the kids should know and maybe they will not be so quick to use the words?! Confused  I don īt know... It is such a difficult subject, the responsibility of this obviously lays at home and the parents should be explaining that these are bad words... but I bet most of them don īt even know that their children are using such words - and would be very surprised to learn that they were!

It īs a "devil if you do, devil if you don īt" situation... kids nowadays are ten times more informed about things than I was at their age and most of the time saying to them - "don īt say that, it īs rude..." will probably get a reply like "Why is it rude? You say it..." Confused

And please don īt get me wrong I TOTALLY agree that it was inappropriate and a serious lack of judgement but unfortunately, society is becoming so wrapped up in itself that school seems to be the only place kids receive any morals or common sense... maybe it īs time that we were allowed to "teach the kids the difference between right and wrong" because many are NOT receiving it at home...

It īs sort of like "Sex Ed" - children should learn it at home but many don īt so schools have seen it necessary to teach kids about "sex"...


19 Feb 2009