Discipline in Schools: No surprises here

The header for the article in “The Sunday Times” in Perth on 10th June, 2018 read “Be Firm with Us” (page 13).

A researcher, Helen Egeberg, from the School of Education at Edith Cowan University had surveyed adolescents in Year 10 from six Perth secondary schools (both public and private).

Results showed firstly, that more that 80% wanted teachers who ensured that behaviour in the classroom remained under control. Contrary to the popular notion that teenagers really just want to “muck around”, instead, the opposite was true. This comes as no surprise to some of us in the helping professions who understand that we all feel safe when behaviour is being controlled whether it is in the kindergarten, the schoolroom or the workplace. Adolescents want to both feel safe and be able get on with the process of learning.

Secondly, the results showed that more than 85% of the students also wanted teachers who cared about them as individuals and who respected their ideas and suggestions.

It’s the same age old principle that makes for effective parenting, effective teaching and effective managing, namely, the balance of both structure and boundaries as well as care and support.

It’s not hard really. It’s just a real pity that so many parents, teachers and bosses don’t get it.


Researchers found that Behaviour in Secondary School predicts Income and Occupational Success later in Life

How you behave in school predicts life success above and beyond family background, IQ and broad traits. That was the title of the academic article just published by M. Spengler and others in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2018) and published by the American Psychological Association.

In short, students who show interest in school report greater income 50 years later regardless of parental income or IQ.

Being a responsible student, maintaining an interest in school and having good reading and writing skills will not only help a teenager get good grades in high school, but could also be predictors of educational and occupational success decades later, regardless of IQ, parental socioeconomic status or other personality factors, according to the research.

Educational researchers, political scientists and economists are increasingly interested in the traits and skills that parents, teachers and schools should foster in children to enhance chances of success later in life,” said lead author Marion Spengler, PhD, of the University of Tübingen. “Our research found that specific behaviors in high school have long-lasting effects for one’s later life.

Perhaps this finding is not surprising. If a student learns some sound effective habits (eg., being organised, having good study habits, showing “stickability”) in primary and secondary school, then it might well be expected that those students would go on to be more successful than their peers.

However, what is going to ensure that we actually set up our adolescents for that success?

How do we do that when many would argue that the school system that we have is hardly “interesting” and is in fact, archaic. Some have asserted that the school system which was originally set up to teach the agricultural workers how to read and write as we moved in the industrial era to work in factories, really hasn’t changed much since that time. Some have rightly asserted that one of the biggest mistakes in our so-called enlightenment was to close down technical schools

How do we do that when many would argue that the school system that we now have is hardly “interesting” and is in fact, archaic. That school is out-dated and irrelevant.

Some have asserted that the school system which was originally set up to teach the agricultural workers how to read and write as we moved into the industrial era to work in factories, really hasn’t changed much at all since that time. Many have argued that schools are behind the times especially in relation to computers and technology and that many of the students are well ahead of their teachers when it comes to software and technology.

Some have rightly asserted that one of the biggest mistakes in our so-called enlightenment was to close down technical schools or colleges which were at the heartland of our trades. These colleges were an absolute boon for those students who didn’t really learn from a book, but were very much hands-on learners. A generation of apprentices came out of these technical colleges and they loved their work.

Where is it written that life is all about getting an ATAR score in Year 12 so we can all go to University? 

Many adults have asked why in school they weren’t taught important life skills like budgeting, opening a bank account, learning to be emotionally intelligent, understanding how to communicate and listen effectively, learning what leadership is all about, learning how to be innovative and entrepreneurial, learning how to start and manage a business and so on.

If the researchers are accurate about their findings that school behaviour and interest in school predicts later success, then as a community we’d best take a long hard look at whether we have the best school system for setting up our adolescents for that success. Many would argue that we don’t.

Here’s to Tried & Tested Ideas

I really liked the sentiment in Bernard Salt’s article in the Weekend Australian Magazine (Feb 10-11, 2018) on Page 34 where he makes the case that these days, there seem to be so many voices (and they tend to be loud and intrusive voices) advocating all sorts of left-field thinking or radical thinking that are meant to disrupt society, the workplace and the community generally.

Yes, I fully understand that there’s rapid change occurring on almost every sector led mainly by technological and scientific break-throughs that impact our way of being. I realise that our world is shrinking as the global economy takes over. I get that things are changing…and fast.

However, beyond all the calls for diversity, for flexibility, for individuality, for equality, there are some fundamental truths that never seem to be heralded. Some basic life principles that seem to get swamped by the fringe opinions that want to be heard and that demand to be heard. Some essential truths that never get discussed and certainly get pushed aside.

As Salt exemplifies, what about those basic notions such as, “Work hard, don’t do drugs, don’t smoke, build good relationships, learn skills, save for a deposit for a house, spend time with your kids, invest in your health.” How is it that we don’t have discussions about these matters? Is it somehow uncool?  Is it too simplistic?

He goes on to say that another “radical idea” that doesn’t get aired is that “Sometimes when raising a family it’s necessary to do a job that you don’t particularly like for months or maybe even years on end in order to provide for that family. This isn’t life being mean to you; sometimes you just gotta do it. Accept it and move on”.

Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves as a society or too clever — some things remain constants and need to be heralded.

Letting Go of Worry

I’ve often had people come into my office and describe themselves as a “worry wart.” On questioning, they also admit that both or one of their parents were the same. As they say, the apple never falls far from the tree!

However, there are no born worriers. People might think they are, but they’re not. As I’ve said to many people, I’ve never seen a baby born a worrier. Worry is something you learn.

However, worry is unreasonable for a couple of reasons. […]

Economic Recovery

Thanks Prof Blandy for some straight-forward common sense. Sadly though, common sense doesn’t seem to be that common any more.

The essence here is to understand that governments traditionally never “lead” the people. They simply wait until there is a momentum or a ground swell and then they tend to jump on board. Hence, they are not in a position to “lead” a jobs recovery or an economic turn-around. […]

The UK Rocks, but for all the wrong reasons

Early August has seen unprecedented rioting in the UK, first in London and then spreading to other parts such as Birmingham and Manchester. But this was rioting and looting with a difference; a big difference. Yes, it might have been started by the police shooting of a drug dealer in Tottenham, but the rioters in other parts of England had no concern for that particular situation.

Now that the carnage and anarchy has subsided, the real questions are being asked. […]

Coping with the Knowledge Age

Get your head around this.  According to Prof Urs Gasser who is the Executive Director of the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, and the author of “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives,” the following is true:

  • Researchers around the world are deliberating over the question of how the meaning of “knowledge” alters in a society which produces so much information in a single year that it will fill 12 parallel stacks of books reaching from the Earth to the sun.
  • If all information on the Internet were to be written down, it would take 57,000 years to get through it all – reading non-stop 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Wikipedia is yet another example of users collectively amassing information and moulding it into a comprehensive digital encyclopaedia of surprisingly high quality. It now comprises 14 million articles written in many different languages, mostly by slightly older Internet devotees, but keenly used by the digital adolescents.
  • According to an EU study, the current stock of freeware is the equivalent of 131,000 man years of work. As the development work is largely under remunerated, the estimated annual added value of Euro 800 million is not reflected in the balance sheets for the economy.

So, how will we attempt to get across this vast avalanche of information that is not only immense in size, but is coming at us at such a rapid rate?

Will we need to employ “Information Sifters” to sort through the myriad of information and get to the crux of what we’re after?  One thing is for certain, we won’t be able to sort it through ourselves.

Patience is a Virtue

It was only a small article in “The Advertiser” (Tues, 19th July, 2011), but it caught my eye.

A survey in the United Kingdom found that most of us lose patience after just 2.5 minutes. At that point of 150 seconds, 60% of us began to show obvious signs of annoyance such as muttering and shifting around, and at 5 minutes, half of the 3,000 adults questioned walked away from a queue such as in the Post Office, waiting for a train, or trying to get into a bar because they felt the anger mounting.

Interestingly, one in three rant at strangers if they are made to wait. And 1 in 6 adults admitted to having a row with a shop assistant.

The triggers that get our dander up include the following: […]

An ‘F’ Grade for Education

Dr Stephen Covey wrote in his book “The 8th Habit” that “We live in a Knowledge Worker Age but operate our organisations in a controlling Industrial Age model that absolutely suppresses the release of human potential [bold type mine]” (Page 15). Just substitute the word “schools” for “organisations” and you have it.

Our schools were originally designed to put students in rows in order to learn to read and write so that they could move off the farms and into the factories for the Industrial era. Not much has changed really.


Get Serious; Early Intervention is the Key

I happened to fall across the documentary last night on ABC1 called “Drive” largely about our young men killing themselves on our roads. There were interviews with the parents (largely mothers), the ex-girlfriends or fiancés, the mates, friends and so on. There was a reciting of their history, their struggles at school, their development into teens, a snap-shot of family life (or lack of it) and the culture that they embraced with alcohol, thrill-seeking and such.

It seemed clear to me. If we are serious about our young people in this country, then we have to be serious about early intervention. No if’s, but’s.  Governments can talk all they like about about strategies or programs, but they are only band-aids or patch-ups. If they don’t get to the root cause of the problem, then they are simply hot air and vote catching.

There is no doubt that these young people would have been clearly identified in the early years of school (Reception, Year 1-4) as having problems, as experiencing learning difficulties, as being disruptive, as being hard to manage.

But what do governments do about this? Zip.  Nil.  Zero.  Nothing.

This you can therefore expect…that the problems with our youth will continue to spiral out of control…there will be many more deaths and carnage… that much is clear.  Very clear.

When are we going to get serious?  Really serious…