Friday, 24 January 2014

Student apologises after YouTube clip shows him shouting at teacher

By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2014

A secondary school student has apologised to his teacher after being filmed shouting at him in class.

Spectra Secondary principal Krishnan Aravinthan said on Wednesday that the student "has reflected on his actions and is very remorseful", adding: "He has apologised to the teacher concerned."

Mr Aravinthan added that the school "takes a serious view with regard to student discipline and has high expectations of our students' behaviour". He has counselled the student involved.

The school is also using the incident - which was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday - "as a teachable moment for students".

The clip showed the student walking around the classroom talking to his classmates. When the teacher asked the boy to return to his seat, the student then shouted at his teacher and demanded an apology.

Spectra Secondary is Singapore's second specialised school for students eligible for the Normal (Technical) stream. It took in its first batch of students this month, with each getting a tablet computer to assist their learning.

The only other specialised school is Crest Secondary. At both these schools, students get to learn vocational skills such as mechanical servicing and retail services on top of English, their mother-tongue language and mathematics.

Streams apart: Why has the N-word become a dirty word?
We need to stop associating a student’s educational stream with his worth as an individual, says our intern columnist
By Tiffany Yap, TODAY, 23 Jan 2014

You’ve likely seen the video. A clip of a 13-year-old student asking his teacher to apologise for shouting at him in class was uploaded by a fellow student onto YouTube, then went viral.

The news shocked me. But not as much as this statement, casually inserted into a Singaporean newspaper report on the incident: “It is understood that the students are in the Normal stream.”

I don’t know why the point had to be reported or highlighted. Would the reporters have made mention of the fact had the antagonists been in a different stream? What is the statement behind that statement?

Consider why students are in their respective streams in the first place. Before I sat for my Primary School Leaving Examinations almost a decade ago, I recall my family and relatives telling me to do well so that I would make it to the Express stream. At my age I could barely understand the difference between both streams, apart from the additional year I would have to spend in Secondary School if I was in the Normal stream.

But thinking back now, I realise that despite not knowing much about the streaming system, I was already scared of being placed in the Normal stream. People I looked up to made it seem like it was an undesirable place for the less intelligent, the hooligans, the slow learners — the sort of reputation I would attract if I couldn’t make it to a “better” stream.

I remember looking at my PSLE results slip and my aggregate score of 198. I cried then because I thought it was proof that I was stupid, and that all my friends were smarter than me. Their proud parents had the Express titles to prove it.

Only after five unforgettable years in Normal classes did I realise the reason why we were afraid to be in the stream. It was not about our actual intellect, but rather how (un)intelligent we were perceived to be. It was about the perception, reinforced by sneering students, kiasu parents, and now even some parts of the media machine, that to my mind hinders the whole purpose and effectiveness of the streaming system.

When I was in the Normal stream, I was allowed to take Express-level English, meaning I had to join Express students for my English classes in Sec 4.

Immediately upon stepping in the classroom, I could sense hostility. We were assigned seats at the back of the classroom, a group unto ourselves. Trying to be friendly with the Express students and speaking up during lessons proved difficult — daggers were shot our way, sniggers were heard every time we tried — and we soon gave up, keeping to ourselves.

At Sec 5, we were often referred to as the “big siblings” of the school. I’m sad to say that after half a decade of putting up with discrimination based on our stream, my friends and I enjoyed terrorising our Express juniors, forcing them to allow us to jump queue ahead of them or give their seats up to us in the canteen.

We made them fear us as much as they looked down on us — showing how the preconceived notions of how different people in the streams were had sadly become a self-perpetuating truth.

We need to stop those stereotypes from being aired, at a personal level — parents, what do you tell your children about the importance of not being “condemned” to the Normal stream? — and at a societal level.

The media has a large part to play in this. As an intern reporter now, I am aware of the need to engage readers in the most appealing way possible. But this can never be at the expense of the self-esteem of children struggling to find their place and significance in society.

Deliberately singling out irrelevant bits of background information — in this case, the student’s stream — and implicitly associating it with a student’s negative behaviour sets the education system back decades, and unfairly taints all the innocents in that stream for no fault of their own.

Quit the stereotyping. Stop using the N-word as a dirty word, an unspoken but not-so-subtle way to explain certain behaviour.

Students in the history of the Normal stream do not have flawless records, but such behaviour can be found in the students of any stream; behaviour and attitudes are innate in children, not in their streams.

The writer, a Nanyang Polytechnic student, is an intern at TODAY’s digital media desk.

Students behaving badly not uncommon, say teachers
More cases in Normal stream, those with family, behavioural problems
By Pearl Lee And Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 4 Feb 2014

A VIDEO of a secondary school student shouting at a teacher in class, which went viral recently, may have left some shocked, but teachers say such incidents are not uncommon here.

The two-minute video showed a student demanding an apology from the teacher after he was asked to return to his seat.

More than half of the 10 secondary school teachers The Straits Times spoke to had their "horror stories", adding that new teachers are often easy targets for misbehaving students.

And while such incidents occur across all levels, they tend to crop up more in the Normal Stream classrooms, as well as among students who may have behavioural issues such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) or problems at home.

Ms Siti A., 25, told The Straits Times how in her first week teaching English at a neighbourhood school last year, a male student in his teens called her a "bad teacher" in an angry manner.

"As a new teacher, you have (to be prepared) that you are going to be bullied every day," said Ms Siti, who teaches students from both the Express and Normal streams.

Other teachers recalled instances of students ganging up to ignore questions during a lesson. In one case, students released cockroaches in class to disrupt a lesson.

Teachers say there are many reasons behind such behaviour, including students being more demanding over what they see as their "personal rights" and a lack of discipline at home.

Sometimes, the misbehaviour may be a way for students, who have family or relationship problems, to vent.

"You never know what might have happened at home," said one 28-year-old computer application teacher, recalling how a student tried to pick a fight after being told to stop disrupting a lesson.

Another teacher, with over a decade of experience, recounted the time a student shouted at her. "He felt that I was picking on him and he was ranting and spewing vulgarities. You could tell something was not right."

After buying him a drink in the canteen, he eventually shared his problems. "He is intelligent, but comes from a very volatile family," said the teacher.

An Education Ministry (MOE) spokesman said it is "critical" to understand the root causes behind a student's misbehaviour, instead of simply handing out punishment. "This would ensure more sustained behavioural improvements over a longer term," she said.

Every year, the ministry runs 30 to 35 courses on classroom management, which includes case studies, for teachers. During their training at the National Institute of Education, teachers are also taught basic counselling techniques and how to engage parents, among other skills, which can be enhanced through additional courses offered by MOE.

Many schools also have a mentoring system in which senior teachers guide less experienced ones on how to manage relationships with students.

Experience often is the best teacher. When 30-year-old Edwina Cheng first starting teaching eight years ago, she suffered migraines after having to deal with unruly students.

Over time, the science and mathematics teacher at Compassvale Secondary realised that cultivating a relationship with students was the key to getting them to cooperate. "You have to trust them, and get them to trust you. But that definitely takes time."

Most schools have counselling and disciplinary teams on hand to help troubled teens. And when the school recognises that a student requires more help, he will be referred to external agencies such as a family service centre.

It is also important to identify students who suffer from behavioural and learning issues, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, and give them proper support. One teacher, who declined to be named, said: "Such conditions affect not just how they behave, but also their learning abilities. And some may end up not doing well in school."

Ultimately, a teacher needs to have a "repertoire of skills and strategies" to manage a class, said a vice-principal and former discipline master, who has been in the profession for 12 years.


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