I understand students’ annoyance with the harsh disciplinary rules of school. I am well aware that each works very hard, and you are ambitious students. And yes, sometimes we are late, or not prepared due to unforeseen circumstances.
Let me try to explain the reasons why the school has made these disciplinary rules. First, a student will not be expelled for being late in the morning, where traffic and other things can hinder us all in getting to our destination on time. If a student is late in the morning, all that happens is that our receptionist calls the student’s home, to inquire whether he/she is ill, or on his/her way to school. The reason why the school does this is that last year students would pretend to go to school, but not show up. We are all well aware that sometimes students or teachers will be late.
This leads me to explain why the rules have been imposed: They relate to subject teaching, where the individual teachers prepare the students to pass the IB-Diploma exams. The IB Diploma is very challenging, for students as well as teachers. Last year we were in the situation, that up to 75% of the students in grade 11’s class would come to class without books, notebooks, and without being prepared. Besides the lessons themselves being impossible for teachers to conduct on a sufficient level, it led to diligent students loosing their desire for preparation, for why prepare, if it did not make any difference? It was a general occurrence in all their classes, but I can say that for history, most went from a grade of 80% to a grade of around 60-65% as a result of other students not doing their work.
Besides, students would be 5 – 10 even 20 minutes late for class, disrupting the lesson for everyone else. I can show you every single time each student has not been to my class, since we started school.
When we then got to the exams, parents blamed the school for not having prepared the students well enough, and the school blamed the teachers. Neither school nor teachers want that. We want lessons to be conducted in an orderly fashion, where we as teachers can give the students the best we have.
On this particular occasion, everyone’s detention was given in history, ergo by me. Five students, altogether 25% of the class, were not prepared, and I had to give up that particular lesson. There is no time during the rest of the semester to catch up for lost time. The program does not allow for that. I as a teacher do not wish to be blamed for a bad exam result occurring because one particular question drags down an overall answer. The same goes for the other teachers.
As I write in the above, I know that many do their work to the best of her efforts, and I would gladly accept that once in a while she has not had the time to do it all. But if I let one off the hook, next week I will have half the class not being prepared. And the student suffering from that will be you all, because you did do your preparation. This applies not only to history but to all their various classes.
The disciplinary system is set up for two main purposes: 1) that the lessons can be executed properly with the maximum outcome for the students. 2) that the parents are aware of how their children are doing in school, because the school cannot take responsibility for a student doing well, if the student does not do the required work.
Now, if you for some reason have not prepared for a lesson, due to whatever circumstance, all that the teacher needs is a note from the parents, showing the teachers that you are aware of this, so the teachers will not be blamed later.
Our rules may seem draconian, but they have been set up because your class in particular showed a very poor work-effort last term, causing all students to lose marks.
If we have a class where our students as a whole do their part of the work, we would not have to impose those rules. The rules were set up in response to parents who were complaining that the school was too lenient.
I don’t want to sit and write those notes, and I don’t like giving students detention. But as a teacher (and I speak for all the foreign teachers), I also cannot give my best, and ensure the best results possible, if I do not have proper conditions under which to execute my teaching.
I will return to explaining the position of the foreign teachers later.
On the whole, there is a difference between the foreign teachers and the Chinese administration. We as foreign teachers experience many occurrences where decisions are made without consulting us. We do all we can to ensure that the students get better facilities, more books available, better teachers, and more choices in their subjects. We try to protect the students from decisions, which we cannot support, and we do so every week, every day.
As a homeroom teacher I often have to impose rules and regulations that I don’t support. The foreign teachers do not support school uniforms, or that students cannot go out during lunch-break. Many of our students are over 18 years old, making them eligible for driver’s licenses and voting in our own countries. But often we are ordered to implement a school-rule, and it is part of our job to follow that. We try our absolute best to reason with our administration, and sometimes we do succeed.
We also don’t like to tell the students to pay fees for things which should be free, to suddenly have to pay for an insurance, or all the other strange things that come up all the time. Especially as homeroom teachers this occurs often. The foreign teachers do not like to be homeroom teachers, because it makes us seem that we agree with every decision that the school makes, which we definitely do not. But if we are not homeroom teachers, the students will have Chinese homeroom teachers, who do not understand their cultural backgrounds or needs for explanations.
We foreign teachers come to the school under the same circumstances as our students, and find many of the decisions just as unintelligible. We could go to other schools, where conditions are better, where the administration is more established, and where we do not have to fight for improving conditions for our students. The foreign teachers at this school choose to stay for our students. I am not writing that we are martyrs and should be commended for this, I am merely trying to explain the situation of the foreign teachers, of which I am one of them.
The foreign teachers here overall work very hard to educate the students, and to improve the conditions for them. We want things to be in order, and we want the students to succeed.
I think you all can testify to the fact that we do a lot of hard work to prepare our lessons, and give support when students need to complete individual assignments out of school.
The teachers could choose not to. Most foreign teachers are only at a school such as this for 2-3 years. It has no effect on their job whether the students do well or not, because often the teacher will already be at another school, once the exam results come out.
The teachers could choose not to try to improve the conditions for the students, for all in all they can find another job, and leave the bad conditions behind. Establishing a regular discipline is hard at a school where students and teachers only stay for a few years at a time. It requires stronger measures than in national schools, which have a common school- and classroom culture, in which the students have been brought up during their entire life.
For the teachers it could be easy not to try to establish any kind of discipline. We would have a much easier working life if we did not check up on our students’ performance, attendance, and preparation. It is a hard job, which takes away energy and lust for the real teaching.
It would be much easier for us to just ignore unfair decisions from our administration, conditions to which we could just turn a blind eye, or to just let the students prepare whenever they feel like it, and come and go as they please.
I am not writing all this to excuse any of the decisions neither I, nor the school has made, but I want you to know that there is a big difference in the decisions made by our school administration, and that of the foreign teachers.
I would recommend that you sign up for the PTA, which is the forum where parents can raise their concerns about the school. We the foreign teachers are doing what we can, but the real power for change lies with the parents.
I hope you now understand some of the reasons for our disciplinary system, as well as the fact that as a teacher (even homeroom teacher), I have little influence on most school/administrative decisions. I therefore do not wish to defend them, but will refer you to our coordinator.