What is normal?

I have been thinking about the behaviour of a minority of children around the school and how their behaviour would be viewed in other schools in which I have worked. I think it is fair to say that it would not be expected, accepted or tolerated. We don’t tolerate or condone it but we do almost seem to expect it, however much we don’t want to.

Have we become acclimatised to it? Have we normalised it?

I think that it is quite easy to normalise it. I have been sworn at from children in the Nursery, in KS1 and in KS2. Am I offended by it? No. Shocked? No. Saddened? Most definitely. Do we phone parents and report every time that we are called something insulting? No – we do tell them at the end of the day, we do record it, does it stop? Not for any significant amount of time.

I had a parent in my office the other day with her child who was using more expletives in one breath than I think I have used in my whole life. The parent’s response, “Don’t say that, it’s not nice.” I think that if it had been my child I would have been mortified. The parent did go on to explain that , “I dunno where they gets it from, we don’t talk like that at ‘ome.” I did point out that we don’t speak like that in school either, so this acquisition of language is a complete mystery!

If I had heard language like that at any of the other schools I have previously been at then I probably would have been offended and shocked, but not here. Have I normalised this as “just what happens here?” Is this a dangerous state to have reached?

Equally with the behaviours that we see, we appreciate that they aren’t “normal” in the majority of schools (we know that they do happen elsewhere, we’ve seen the TV programmes) but to some of our children they are normal. They are acting out the behaviours that they see at home. Does this mean that we should accept them? I don’t think so. There is a bigger world out there for these children than the few square miles of estate that the school is built on. These behaviours are not acceptable or accepted  in the “big wide world”, I know that Mr Gove, Mrs Morgan and their associated cronies are desperate that the standard of education is improved and believe me, we are trying. We are also trying to show these children how to relate to others in a socially acceptable manner.

I think that we need to remember every day what is “normal” for the majority of children in the majority of schools in this country. We must continue to keep trying to show and teach the right way, or at least an alternative, acceptable, “normal” way, to behave and react when faced with any situation. We must not allow the behaviour of the minority to become  “normal”, we must continue to work with the parents so that they have alternative strategies that they could use with their children. When their children are behaving as you would expect in school they are truly delightful young people.

We just need to keep reminding ourselves of what we expect “normal” to look like.

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What is normal?

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