May 31, 2023

Something I find incredibly frustrating about teaching is how the values and ethics that I try my best to instill in the children I teach seem to disappear just outside the school’s walls. You needn’t always go even that far before you find that what I’m trying to impart as good ethics is undone. It could be in the other building, just down the hall, or even in the hallway just outside the classroom doors.

I’ve noticed lately that themes seem to arise inadvertently within the context of character education. This week, it seems to be integrity. Getting students — hell, getting staff, including myself — to act honourably and truthfully is difficult. We all try to calculate the consequences when asked to explain ourselves. If we think that the truth will make things worse for us, we lie. Too often, nothing we say can be verified so we get away with it. Students have quickly learned that if there are two competing stories, the resolution is, quite simply, to wash our hands of the situation and move on. Teachers only play the role of detective but it isn’t their forte.

I’m fairly honest. I equivocate, for sure, but I tell the truth. I’m passive-aggressive in my approach to interpersonal conflict so as to avoid having to tell a lie. I’ll go out of my way to ignore someone if I really don’t want to deal with something. I tell my students to be honest, that lying will only make things worse. They hear me, turn their lips and gaze downward, and look up at me with upturned eyelids while sticking staunchly to their story. Even when they’ve seen me watch them do something wrong, they will adhere to the story they’d rather were told.

If there’s one thing in life that boils my blood, it’s being cheated. Students are committed to justice when they are wronged but become weaselly when avoiding being in the wrong. Why wouldn’t they be? It works because I don’t have the time or power to push the issue. More than that, they see none of what I espouse getting people ahead in the “real world”. And, isn’t that the entire point of grade school, to get students ready for the “real world”?

I can’t figure out who’s getting fucked here.


Leave a Reply