Happy Chinese New Year!

Post date: Jan 26, 2012 4:4:21 AM

Gong Xi Gong Xi! Had a nice long CNY weekend but alas, now it's back to work. How much ang pows did you collect? =)

Here's something for you to read, highly relevant for students and teachers. =)

Today's lesson is ...

(Straits Times 21 Jan 2012)

TALES of teachers developing inappropriate relationships with students - sexual and otherwise - in and after school, make for unsavoury reading. There may be just a handful of cases yearly, but it is a handful too many. The reprehensible actions of the few are an unwarranted blot on 31,000 in a profession whose long-standing traditions have been to impart knowledge, build character, mould individuals and give them skills for the future. It is among the noblest of professions. But with students spending an increased amount of time in schools for studies, sport, rehearsals and other academic and curricular activities, it is right that society expects those who manage this environment to be individuals of good character and to be morally upright.

The reality in today's modern environment is that this task has become more challenging. The recruitment pool has widened. And while it is not impossible, it is difficult to detect and weed out all wayward individuals at the recruitment stage through some form of profiling or psychological test. The prevalence of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter for communicating and interactions is difficult to police. In the United States, attempts to impose strict guidelines or ban private correspondence between teachers and students face hurdles not only because of the free-speech environment, but also the growing importance and use of technology as a teaching tool. The scope of what is available online also means that students are as capable of being the predators.

The most practical approach lies in dealing with issues of relationships and conduct in the training process teachers undergo; and in schools where the message can be reinforced to teachers and students. Talks at assembly about cases when these are reported create awareness and serve as a warning. If online contact is not to be banned, schools can dictate where this can take place - perhaps in dedicated portals or chatrooms which can be openly monitored. They can also mandate the how, where and when of after-hour tutorials. Tough sentencing, such as was meted out on Tuesday, by courts when cases are before them also serves as a deterrent. There is also the critical role parents have in staying plugged in to the activities of their children - whether it is staying late for lessons or taking out-of-school trips.

While the situation is not dire, the instinct to react strongly when incidents arise is understandable. Teachers have the unenviable task of being surrogate parents, mentors, counsellors and friends all at once. Any measure that needs to be put in place is as much to protect them as it is to protect those whose lives they help shape.