Power harassment has been a big issue at schools. I have been one of the protesters against this social issue ever since I was 13. (That is when I realised some grown-ups especially teachers could be very unfair and authoritarian. ) I protested every unfair and unreasonable behaviour of teachers at school. This anti-authority attitude comes from my mum who told me to stand up for my rights. I am not sure if it was a good idea or not because in Japan it would have been much much easier if I learn to shut my mouth and obey what teachers say. I might have had much peaceful school life. But my anti-authoritarian spirit did not allow me to remain silent. Oh, boy! My teenage straight forward spirit got me so many troubles in school days. This troublesome spirit has passed onto the next generation, my daughter. She is as anti-authoritarian as we are if not more so. She does not hesitate to protest (despite all her faults. lol) when she experiences teachers' unreasonable and unfair behaviours.
As I started teaching at universities in much larger classrooms, I have realised that classroom management is challenging and overwhelming. Providing a satisfying class for every student seems such a talk order. While I deal with nearly 300 students, I am sure I say something insensitive or behave inappropriately from time to time, depending on how a student perceive my words and actions. I am not perfect at all. But if someone complains, I would apologise no matter what my intention was because of the fact that the person was offended or felt unfair. I've learned that it is very important to admit my faults and have the courage to apologise, which was also one of the lessons that my mum taught me. I did not understand why she bothered to tell me this repeatedly when I was a kid. But as I became a mum, I understood how important this lesson was; When we make a mistake, admit it and apologise sincerely! Whether you will be forgiven or not is another issue. I thought this simple yet essential moral code was shared with many educators and grown-ups. To my surprise, some teachers at my daughter's high school obviously do not share this moral code and no idea what power harassment is.
It was a few weeks ago, my daughter came home with tears and rage in her eyes. She burst into tears as soon as she saw my face, telling me what happened at school on the day. One of the teachers at school yelled at her as he demanded her to pay for her textbook. She did not register in his class, so she immediately realised that it was a false accusation. So, she protested it, yet nobody listened to her and she got more unfair accusations from other teachers on the spot. Nobody listened to her until she protested and screamed in tears. Then her classroom teacher investigated the case and admitted it was a mistake on their side. Now an important question should be asked. What would you do when you make mistakes? An apology is the first word pops up in my dictionary. Yet, the homeroom teacher did not apologise to her. Instead, he told her to mind her own business and go home because the case was solved and she did not have to pay for the textbook. "Excuse me?" I said because I did not comprehend the fact that my daughter claimed. After confirming the fact, I gave a call to the homeroom teacher and asked what happened. Then he apologised to me. So, I expected him and the teacher who yelled at her would apologise to her as well for their misunderstanding next day. However, nothing happened.
Nowadays, every school has a survey to investigate how students feel about the classes and teachers they have. I have some questions about the reliability and validity of such surveys, but it can get attentions from teachers at schools for sure. After my daughter complained about the teacher's behaviour, she was called by the homeroom teacher after school. So, she told her feelings towards the incident and asked for an apology from the teacher. Otherwise, she would go to the "authority". To be honest, when she told me about what she said to her homeroom teacher, I was a bit flinched considering the consequence. But then I felt ashamed of my sentiment and felt proud of what she did. No matter how controversial, it is good to have the sincere spirit, especially when you are a teenager!!!
So, the "authority" will get a phone call from a mum and a daughter protesting power harassing incident at a high school today. It may not change a thing. However, as Socrates says, "The I unexamined life is not worth living.”