30 Minutes in the Life of an Amman School

الخميس 15 نيسان 2010

Boys School

Written by Raghda Butros

Today I had a meeting with the headmaster of one of Amman’s public boys’ schools who I was told by several people was cooperative and progressive. As I waited for him outside his office while one of the kids called him down for our appointment, I was trying to get a feel for the school and to compare it to the many other public schools I had been to in recent years all over Amman. It seemed to be fairly clean, the boys were mostly all in class, and the building was in good shape. I was beginning to think that with what I heard about the headmaster and what I had seen of the school, I had finally stumbled on a positive example of a public boys’ school in Jordan.

I was mulling this over when a man came raging down the stairs in front of me and then proceeded to repeatedly and indiscriminately beat a 12 or 13-year old boy with an iron rod. I could hardly believe it, though I had witnessed this very scene many times before in the boys’ school in Jabal Nathif and elsewhere, but never by the headmaster, never quite so sudden and brutal, and not in the frame of mind I was in, which was one of positive anticipation, rather than expectant dread.

The headmaster saw the appalled look on my face and so spent the next half hour trying to make up for it, by showing me what a compassionate and kind person he was. He called all the boys who walked in “Baba” and seemed to listen to their requests with a semblance of tolerance and interest. To show me how dedicated he was to reforming the school, he proceeded to tell me how he had try to turn down a boy just the week before, whose father was a “zabbal”, and who had recently moved to the area from Zarqa. The father complained to the Ministry who then asked the headmaster to allow the boy to join the school. He said the boy came in also looking like a “zabbal” and that he would be the bad apple that would eat away at all the good apples that were his students. He said he tried to stop the ministry from allowing “nawar” from getting into the school, people as he said from “Hay Nazzal” or other similar places. All  this in an attempt to show me that he was a dedicated and progressive administrator, who wanted the best for his school and students. All the while not realizing how downright prejudiced he sounded.

He said the problems faced by students stem from their negative home situations, and I attempted to convince him that this was even more of a reason to show them some compassion and care at school. He agreed in theory, but said that when the boys misbehave, he can’t control his anger and lashes out at them.

As a professional educator, surely he should have means and knowledge to be able to control his temper and not respond out of anger and frustration, but clearly such tools are not at his disposal. He is a product of the very same system he is perpetuating.

A father was in his office to complain that his son had

come home the day before all bloodied and black and blue. He was apologizing to the headmaster for wasting his time with his request to know who had done that to his son. Two groups of kids came in complaining that other kids had attacked and injured them in the break. A woman called to ask why her son was expelled and the headmaster said it was because he beat up another kid in the playground for bumping into him by mistake. In response to the fourth graders who were beaten by a boy in the sixth grade, the headmaster asked a man in his office, most likely a teacher, to go handle the situation, at which point the man grabbed the same iron rod with a look of sheer glee on his face and said he would deal with it. Faced with another appalled look by me, the headmaster said to him “bil3agel”, meaning beat him, but not too hard. A couple of other also teachers walked in, both carrying their very own sticks, a teacher’s trademark it would seem.

Given all this violence in the space of just half an hour in the life of only one of Amman’s hundreds of public boys’ schools, it’s no wonder there aren’t more incidents of violence such as the ones which have recently taken place. In fact, I think it’s a testament to the spirit of Jordan’s youth that they are not more aggressive, given the fact that they are subjected to violence at home, at school, on the news and everywhere they seem to turn.

I said it before and I’ll say it again. Only when the weakest one of us is strong and respected, can we be a strong and respectable nation.

Originally posted on Hamzet Wasel’s site.

  • gaagz

    Superbe Article Ragz!

  • ma7moodjo

    great article Rhagda but i would say that you should lighten up ,,, fear is sometimes the only way to deal with those students ,,, sad but true !!!
    peace

  • ramseytesdell

    beating kids with an iron rod is the only way to deal with “those students?” i beg to differ.

  • Solomon2

    “Only when the weakest one of us is strong and respected, can we be a strong and respectable nation.”

    You've missed it. You really don't think you are just as deluded as those teachers who are beating the students? Aren't you advocating that everybody in the country must become a brute, so your country will be “strong and respected” by others?

  • Yasmine

    Thank you a lot Ms. Butros.

    Recently, Newsweek magazine published an article which discusses “firing bad teachers as the simplest mean for education reform.”

    This is also the case here, How come a man who is clueless in dealing with kids is appointed headmaster? How does he carry on?

    If you appoint someone who has no experience, creativity, nor understanding of what young people are dealing with, then certainly he/she will either get involved and achieve something or just be a typical Jordanian official with the trademark policy of “Who cares?”.

    If young people that soon will be in universities are taught that what their father is doing for a living is also a criteria to get education (which should be provided by State) then we are on the verge of a social break down, it is bad enough they have to deal with narrow minded people who don't value work.

    What then do we expect when we are teaching kids that headmasters find “violence” a necessary mean of discipline? How on earth does one beat kids and punish them for doing the same exact thing? Such a pathetic hypocritical trial that is doomed to fail.

    Note also that violence is also verbal, so if the so called headmaster is classifying kids social wise, how could kids accept diversity or even be able to civilly interact with their peers and teachers?

  • kinzi

    “great article Rhagda but i would say that you should lighten up ,,, fear is sometimes the only way to deal with those students ,,, sad but true !!!”

    Not so. As a parent and teacher, I can say good boundaries, consistent consequences, affirmation and respect for the student is the best learning environment there is.

    Because we don't want to just 'deal with' students, we want to impart a love of learning.

    Iron rods and loud voices are the tools of those who lack self-control themselves, who will never be able impart what they can't model themselves.

    Keep pressing in Raghda.

  • rimasaifi

    There should be a way in dealing with such kind of personalities …A headmaster as an example …If there were more incentive and more respect given to them ..not anyone can be a treacher …not anyone can be a headmaster… they should be given more practical training …an undergo more tests ….and given more incentive to come to work with a positive spirit ..
    .mind you this problem doesn't only exist in public schools …many private schools have the same problem .
    The problem is everywhere …we as jordanian really need angermanagement training starting from parents to teachers

  • rimasaifi

    thank you for bringing this up

  • raghdabutros

    @Solomon2

    It seems we differ on the interpretation of strength my friend. My interpretation of strength bears no relationship to brutality, force, aggression or violence. I am referring to strength of character, strength of spirit, the strength that comes from knowledge, a solid sense of direction and a good deal of self-respect.

    To me, a respectable nation is one which respects its people first and foremost, and one whose strength comes not from military might, as you seem to suggest, but from an ability to constantly adapt, grow, change and move forward, while remaining true to its heritage.

  • raghdabutros

    It seems we differ on the interpretation of strength my friend. My interpretation of strength bears no relationship to brutality, force, aggression or violence. I am referring to strength of character, strength of spirit, the strength that comes from knowledge, a solid sense of direction and a good deal of self-respect.

    To me, a respectable nation is one which respects its people first and foremost, and one whose strength comes not from military might, as you seem to suggest, but from an ability to constantly adapt, grow, change and move forward, while remaining true to its heritage.

  • raghdabutros

    I “deal” with school-aged children all over the city as part of my work, and believe me, there are hundreds of ways and means to engage, interact with, learn from, teach, and build mutually respectful relationships with them.

    I am not suggesting children, like adults, are not capable of being difficult or demanding, but as adults who choose to work with children in whatever capacity, we have the responsibility to handle such situations with maturity and professionalism. I have seen time and time again, how adults, whether teachers of parents, treat children as their punching bag because they have had a bad day, or because they have no control over their temper.

    Even when corporal punishment was widely held to be a reasonable way to discipline a child, it was as a corrective measure for the child's behavior and not as means for the adult to vent his/her own anger and frustration. To top it all off, corporal punishment is against the law in Jordan and yet it seems, as with most things, we fall short when it comes to implementation.

  • ma7moodjo

    Raghda am sure you know what you're talking about but we have all seen the fucked up initiative of the card thingy and all feedback from it said it only made things worse and to make things even worse they said that after this experiment the teachers could no longer use the fear theory to discipline because they just lost the fear factor to their students !!

    now regarding your point about corporal punishment i think it should be implemented because personally speaking and am sure most of you guys in here once got physically punished by our folks and that did the trick for us am not talking about the brutal kind am talking about il ” kaaaf 3al tayer ou roo7 3a 3'oriftak” !!!!
    lets not take away from the teachers the only thing they got left to educate since RESPECT died along time ago !
    thanks
    peace

  • ma7moodjo

    I am not saying that its the best way to deal with them … i do agree that teaching should include an emotional side a side of respect and maybe to some extent a god like image of the teacher in the students eyes !!! but those student are just lost and they are lost partially because of the way they were treated as kids in those public schools its just a big vicious cycle … if you want to do it right fire all the teachers and get them into teaching programs and NLP training …etc ! and kick all the kids of schools and start with a fresh new batch !!!!
    again its sad but am pretty sure its true ~!
    no offense guys

  • raghdabutros

    I think part of the problem is that there is no consistency in outcomes for unwanted behavior, both at home and at school. Responses to a certain behavior could range from encouragement to a brutal physical or verbal attack, depending solely on the mood of the adult involved, and not on the nature of the behavior. In addition, at schools, a teacher's response to a behavior could solicit a beating for one child and a blind eye for another, depending on how the teacher thinks that child's father could react, or who he might be or where he is from.

    In a sense, this is also true in outcomes for unwanted behavior at the level of the policies and laws. For example, a policeman may or not give you a ticket you deserve based on a number of factors, including his mood and inclination towards you for whatever reason, your family name, your gender, your attitude, your place of origin etc. This can be applied to various other issues such as well.

    There is a dire need to apply the rules equally and fairly and to ensure that everyone is treated alike so that people are able to trust and respect the system. As long as there are loopholes, personal considerations, inequality and a lack of consistency, people cannot be blamed for not understanding or accepting what is required of them.

  • kinzi

    Ma7moodjo, again as a teacher and a mom, that when a student knows you care about them personally, believe in them, and know you won't let them get away with behavior that is beneath their human dignity, you then have the respect to be a facilitator of ideas instead of just a behavior-manager.

    I teach several different Jordanian kids of different genders and ages. There is a power struggle in the beginning, where they test and I stand firm. When their mothers get on board and implement the same kind of standards, you get a different kid in the end.

    LOL, yea, just kick everyone out and start fresh. Wish we could do that for the whole planet sometimes. As in the days of Noah…not really 🙂

  • ma7moodjo

    hahaha…. true i never said that what you meaning or aiming for is wrong its just not applicable in our society because kids are rotten to the core by our society !!!

    am just taking a wild guess but i think you don;t teach in a public school !!

    let me share a story that happened to me a few weeks ago … i was home in the morning ,,, suddenly i hear this loud voice a scream mixed with laughter coming from the street, i go to the window and i see about a hundred kid from the public school near my house they couldnt be older than 12 -13 … i look closer to see them piled in front of our garage take a closer look and i was horrified they were all hitting one single kid and when i say hitting, i mean the poor kid was on the ground and still he had a million kick and punch thrown his way ! !
    i raced outside in my PJs and started pushing as many as i can, i screamed and cussed alittle bit and that seemed to help i got the boy up and to my shock he wasnt from their school he was a nice kids with proper haircut and decent clothes …. he was picked on by those kids just because he was a private school student !! so in conclusion fuck those innocent angels because if they are so violent and aggressive and closed minded as a kids imagine what will happen to them when they actually become adults ! ! !
    what am saying is that 1 + 1 = 2
    we designed our public education system to suck and so it will .. it would be stupid to expect other wise !
    and in a matter of a few years our higher education system will fail as well all the signs are there you just don't want to see them ! !
    peace

  • Rania

    There is another way. I've always been hurt, angered and personally offended by the “ma bilba2ilkom” attitude, practiced by many of my teachers both at both school and university. Ma bilba2ilkom civilized behavior (civilized behavior is a waste on you, or something like that). Ma biba2ilkom= I won't even try, because I don't expect you to respond. And there's nothing more dangerous to implementing good behavior than low expectations. I had a teacher who used to say, “Here's your homework for next time. O ba2os eedi min hone (“I will cut my arm from here”, pointing halfway between his shoulder and his elbow) if anyone does it.” Expecting non-compliance is like forgiving it. Ma bilba2ilkom= assuming something will fail only because it's difficult. And that's a beautiful excuse for not trying.

    Can I ask what you mean by “doing the trick”? What *is* the trick? Is it fear? Going to your room? Never talking back (or doing whatever it is that you did) because you don't want to be hit?
    Is the ultimate goal following the rules, or helping create a reliable, thoroughly referenced rulebook (or guidebook) that a person will be able to follow even when you're no longer around to threaten them with an iron rod? Of course that's harder, much harder. Nobody said it wasn't. But it's also possible, and it's worth it.

    I believe we underestimate children. They take whatever you give them.

  • ma7moodjo

    yes Rania i do understand where all of this is coming from and as i said its a cycle a vicious one ! and yes again the whole ” ma bilba2ilkom ” is just a big negative attitude to be given to students from role model !
    but regarding the trick i am shocked that you just don;t get it as an arab and a jordanian i presume ,,, YES PHYSICAL not CORPORAL punishment should be introduced at a certain age especially to the males ,, on a right and wrong bases and after going through all the choices and normal problem solving techniques to discipline maintenance !

    and yes we do underestimate those little rascals they are freaking brutal and they seriously f***ed up mainly due to their home environment and they way they were brought up by their families !! i get to deal with alot of them and trust me asfaal min hada il sha3eb 2alla ma 5alag !!! ask anyone you know who went to a public school and he will tell you he is pro-physical punishment !!!
    peace

  • ma7moodjo

    http://www.sarayanews.com/home.php?mode=more&ne
    check this link i think i think my point just keep getting easier to defend !

  • I always look forward to reading your articles.

    Thanks you

  • I always look forward to reading your articles.

    Thanks you