Category Archives: News / Opinion

What would you do if your child’s teacher swore at them?

There’s been quite a hoo-hah lately about swearing.

After the John Terry trial earlier this month, in which the Chelsea football club captain was cleared of a racially aggravated public order offence, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt railed against the foul language that pours forth from footballers’ mouths.

He was widely reported as saying that footballers should set an example, adding that as a qualified football referee, he’d been at the sharp end of the sportsmen’s potty mouths.

He may be right, or you might disagree, on his view about footballers setting an example, but what about others who have a more direct influence on children?

I’m talking parents (naturally) and teachers.

There’s nothing more cringe-worthy than seeing a parent effing and jeffing at their young child as they leave the playground. Is it any wonder that some youngsters have no clue as to what is and isn’t acceptable language in “polite society”?

But teachers swearing at students or using inappropriate language in front of them?

I’m appalled to say that I’ve had many reports from my daughter about staff at her secondary school using bad language in front of the students – even the year 7s (who are aged 11-12).

Among the reports (from a number of pupils), I’ve heard of a teacher apparently telling a boy to get that “piece of sh**” off his desk – referring to a piece of work he had completed, and another member of staff (not a teacher) calling another lad a “ginger pr***”.

As none of the offending words have been directed at my daughter I’ve not gone up to the school to complain. Now I’m not sure if I did the right thing by not sticking my two penn’eth in.

Teachers deserve respect. They are in a position of authority and should be listened to. They are role models. (Like many other professions. I’m not putting teachers on pedestals here.) But resorting to foul language in front of their pupils negates that, as far as I am concerned. It shows they have lost control of the situation; it shows a lack of courtesy.

While I understand that they sometimes bear the brunt of students’ anger and are at the receiving end of some pretty unpleasant language themselves, I don’t believe that the teachers should reciprocate. And I certainly don’t believe that they should use it as part of their everyday vocabulary in class.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not averse to using profanities myself, but I do mentally assess the situation to decide whether or not it’s appropriate.

I have found myself in classrooms before now, delivering journalism workshops, and would never dream of using expletives – even if the pupils have used words that I’d not consider appropriate in the circumstances.

I wouldn’t expect a doctor or nurse to swear at their patients; I wouldn’t expect a bank teller to tell their customers to eff-off; I’d be shocked if a waiter in a restaurant used bad language around his customers.

It’s the summer holiday now and so I’m too late to do anything about it for this year. But what to do next year?

How would you deal with reports of your children’s teachers swearing?