Sack Vile Kyle Supporter Roz, a teacher with over 32 years experience, has written this post for us, explaining how Kyle's comments and behaviour impacts on her students.
For 32 years I have been a teacher, mostly an English teacher, but also History teacher, Head of English, Campus Director and in the latter part of my career, working more in behavioural management of adolescent boys. I have worked in teacher education for risk-identification for suicide awareness, pastoral care and grief workshops for teenagers. After 22 years in Australian schools, (where my schools ranged from an Independent Boys’ Only Catholic College to a Housing Commission catchment area where the school received one of the lowest Naplan results for English/Mathematics in all of Australia), I then relocated to Hong Kong where I have been employed, on and off, by the Hong Kong Education Department for the past ten years.
What drives my passion for teaching young people?
I believe that we are all entitled to be heard, regardless of what voice we may be using.
I believe that we all have a story; some kids just don’t have to tools available to tell their story. And telling our story is Liberating! So…by providing the tools, gives us all a voice. By being heard, we are empowered. To me this is the power of true education. And I am humbled as an English teacher as it is a subject that allows me to provide the tools to enable personal growth and enrichment.
I believe that through the medium of literature, young people can experience life, have a voice, know passion and recognise the previously unknown.
I also believe that NO-one wants to be the class clown, the fool in the class, and if we look hard enough we will always find a why, and if we try hard enough we will expose then liberate the passion!
This is not to say I have not experienced many failures in the classroom. But they are fewer than the over-riding successes! I like to believe that my students can recognise that firstly, I love teaching, I love kids, I love (and know!) my subject matter, and that I am fair! When kids realise these four things, I believe teaching is the easiest job in the world.
Unfortunately, some people in our society work very hard at belittling others so much so that the others never get to be heard; they remain silent and embittered, They are bullied, intimidated, threatened and therefore never find their own person and never get to acknowledge their own empowerment.
I have learnt that there are many things that can undermine my ability in my attempts to be a good teacher and for my students to respond as the best they can! Despite all my own efforts, there are some aspects in society that constantly prevent kids from blossoming. The longer I have been teaching, the more I recognise these subversive elements which work to undermine and diminish good parenting and good teaching. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable, the most impressionable young people are often the ones to whom these subversive ’personalities’ have the greatest appeal. These adolescents, lacking good strong role models, tend to lean towards the lowest common denominators… the crude, the uncouth, the loudmouthed, the vile! These kids are angry, (for so many reasons which cannot be gone into here), so they cling to those who feed their anger.
They love seeing seemingly-powerful personalities giving the finger to society, and apparently getting away with it. These kids see themselves as powerless and not being able to get away with the same anti-social behaviour. To live vacuously through others who can get away with vileness is liberating to them.
And so the Kyle Sandilands of this world gain monumental influence. They can stick it to authority, publicly, on the airways, and be seen to ‘get away with it’! Not only do they seem to escape censure, they apparently become rich and famous in doing so! Oh, how these kids look up to that: the power of “telling it as it is” and not only not getting into trouble for such anti-social behaviour, but to actually gain fame and fortune through doing it!
And so we meet the vile and the ugly. Role-models: some sporting people, radio announcers, singers; people who once would have had very little influence are suddenly, through the media, made instant heroes in our young people’s lives!
And…if you listen to these outspoken, self-opinionated, chip-on-the-shoulder people long enough (because most of these ‘personalities’, you will see, are from the same sorts of backgrounds as those who adore them)…..well, after a while, it starts to rub off.
And the people listening and witnessing the Vileness, suddenly realise that, Yes, they can adopt the same sort of behaviour and also ‘get away with it”. They can abuse and intimidate, and bully and threaten anyone they see as weaker than they are.
It’s all about pecking order.
School are the greatest jungles out there. The bullying and threatening verbal abuse that goes on in schools would leave most people reeling; they could never be believed by anyone on the ‘outside’ School administrators go to great efforts to pretend it isn’t happening, or else they put strategies in place (usually ineffective) to prevent it happening on a larger scale. Or do anything to prevent the general public to hear of it.
In all, I have been teaching for 33 years now. There has not ever been one class, not one year group, in any year since 1979 when I first started teaching, that I have not witnessed daily bullying and/or horrible verbal put-downs. And these on a level far greater than anything I have ever encountered in any other part of society. I believe it has become worse, even though schools have become more conscious of working on prevention.
It is endemic! It is across the board: independent and private schools through to state schools.
And so…when I personally became aware of someone who is acting so far outside of society’s best interests; someone who is doing everything he can to undermine what I am trying to do in the classroom; someone who flaunts sexism and bullying and misogyny and verbal intimidation on the public airways, and when I hear my students using the same words that Kyle Sandilands uses when someone disagrees with him, “”I’ll hunt you down”…well how can I possibly turn a blind eye?
If I ignore this behaviour, I am saying that all the good work I try to do in the classroom is worth nothing if someone can so easily undermine it.
One of the most common bullying tactics in the classroom today is for one student to say to another “I’m going to get you”. This term is red rag to a bull for me! It’s the one thing that will probably see me over-react! Why should anyone be silenced by another through fear of being ‘got’?
It’s used constantly to apply pressure to perceived threats. And I simply won’t stand for it to be used to silence anyone.
And the putdowns…the word “fat” and “gay” seem to be used as the worst type of put-down in the classroom! Students seem to think that they are the worst names to call another, and they are used frequently. Both these words seem to induce irrational retaliatory reactions which rapidly escalate into war-zone scenario! Meanwhile other students are trying to learn n an environment that makes learning impossible; parents are calling to say their child cannot sleep and doesn’t want to attend school any more, because of name calling.
As a teacher, when I reprimand someone, reasonably and fairly, I do not want them to threaten to ‘get me.” I have had many incidents of this in my teaching life. Why should I be prevented from doing my job; a job that society has entrusted to me; a job that I do competently and professionally, only to be abused because a student has: A) listened to the likes of Vile Kyle, and B) has not been able to handle criticism, and taken it personally?
I am also entrusted by society to keep my students safe, under Duty of Care. This is becoming more and more difficult as skirmishes break out in classrooms and playgrounds as students increasingly threaten to ‘get’ others’ or taunt them.
It is one thing to say ‘sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you” More fights break out in schools through name-calling than any other reason.
It is one thing to say if you don’t like “listening to people like Kyle Sandilands, switch off the radio”.
These are cop-outs and belie the reality: that name-calling can be very hurtful. And although we can turn the radio off, it is an undeniable fact that those who are the most impressionable and vulnerable in our society, do not. Whether we listen or not, we are still part of a society which is affected by this anti-social behaviour.
That is why I believe Kyle Sandilands must be removed from public airways. How dare he respond to justified, calm, dispassionate logical criticism by resorting to public threats? He is not the role model I want in my classroom. He is not the role model I want for the future. And as long as he, and his ilk, are given permission by our society, to disguise their Hate Talk as Freedom of Speech, we will continue to suffer as our children mimic and admire him for giving their own anger a voice and ‘getting away with it” .
By disingenuously labelling Hate Talk as Freedom of Speech, people like Kyle manipulate those who feel powerless, and incite them into a “them and us position”, which can only further cause disintegration in our society. He’s actually fuelling their anger and providing them with a scapegoat upon which to hang their anger. I believe we should not underestimate this sort of ‘power’. Especially when wielded by one who is so angry himself?
By the way, I have never ever been bullied myself! I must be one of the 15 % who say they have never felt intimidated! If someone wants to call me Fat, or whatever, I simply, really couldn’t care. But if I were in a classroom, aged 14, and someone threatened to ‘get me” I think I would feel very scared! We simply cannot allow our children to feel scared in one of the places where they should feel the safest!
And on the other side of the coin, I have a 21 year old daughter who does have self-esteem issues. This is something so far out of my own personal growing-up experience and it is so hard to deal with when you have never suffered from this yourself. My beautiful articulate, bright and overly-sensitive daughter has been raised to believe in herself; she doesn’t experience put-downs in her family life, but school has been difficult for her. She has experienced the worst sort of ‘girl-bullying’. Being a parent, knowing how to deal with it from a teacher’s perspective, yet living through the powerlessness of watching her disintegration as well as witnessing the mismanagement of a school dealing with it…
What DO you do as a parent when you find your teenage daughter curled up on the floor, sobbing and refusing to go to school because of how others are treating her? Witnessing her fear of watching others being victimised, the dilemma of wondering whether to speak up, and becoming a victim herself? Begging me “not to make a fuss’ as it will only make it worse? And me knowing it goes so much against everything I believe in, not to make a fuss, but capitulating to her requests because she is my daughter, I love her and I don’t want it to become worse. The powerlessness of the child being bullied! The powerlessness of the parent enduring it!
I may not always have been able to speak up for my daughter, but sure as HELL, I’m going to stand up and be counted now!
Oh and finally, I want to say that most of middle-class Australia has absolutely no idea of what is happening in some ‘burbs! Some of my students from a particular broadacre housing area (in Tasmania) have added me to their Face Book pages now that I am no longer teaching them. They added me about a year ago, and I think they have forgotten that I am there. I lurk and read and shudder. Most people would have NO idea what is happening in these kids’ lives. The students are aged 14-17, and what I read would be unbelievable to most of Australia. These are the kids who LOVE Kyle, as do their unemployed Mums. These are the families who are living the “Housos” life yet love the series so much. They actually use the same terminology as the Kyles of this world; they swagger and curse and smoke, (and, driving at 15, avoid the Police in their hotted-up Utes) and have sex with their 12 year-old girlfriends, and life is simply to be lived as hard and as fast as possible! And they write all about it on Face Book…not to brag, but just because this is how it is. This is their Life!
And with the likes of Kyle fuelling their anger, feeding their social discontent, energising them, we will never break the cycle.