Prison or school, Can you spot the difference?

Rarely a day goes by on Twitter without people kicking off about something. Sometimes it’s pointless, but today’s topic is something that’s worth discussing.

Before saying anything further, I want you to read the screenshot below. 

Obviously, it’s a school, but I couldn’t help thinking that an institution that strives to control anybody to this degree closely resembles a prison. The schools I attended sadly had similar rules and staff attitudes. Consequently, I didn’t feel like a free human being at all. Despite the fact a school is trying extremely hard to resemble a prison, it is also inherently ableist for neurodivergent people. Let me explain why. 

Facial expression and “always smile.”

One thing that alarmed me is the demand for students to always smile. What if a child is unhappy or has difficulties at home. How will schools pick up on this if they insist on children smiling? On a safeguarding level, this certainly raises concerns. I also worry about the implications of teaching children to suppress their negative emotions. If they are bottling it in, then what will be the long term mental health consequences? From my own experience, I don’t see this ending well beyond the school years. 

Additionally, as an autistic person, I am often criticised for not smiling enough or having a ‘resting bitch face’. My natural facial expressions are vastly different from neurotypical “smiley” ones. It would take me so much mental effort to smile in a way that neurotypicals would deem normal that I wouldn’t have the ability to engage with lessons at all!  

Window staring and attention

Staring out of the window is something I do a lot, and I find it beneficial for my creativity and developing my ideas. I’ve noticed schools have an obsession with showing that students are paying attention rather than students actually paying attention. I’m an ADHDer too, so I often need to fidget or have some form of stimuli to help me concentrate so that my dopamine levels are satisfied and I can focus on the task at hand. 

Respecting teachers and thank you

Teachers deserve respect, as they have an incredibly challenging job (I know, I used to be one!). However, we don’t need to be all Victorian about it! I despise the power dynamic by students calling teachers Sir and Madam. Don’t schools teach us about equality? So why don’t they follow through with it and address the power imbalance? One of my Twitter followers put it better than I could regarding the “Need to control children”, and I’m expecting this blog post will likely attract comments of this nature. 

Always saying thank you is problematic to me too. If a student enjoys a lesson or found it beneficial, then, of course, they can thank the teacher. But what if a teacher is inappropriate in any way during a lesson? Should students be expected to thank them for it? Or express their concerns with other staff members? What exact future is this preparing your students for? Personally, a lot of what I learnt in school has hardly prepared me for the real world. 

Picking up a pen

Asking permission to pick up a pen? I’m fairly sure even in prison; you don’t need permission to do this (I’ve never been to prison, so please comment if this isn’t true). Focusing on such trivial matters makes me question how much attention this school has on vital issues such as safeguarding and ensuring students are happy so they can benefit from their learning. 

In summary, I despair of the education system in the UK and behaviour policies of this nature. I genuinely believe that they will do more harm than good for all students, and in particular neurodivergent students. I sincerely hope both the school and headteacher reevaluate their behaviour policy. 

If you enjoyed this post, like to support my writing, I would be forever grateful if you could buy me a coffee (or tea in my case).

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