In any school, I am sure there are thefts from classes, students and possibly teachers. With the proliferation of personal devices such as music devices, Smart Phones, and tablets, the temptation for some must be huge to ‘borrow’. My school has had its share of loss, but, thankfully, many get returned by students who understand the social contract that allows any space of many individuals to run smoothly.
Some devices are ‘liberated’ by students for their own enjoyment, and many get caught, but some do not, and the devices are quickly lost in the space between social and personal responsibility. The ease with which cell phones can be palmed, turned off, sim card removed and passed on to others is mind-blowing. In less than a minute, a phone can be sitting on the desk and then outside the school building.
We have just recently re-started the reward system for found phones. Students who find phones left in places (washrooms, change rooms) and return them to the office are rewarded with coupons for lunch in the cafeteria. Once word of this began to spread, we were getting many, many phones turned in. But is the carrot system working to stop the thefts? Would these phones be returned more quickly to their owners if they didn’t pass through the office for a snack? Does this provide the cultural change needed to create a safer environment for students and their belongings?
I do not have answers to these questions. I believe that students should look after their own property more carefully, but a moment’s distraction can be a loss of several hundred dollars. I also believe that students should be more social responsible; looking out for their peers, protecting and enhancing the safe spaces for learning. If a student sees something is not right, they should tell someone; staying quiet just endures and promotes the negative actions of others.
My school is considered an old school at 45 years young. It does not get all the repairs needed in a timely way to help create a welcoming environment (leaking pipes, buckets in the hallways, falling tiles). Some students (who some may consider socially responsible) started a twitter feed to point out these problems. Although the intent was good, it quickly degraded into a forum for other students to bully, harass and spread racially hurtful comments. As administrators, we had to try to shut the account down, with limited success. Through conversations with students who had participated in the twitter forum, many were unaware of their tacit support of many of these comments, and quickly changed or deleted their twitter posts and re-tweets.
This shows, I think, that students need to be reminded of their social and citizenship responsibilities; as a schooling organisation, we must remember that these are individuals developing their own moral compass and need subtle and not so subtle reminders of where true north is.