October 29, 2013 6:20 pm

Secret recording in Calgary classroom spurs debate

A secret recording of an exchange between a teacher and student at Grant MacEwan Elementary is eliciting empathy for both the Grade 5 student and the teacher.

In the recording, the teacher berates the child for not following a classroom rule, reducing the child to tears.

With zero tolerance policies on bullying in most schools, many wonder if that policy extends to teachers.

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“We’re expecting students to raise their standard and as adults we need to be in the same position,” says anti-bullying expert Kim Edwards. “If we were adults in the workplace we wouldn’t allow it. It shouldn’t be acceptable in a classroom setting.”

That opinion is echoed on the street.

“Professionals should not be treating children or adults with such indignity,” says one Calgarian. “Where’s the heart in people who say those things? It makes me want to cry.”

But the recording has left others wondering what was behind the teacher’s reaction.

Frank Bruseker of the Alberta Teachers Association says teachers’ stress levels have increased with bigger classes and heavier workloads.

“Our classes are getting larger and more complex. We have students with learning disabilities and students with physical disabilities. It adds to the workload and the difficulty.”

A Calgary parent who believes her son was being bullied, sent her son to school with the recording device.

It captured the exchange between the teacher and a classmate.

Audio: Exchange between teacher and student.

The Calgary Board of Education won’t comment specifically on the recording, saying it is a personnel issue.

Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson says every student deserves to be in a classroom that is welcoming and respectful, and is encouraging parents to raise concerns with their school’s principal.

Transcript of exchange between teacher and student:

Teacher: “Can you stop making excuses? Did you call the teacher’s attention to say I was trying to write this and ask your neighbour? Did you talk to your neighbour?”

Student: “Yeah.”

Teacher: “Which neighbour?”

Student: “Her- she said she didn’t know and I asked, and then I didn’t get the rest of it.” (student crying)

Teacher: “Oh, so keep crying, Prince. After you ask, I asked everybody to put a red strip on the top of their table if they needed help. Did anybody hear me say that?”

Class responds: “Yes.”

Teacher: “Where is your red strip?”

Student: “I don’t know.”

Teacher: “How then would I know you needed help? I am not a magician. Stop making me one or I will make you vanish.”

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