Spare a thought for Regina Hungerford. She is the 54-year-old teacher and Girl Guides volunteer of 25 years from Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales who has just been convicted of common assault. Her offence was to have ‘lost it’ with a 17-year-old lad who decided to play music from his mobile phone in her maths lesson. She threw his phone out of the window after he responded to her request to switch it off by saying: “You can’t make me.”
It seems that in slamming down a book in frustration the teacher also managed to hit the boy. Not that the pupil concerned was too sure that any physical contact has been made. He told the court: “I remember Miss Hungerford swinging the book but I can’t be certain that she hit me.”
The court, nevertheless, decided that the boy been the victim of an assault and found the teacher guilty. She has been given a 12-month community order and required to do 60 hours unpaid work. In addition, she will have to fork out £620 in prosecution costs, £520 for criminal courts charge, plus a £60 statutory surcharge.
Given that she now has a criminal record Mrs Hungerford is likely to be struck off the teaching register and, thereby, lose her teaching job and any prospect of finding another one. Her unpaid work with the Girl Guides is also likely to be terminated.
Who wants to be a teacher? Above everything else, teaching needs to take place in an ordered classroom. Pupil behaviour in too many state schools these days is out of control. The use of smart phones in many schools, far from being banned from the classroom as the Chief Inspector has urged, are promoted as a panacea for our educational failings. Barmy? Yes! And you will not see much evidence of them being used to play music, or anything else, in the best education systems around the world.
When school management provides a disciplined environment, the job of a teacher can be rich, rewarding and energising. Without a clear behaviour code for pupils, however, the job, inevitably, becomes stressful and debilitating. Small wonder, then, that teachers wishing to do a good job, can ‘lose it’. Disorder may not bother the second-rate, trendy, ‘let kids express themselves’, teacher. They are not the teachers that get into trouble. It is, too often, the most dedicated teachers who suffer the most from the failure of management to implement a structure of behavioural rules that discourage pupils from telling their teacher, as in this case: “You can’t make me”.
So, spare a thought for this teacher and mother of two who just wished to be allowed to do her job of teaching and whose life has now been ruined.