On another venue, someone wrote about pathological liars and devised a catagory called 'Mythomaniac'.
This fits Castaneda very well. I made some slight modifications.
·... “mythomaniacs,” may be suffering from histrionic personality disorder or narcissistic behavior disorder. The following comments basically reflect a pathological liar who has the characteristics of histrionic personality disorder.
6. When faced with the consequences of his or her wrongdoing, the mythologizer will claim that Jesus was persecuted too. The mythologizer forgets that, Jesus accepted the consequences of his actions and faced his judges alone and spoke for himself.
3. They “construct” a reality around themselves. They don’t value the truth, especially if they don’t see it as hurting anyone. If you call them on a lie and they are backed into a corner, they will act very defensively and say ugly things (most likely but depends on personality), but they may eventually start to act like, “Well, what’s the difference? You’re making a big deal out of nothing!” (again, to refocus the conversation to your wrongdoing instead of theirs).
Although ?Anthroposophy? was not mentioned in the brochure, and is not yet a household word in America, within days of our involvement with Waldorf we began to hear this word. Like others who also inadvertently stumbled into an Anthroposophic reality by choosing an art-based, nonsectarian school for their children, I, too, wondered why people couldn?t pronounce the word ?anthropology?.
Early on in my career as Waldorf mom, before we had a computer and access to the Internet, I had consulted my Webster?s New World Dictionary but found no mention of the word. I also asked a teacher what ?Anthroposophy? was and he said, ?the study of man??which really didn?t help my understanding very much. The word ?Anthroposophy? was often used as a simple explanation or answer to a question; for example, a teacher might have responded to a puzzled parent?s question, ?In Anthroposophy we do it this way.? Sometimes Anthroposophy was explained as ?Steiner?s philosophy.? So for years we struggled along, trying to function in a Waldorf reality without understanding that their worldview is ideologically at odds with ours. There we were, a family of freethinkers, unwittingly striving to usher in Steiner?s esoteric prophesies, initiating our daughter in an Anthroposophic mystery school, volunteering and donating to the cause, all in the name of ?education.?
Volunteerism was required of all parents. My many hours, however, never seemed to satisfy the faculty because I naturally worked from my non-Anthroposophic perspective, oblivious of Steiner?s esoteric doctrine, while Anthroposophists followed the dictates of their world view, because:Quote
The person in whom anthroposophical wisdom appears must be completely unimportant compared to this wisdom; the person as such does not matter at all. It is only essential that this person has developed so far that his or her personal likes, dislikes, and opinions do not taint the anthroposophical wisdom (Steiner, 1990, p. 17).
(Corboy note: 'The person in whom anthropological wisdom appears must be completely unimportant compared to this wisdom; the person as such does not matter at all."--This undercuts any sense of the inherant dignity of the ordinary human person.
And most parents would grab their child and leave if told that this is what Steiner had said - and taught. Anthroposophists are On a Mission. Its Such an Important Mission that its allright to lie to the uninitiated. The uninitiated will karmically benefit from the good vibes of Waldorf even if they dont know the source and will be reborn later, at a higher level and will be grateful. So..whatever it takes to get kids exposed to Steinerist stuff--lie if necessary. )
This caused in me a mounting sense of their deep ingratitude.
On several occasions, I had wondered if Waldorf was a new religious movement because my family had experienced peculiarities arising from the pedagogy. Because my concerns were always alleviated by other group members (some with and some without esoteric knowledge), with whom we had become friends, I tended to ignore my mounting confusion and frustration.
We were perpetually congratulated for choosing Waldorf for our daughter?s education, and other schooling systems were put down with regularity. Waldorf was the best education available and all children in the world should have the privilege of attending such schools, so we believed.
Overhearing some Waldorfers discussing the seating arrangement of a class, where dark haired children were to sit by the windows to absorb light, I paused, wondering ?what is going on??
In another surrealistic Waldorf moment there was talk of switching left-handed children over to the right hand. Wasn?t this practice frowned upon now? When I learned that black and brown crayons were not permitted in the kindergartens, I asked my daughter?s teacher how it would be possible for African Americans to draw themselves. The teacher told me that she would show the child how to ?smudge? their color from an assortment of other colors. I remarked that it seemed racist.
What was going on?
I later learned from reading Steiner that ?black is the spiritual image of the lifeless? and that dark skin is a sign of spiritual inferiority
There are a lot of things I could say – but it is interesting to consider how an individual’s ‘mythomania’ creates an LGAT rather than an ashram. I wonder what you think?
May 28, 2006 | Filed Under Blog |
This piece, written by the principal of the Toronto Hebrew Academy, was sent to me by a teacher of mine who evidently reads this blog now and again (*waves hello*). It’s been floating around the internet/blogosphere lately, and given its (sadly) timeliness and the fact that it’s one of the more productive things I’ve seen on the whole subject of gurus and power, I couldn’t not repost.
The Charismatic Teacher
by Paul Shaviv
The charismatic teacher (the ‘Pied-Piper”) is one of the most difficult
situations for a Principal to deal with. A charismatic teacher will
deeply affect and influence some students – but will almost always
leave a trail of emotional wreckage in is/her wake .
Charismatic teachers are often themselves deeply immature, but their
immaturity is emotional, not intellectual, and it is not always
obvious. They can be brilliant in inspiring students to go beyond their
wildest expectations, and are often regarded (by their following of
students, by parents, and by the Board or the community) as the ‘most
important’ or ‘best’ members of staff. There is always, however, a
price to be paid.
One of the effects of charisma is to convince the recipient that he or
she is the centre of the charismatic personality’s concern. A teenage
student (or a particular class) may feel as though he or she is the
protégé of the charismatic teacher. The moment they realize that they
are not (sometimes when the teacher ‘moves on to the next’), deep
emotions come into play. In the same way, many charismatic teachers
will lavish attention on a student or group of students – as long as
the student(s) do things the teacher’s way, or accept every piece of
advice or “philosophy” or Torah uncritically. The moment the student
shows independence or objectivity – they are dropped. As soon as they
are disillusioned or dropped, they are written out of the teacher’s
story. Often such students, very hurt, leave the school. Mild
characteristics of cult leaders may be observed.
Other parents, however, will rave about how their son/daughter “adores”
Mr./Ms/ or Rabbi X, and is learning “so much from them”. Events linked
to that teacher will be showcase events, and in certain cases the
Principal (or Head of Department) will come to be dependent on the
teacher. “We need something special for the prize-giving…or the
ground-breaking … or the community event… can you put something
together?” The teacher will protest that the time is short, and it’s
impossible, but will, of course, accept and do a fabulous job.
The problem is that at core, these are not educational relationships.
The emotional dependency and entanglement between teacher and student
leads to boundaries being crossed. The teacher throws open his/her
house to the students. Teens idolize the teacher, and fantasies begin
to develop. The charismatic teacher will solve the teen’s angst and
will sympathise with their intimate family problems. The teacher
becomes party to knowledge about students and their families that
reinforces the teacher’s view that they are the only teachers who
“really” are reaching the students. The teacher, however, is neither a
trained counselor nor a social worker. That knowledge becomes power. A
really charismatic teacher can end up running a ‘school within a
In the classroom, the teacher will often employ techniques (and texts)
which take students to the extremes of emotion or logic, and will then
triumphantly show them how they are holding they key to resolution (“At
this moment, you have agreed that life has no meaning — but here is
Part of the reason of why these teachers are difficult to deal with is
that they are often blissfully unaware (perhaps deliberately unaware)
of their own emotional power, and see their activities in the school as
“Look at how many extra hours I put in!”
Faced with this situation, the Principal is in a quandary. Parents are
telling the Board that this teacher should be promoted. Local rabbis
are letting it be known that “X” is “the only teacher at the school who
is reaching the kids”. And the truth is that ‘X” is contributing a huge
amount of positive things to the school.
The other teachers, in the main, cordially dislike ‘X’, for both good
and bad reasons. \The more emotionally stable teachers see an adult
playing ‘mind games’ with the students, and feel that the influence is
‘unhealthy’. Other teachers are simply jealous of ‘X’’s influence over
the students, which they cannot even dream of. Those that choose to
drink coffee with ‘X’ in the staff room (although, in my experience,
charismatic teachers often avoid the staff room) are also ‘groupies’ –
themselves frequently the less mature teachers.
The Principal (although possibly under pressure to turn a blind eye to
what is going on – “x is doing so much good!”) must act to bring these
situations under control; curb any excesses that are taking place (some
of which may emerge during the meeting, as the teacher, protesting,
goes to great lengths to show how much he/she cares for the students
and how close he/she is to them); lay down guidelines for future
conduct; and try and save for the school the best of what the teacher
has to offer. The meeting will probably have to deal with:
• The teacher’s professional duties as a member of school staff.
• The teacher’s relationship to students.
• The teacher’s relationship to other teachers.
The exact list will obviously vary according to circumstances, but may
well include required undertakings from the teacher that:
• S/he will strive to act professionally and objectively, delivering
the classroom curriculum with equal attention to all students, and
maintaining proper professional relationships with colleagues
• Inappropriate discussions and/or introduction of inappropriate
material in the classroom will cease
• Contacts with students outside the classroom on matters not connected
with the curriculum, direct or indirect, will cease
• No meetings will take place with students off school premises or in
any non-professional context without prior consultation and permission
of the Administration
• Students approaching the teacher for counselling or advice on
personal matters will be directed to a school Guidance Counsellor or
other qualified professional. The teacher will not be concerned with
the emotional issues of students.
• The teacher will immediately disclose to the Principal any event or
incident concerning a student which may be construed as being outside
their professional responsibility
A letter summarizing the meeting should be sent to the teacher, with a
copy in their personal file. The charismatic teacher’s behaviour may
lead to situations that expose the school to legal and other action. It
is the Principal’s duty to safeguard the educational and professional
integrity of the school.
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Pingback comments)by Jewschool » Blog Archive » The Charismatic Teacher — May 28, 2006 #
On the other hand, isn’t fear of The Charismatic Teacher one of the main ways school administrators prevent innovation, depth and radical information from seeping into a dry and tightly controlled ciriculum? Aren’t there Charismatic teachers whoare also responsible people, not emotionally immature or manipulative, or at least able to learn and grow if they are?
Is emotional weakness something very difficult to grow out of in positions of authority or administration? Could we have a way of building that sensitivity, desire for the student’s well being over their own pleasure somehow instilled deeply without having to lose exciting personality and the possibitlity of real care an involvment of a teacher in a student’s life?
informal poll: did people out here have more trouble with boring, uncaring and dry teachers or charismatic, abusive ones? the former might be, might have been, more destructive, and maybe not.
Comment by Z— May 28, 2006 #
I don’t think that this article is necessarily talking about any gifted teacher who happens to be dynamic and engaging in the classroom–I think we’re talking here about a particular type who has a real lack of healthy boundaries, which even in its most benign incarnations can be toxic, invasive and extremely destructive.
I don’t have a lot of optimism about helping people to grow out of their immaturity, certainly not in an on-the-job context. That’s not the appropriate place for the individual to do that work, in any case.
Comment by zz— May 28, 2006 #
true– I had a very dynamic and caring teacher in high school. I couldn’t prove no boundaries were ever crossed, but: she didn’t favor particular students, create a clique, etc– it always seemed clear to me that she cared about all of us.
she encouraged us to think on her own, and didn’t mind us disagreeing.
she was willing to admit when she didn’t have an answer, and to discuss texts and sources she disagreed with, in an eilu-v’eilu way.
That, z, I think is the healthy kind– no mind games, no manipulation, no brainwashing, no favoritism.
The administraion, has to be aware of potential red flags though, and not sweep them under the carpet.
(while I’ve never had a charismatic, abusive teacher, I think I’d prefer the dry boring one, not that I’d enjoy that. it just doesn’t seem worth the emotional harm)
Comment by z— May 28, 2006 #
I don’t think that this article is necessarily talking about any gifted teacher who happens to be dynamic and engaging in the classroom …. etc
======== correct. Thank you for re-posting this piece, which to my astonishment has bounced all around the blogosphere. It is an extract from a forthcoming book (‘The Jewish High School – an operations guide’ – provisional title!) which should be available by the end of this summer. a) In the book, it is in a section which discusses management and supervision of several categories of problematic teachers b) the posting itself has qualifiers in the first few lines.
Comment by z— May 28, 2006 #
If you want to understand more about charismatic personality, read the following two books:
Prophetic Charisma by Len Oakes
In the Shadow of Fame by Susan B Erickson (daughter of Erik H Erikson the psychoanalyst.)
Both authors had close ties to charismatic leaders. And both learned that many charismatic people become charismatic in order to compensate for areas of personal woundedness. Susan Erikson describes a fascinating ‘before-after’ dynamic, because she saw how her father changed before and after he became world famous–and what a strain his public image imposed upon his family.
Read together, these books may help us understand how charismatic people can do great help that is genuine–and great harm that is just as genuine.
In my case, I too had the benefit of a charismatic high school teacher. We were a bunch of adolescent wise-asses and Mr K walked into the room and awed us into silence.
He gave us tough assignments and we worked our butts off because we craved his respect.
To my knowledge Mr K never abused his position. It broke my heart to learn, years later, that he had died young from alcoholism.
He may well have condensed a charismatic personality to cover up areas of deep personal woundedness.
It is interesting that the other faculty members resented Mr. K because his students cut the other, less inspiring teachers’ classes so that we could get our assignments in on time to Mr. K.
Charismatic people can be beneficial and exert a destabilizing influence unless they are highly mature, have lots of insight and are very responsible in using their talents to serve the community so all will benefit, not just their ‘in-group.’
Comment by z— June 1, 2006 #
I hope I am not “butting in” but I taught in a catholic school some years back where one of the teachers was a charismatic type who always had an “entourage” of students. This person did considerable damage not only to her students when she became personally involved in their lives to the extent of undermining the authority of the parents but also damage to fellow teachers. This was done in subtle ways to undermine their personal and professional lives. It was definitely about power.
For several decades I have been an administrator in a social service agency. If an employee has an entourage of either clients or lower level fellow workers, it is a real red flag that a charistmatic employee is about to make a power play. First the administration is depicted as uncaring and withholding vital resources. Next the clients or lower level workers are prodded to make demands to be treated “fairly.” The pattern is very predictable, but the warning sign is always the entourage.
Good article. I am definitely going to email it to other administrators.
Comment by z— June 3, 2006 #
Note to the moderator: I have not provided my real name because I live in the Toronto Jewish Community, and I fear possile retribution by the author for my remarks.
If you do a search and replace for “charismatic teacher” in Mr. zz article and replace the phrase with “abusive teacher” you would have an accurate, well defined argument.
However, to say that teachers who form emotional relationships spawning from intellectual relationships are problematic, is a stretch. The only problems that they cause are for Administrators like Shaviv that don’t like to be challenged in front of their boards or parental bodies.
As far as I am concerned, there aren’t enough “Charismatic Teachers” in the system today. It seems to me that passionate teachers that develop an appropriate relationship with their students are in incredibly short supply. If Shaviv were to have his way, the classroom would be no different than the boardroom; a sycophantic cold place, where everyone is exected to fall in line–and take passion out of teaching, or worse, learning.
Please don’t get me wrong. There are many educators that match Shaviv’s description; take the whole Baruch Lanner episode as an example. But to lump excellent, charistmatic teachers that take an interest in their student’s lives in with the ilks of the Lanner’s of the world, is just plain ludicrous.
As far as the emotional connection from the student’s side, this is not an unusual phenomenon in high school teens. It is how the relationship comes about, and then more importantly, how it is managed, that separate the abusers from the teachers.
An extremely alarmed CHAT Graduate
Comment by z— June 15, 2006 #
Isn’t the problem that should concern us be more of the “uncaring teacher” than that of the too charismatic one?
A charismatic teacher can be caring or not-caring, as can be a non-charismatic one.
And that is the main issue that a principal should focus on, in my opinion.
Comment by z— September 30, 2009 #
In the ‘Pied Piper’ situation a powerfully charismatic teacher has exceeded appropriate boundaries. The teacher’s personality has become the centre of the classroom rather than the course content.
Sexual predators in school
1.1.1The ‘Pied Piper’
The ‘Pied-Piper’ is one of the most difficult situations for a Principal to deal with.
Many excellent and highly professional teachers have elements of charisma in their personalities. In the ‘Pied Piper’ situation a powerfully charismatic teacher has exceeded appropriate boundaries. The teacher’s personality has become the centre of the classroom rather than the course content. A ‘Pied Piper’ will deeply affect and influence some students – but will almost always leave a trail of emotional wreckage in his/her wake.
‘Pied Pipers’ - charismatic teachers who misuse their charisma - are often themselves deeply immature, but their immaturity is emotional, not intellectual, and it is not always obvious. They can be brilliant in inspiring students to go beyond their wildest expectations, and are often regarded (by their following of students, by parents, and by the Board or the community) as the ‘most important’ or ‘best’ members of staff. There is always, however, a price to be paid.
One of the effects of charisma is to convince the recipient that he or she is the centre of the charismatic personality’s concern. A teenage student (or a particular class) may feel as though he, she or they is/are the protégé(s) of the charismatic teacher. The moment they realize that they are not (sometimes when the teacher ‘moves on to the next’), deep emotions come into play. Many charismatic teachers will lavish attention on a student or group of students – as long as the student(s) do things the teacher’s way, or accept every piece of advice or “philosophy” or Torah uncritically. The moment the student shows independence or objectivity – they are dropped. As soon as they are dropped, they are written out of the teacher’s story. Deep disillusion sets in. The student(s) are devastated. Often such students, very hurt, leave the school. Whatever brand of identity and loyalty the ‘Pied Piper’ has inculcated – religion, sport, poetry, art, politics – may be abandoned overnight. The next set of ‘favorites’ takes their place.
Tears are a feature of meetings between the abandoned students, their parents, and the Administration. Mild characteristics of cult leaders may be observed.
Other parents, however, will rave about how their son/daughter “adores” Mr./Ms/ or Rabbi X, and is “learning so much from them”. Events linked to that teacher will be showcase events, and in the Principal (or Head of Department) will come to be dependent on the teacher. “We need something special for the prize-giving...or the ground-breaking … or the community event… can you put something together?”
The teacher will protest that the time is short, and it’s impossible, but will, of course, accept and do a fabulous job.
The problem is that at core, these are not educational relationships.
The emotional dependency and entanglement between teacher and student leads to boundaries being crossed. The teacher throws open his/her house to the students. Teens idolize the teacher, and dangerous fantasies begin to develop. Boundaries are crossed; the usual rules don’t apply to the Pied Piper, or, sometimes, his/her students. The ‘Pied Piper’ will solve the teen’s angst and will sympathize with their intimate family problems.
The teacher becomes party to knowledge about students and their families that reinforces the ‘Pied Piper’s” view that s/he is the only teacher who is “really” reaching the students. (Disdain for other teachers is another common symptom.)
The teacher, however, is neither a trained counselor nor a social worker. That knowledge becomes power. A ‘Pied Piper’ can end up running a ‘school within a school’.
In the classroom, the teacher will often employ techniques (and texts) which take students to the extremes of emotion or logic, and will then triumphantly show them how they, the teacher, are holding the key to resolution:
At this moment, you have agreed that life has no meaning -- but here is the answer
Part of the reason of why these teachers are difficult to deal with is that they are often blissfully unaware (perhaps deliberately unaware) of their own emotional power, and see their activities in the school as huge self-sacrifice:
Look at how many extra hours I put in!
Faced with this situation, the Principal is in a quandary. Parents are telling the Board that this teacher should be promoted. Local rabbis are letting it be known that “X” is “doing wonderful work with the kids” – and in fact may even be “the only teacher in the school who’s really worth anything”. And the truth is that ‘X” is contributing a huge amount of positive things to the school.
The other teachers, in the main, cordially dislike ‘X’, for both good and bad reasons. The more emotionally stable teachers see an adult playing ‘mind games’ with the students, and feel – probably with some justification - that the influence is ‘unhealthy’. They are also angry at Administration for allowing this situation to develop. Other teachers are simply jealous of ‘X’’s influence over the students, which they cannot even dream of. Those that choose to drink coffee with ‘X’ in the staff room (although, in my experience, charismatic teachers often avoid the staff room) are also ‘groupies’ – themselves frequently the less mature teachers.
Although under pressure to turn a blind eye to what is going on – “X is doing so much good!” - the Principal must act to bring these situations under control.
Make sure you have some facts to use as examples – inappropriate meetings, student distress, parental concerns, students asking to join his/her class (or drop it) – and invite the teacher to a meeting, with another Administrator present.
I need to talk to you about your relationships in the school, which is causing increasing concern. I have asked my colleague, Mr/Ms/Rabbi G to sit in on this meeting. Being a teacher can be very difficult, and part of the difficulty is drawing boundaries between intense, but professional and appropriate relationships, and relationships which go over those boundaries. I am very apprehensive that you are crossing some red lines, and for your own protection, and for the welfare of the school, we need to have a serious talk. Let me go over some examples of what I mean……
Curb any excesses that are taking place (some of which may emerge during the meeting, as the teacher, protesting, goes to great lengths to show how much he/she cares for the students and how close he/she is to them). Lay down guidelines for future conduct; and try and save for the school the best of what the teacher has to offer. The meeting will probably have to deal with:
•The teacher’s professional duties as a member of school staff
•The teacher’s relationship to students
•The teacher’s relationship to other teachers
The exact list will obviously vary according to circumstances, but may well include required undertakings from the teacher that:
•S/he will strive to act professionally and objectively, delivering the classroom curriculum with equal attention to all students, and maintaining proper professional relationships with colleagues
•Inappropriate discussions and/or introduction of inappropriate material in the classroom will cease
•Contacts with students outside the classroom on matters not connected with the curriculum, direct or indirect, will cease
•No meetings will take place with students off school premises or in any non-professional context without prior consultation and the permission of the Administration
•Students approaching the teacher for counseling or advice on personal matters will be directed to a school Guidance Counselor or other qualified professional. The teacher will not be concerned with the emotional issues of students
•The teacher will immediately disclose to the Principal any event or incident concerning a student that may be construed as being outside their professional responsibility or outside professional boundaries
A letter summarizing the meeting should be sent to the teacher, with a copy in their personal file. The charismatic teacher’s behavior may lead to situations that expose the school to legal and other action. It is the Principal’s duty to safeguard the educational and professional integrity of the school.
1.1.1The inappropriate teacher – sexual / abusive
Literally as this book goes to press, I am left wondering if my warnings in either the preceding section (‘The Pied Piper’), or in this section are strong enough. Both were originally written before I had to confront an alleged case of a real sexual predator in my own school, whose activities became known only years after he had left. It is sobering to understand how charm, charisma and talent can mask an altogether more sinister agenda. It is even more sobering to face the reality of how far people of all ages can be deceived by skilful confidence tricksters, sociopaths and predators – to the extent of maintaining faith in them even after their evil has been exposed.
The school can never be too suspicious, or too careful. The Principal must be prepared to question, even when everyone else has ceased (or have never started) to do so.
Sexual inappropriateness: The Talmud states ‘There is no guardian over immorality’ – meaning that no individual is immune from sexual temptation. High schools can be stressful places for adults, with populations of students who are physically adult but still emotionally adolescent, and whose hormones are raging. This is true for both male and female teachers. At a follow-up discussion (in a mixed High School) with a number of teachers about a certain case that I had had to deal with, I talked about the pressures on male teachers who are teaching teenage girls. I was stunned when a middle-aged, highly stable and responsible female teacher turned to me and remarked: “Don’t you think it’s also a problem for women?”. It showed my naïveté, but of cases that reach the media, many – possibly most - involve female teachers and male students.
There cannot be any tolerance whatsoever for a teacher who is sexually or otherwise abusive or inappropriate in any way, with a student, with another teacher, or anyone else associated with the school. The nature of such inappropriate behavior by teachers can be:
•Sexual – in conversation, communication, or action.
•Sexual – in relationship. Sexual relationships between teachers and students are illegal in every jurisdiction, and against every professional standard. If proven, termination (and possible legal action) is mandatory. Teachers – of either sex – who enter into relationships with students generally fall into standard categories. Many are ‘needy teachers finding needy students’ - undergoing some time of crisis in their own lives, and finding solace in emotionally demanding students. Some are simply naïve. Some are predators. Although anything is possible, the most vulnerable category of teachers are those involved in emotionally-intensive, extra-curricular activities, including sports coaching. In a Jewish school, the combination of earnest, inexperienced religious studies teachers and the roller-coaster of teenage emotion can be a fatal combination.
•Abusive – showing anger or other threatening, inequitable or discriminatory behavior.
A Principal must always be alert to hints that unacceptable behavior is taking place. S/he has to develop antennae, and may never, ever totally disbelieve or disregard such information (“Mrs. Y – impossible!”) without thorough, if discrete, investigation, or without at least filing away fragments of information in memory. A casual remark may give a clue. There is often a bond of silence among students regarding incidents in the classroom, and it may be a school graduate who says something like “Old X’s classes were always really embarrassing!”. It may be a parent who, casually but deliberately, will mention that they “… saw Mr. X downtown the other day with one of the students”. The Principal may receive an anonymous letter or telephone call (which demand a much more cautious approach). Another teacher may bring something to the attention of Administration.
If even at that stage, there is a reasonable suspicion that something clearly illegal has taken place, the Principal must take immediate legal advice, and act accordingly. In many jurisdictions, there may be a legal duty to report to a Child Protection agency.
If the behavior is unprofessional and inappropriate, but is not illegal, it is a matter of professional discipline. The Principal must deal with it swiftly and formally, acting in consultation with other Administrators and, if appropriate, the school President, Chair of Personnel committee, or the school lawyer.
From the beginning of the process, every conversation and communication relating to the incident must be properly recorded.
•The teacher must be invited to a meeting, at which another Administrator is present and taking notes
•The teacher may be advised beforehand that the conversation may be disciplinary, and they should be given the opportunity to bring a colleague (if the school is unionized – a Union representative)
•At the meeting, open ‘for the record’ and say that you recognize that this meeting will be uncomfortable for all of the participants. It is the beginning of an investigation regarding alleged matters of which the school has become aware; the teacher has been informed that the meeting may have disciplinary and possibly legal consequences, and has been advised to bring a colleague or other adviser to the meeting
In clear, accurate and non-judgmental language, describe the simple facts that have come to your attention, without necessarily disclosing how, and ask the teacher for an explanation.
Mr. X: It has been alleged to the school that in your class sometime in the last two or three weeks you made a wholly inappropriate comment to a young female student. You are alleged to have told her that her t-shirt “showed her curves very nicely”. The person who brought this to our attention claims that you have made many similar comments to students in the past. Can you shed any light on these allegations?
Mr. X: The parents of **** ***** have expressed concern to the school that their son is spending a great deal of time at your home over weekends and after school, sometimes when no other students or members of your family are present. This would seem to be inappropriate for a professional teacher, and I wonder if you could explain the circumstances of these occurrences?
Ms. X: Information has reached the school that you were seen last Saturday night in town with a senior male student. It is alleged that there was physical contact between you and the student, and that you were seen arm in arm. Teachers, as you know, are bound by a code of professional behavior, and I would like full disclosure of your alleged relationship with this young man. The school reserves the right to investigate this matter further. You should be aware that there could be legal consequences to this conversation, and you may wish to reconvene this meeting with a legal representative present.
Rabbi X: We appreciate your dedication to increasing the learning of the students. Yet we are concerned with the amount of time you are devoting to ****** *******. We understand that you are encouraging him to spend the whole of every Shabbat with you, and not with his parents. Can you describe your relationship with this young man?
A personal relationship with a student that goes over professional boundaries is ipso facto a culpable abuse and exploitation of that authority.
Clearly, the information that emerges will dictate what happens next. The school must consult a lawyer, and, if advised to do so, report to the police. The teacher may be suspended from duty pending further investigations, which may involve students, parents and teachers. Such interviews and investigations must be very carefully conducted, and the Principal should be aware of relevant local legislation regarding the school’s rights and duties, and the proper conduct of such interviews.
Principals should understand that these interviews might not be clear at all. As rumors spread in the school community that the teacher is in trouble, and that students and parents are being interviewed, some students, parents and teachers will come forward to declare that the teacher is ‘the best teacher ever’ (sharing some characteristics of the ‘Pied Piper’), and resentfully accuse the school of ‘exaggerating’ an issue.
Some students will reveal deep emotions. The school must try and arrive at a reasonable account of the truth.
It is rare (but certainly possible) that allegations of this type surrounding a teacher are totally without any foundation. The allegation may have been totally fabricated – in which case the originator of the allegation will be accountable. Alternatively, some students may have misunderstood a teacher’s naïveté, idiosyncrasy, eccentricity, ill-advised ‘humor’, or well-intentioned but misjudged conduct. In such a case, the teacher is not entirely blameless -- teachers must conduct themselves in a way that is not open to misinterpretation, and which does not make any student embarrassed or uncomfortable in their presence. Their relationships with students must be totally professional, and they must be aware that a teacher is regarded as being in a position of authority over his/her students, and is responsible for exercising that authority responsibly.
However, if sexual inappropriateness has been proven to the school’s satisfaction – or reasonable suspicion - consequences for the teacher may involve any or some of the following:
•If this was a single, exceptional incident, inappropriate but not outrageous, a disciplinary letter should be placed on file, recording the allegation, the teacher’s response, the school’s process, clear expectations of future conduct, and a warning of consequences should the behavior, or anything similar, reoccur
Be very, very cautious. The incident of which you are now aware – whatever its nature or degree of seriousness – may only be the tip of the iceberg. The investigation must query whether this incident is in fact the indicator of a much more serious pattern of behaviour, possibly far more extensive.
•A requirement that the teacher attend counseling
•Change of the teacher’s duties
•Disciplinary suspension of the teacher
•Termination of employment
•A report to the police – either by the school or by the student or his/her parents
If the teacher leaves the school, voluntarily or otherwise, both the school and the teacher may enter into a (legally drafted) non-disclosure agreement, or other terms of separation. In these circumstances, include in the agreement:
•An agreed statement that will be the only public communication issued by the school
•An agreed written reference, which will be supplied, to the teacher. This should be short, formal and ‘cold’. If indeed there has been an active sexual relationship, the school should not provide any reference
If the incident has been serious and traumatic, you must develop a plan with your Guidance counselor(s), Rabbis and others, including if necessary outside resources, to deal with the students affected, and with other students in the school.
The Principal may have to deal with parents, staff, students, community and even local media – SEE SECTION 15.5.5.
Prepare to be astonished (and exasperated) by those who will go to great lengths to defend or excuse the teacher; and the ease with which the offender may be offered employment elsewhere.
Abusive inappropriateness: Teachers may display a range of abusive behavior to students, fellow staff or parents. Anger in the classroom may once have been tolerated behavior, but no longer is. A teacher may not demean, humiliate, pick on or constantly put down students; conversely, a teacher may not have ‘favorites’.
All behavior where a teacher uses their authority and position to the detriment of others need to be addressed. Teachers who act in certain ways in the classroom will frequently repeat the behavior in the staff room, bullying younger teachers or being deliberately uncooperative to colleagues.
An investigation has to take place, in which other students, staff or parents involved must be interviewed. The process is clear, and is similar to the management of other problematic behaviors:
•A formal interview, at which the staff member is asked to give his or her own account of problematic incidents
•It may be necessary to switch the teacher’s classes, or move particular students to other classes. The measures that the school has had to take should be noted in the record of the interview
•Consequences may be similar to those for the sexually abusive teacher (see above), and may also include offers of help to correct the unacceptable behavior, and suggestions of outside counseling
•A warning letter is issued. This should summarize the content of the interview. Suggest targets for improvement, and give fair warning of consequences should there be further incidents.
Further incidents are likely to trigger the application of progressive discipline.
"No man but a block(g)head ever wrote, except for money" -- Dr. Johnson
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Fantasists I have known
Protocols is checking out info on Marc Gafni / Winiarz, and has some emails regarding his claimed Oxford credentials.
"Always check the references" is sound advice, together with "Always check the footnotes".
In a long career working in the Jewish community, I have come across numerous fantasists, let alone the occasional con man (not that I am saying that Gafni is necessarily either, as I know nothing about him).
They range from the yeshivish Sefardi who claimed that he was a consultant brain surgeon and nuclear scientist ("they only call me in on special projects"), last heard of employed in a responsible kashrus capacity by a leading Bet Din, to the shoe salesman who claimed to be a major Canadian investor and was wined and dined by various Israeli municipalities and ministries for several weeks until some of us in Jerusalem stopped to think. Plus a few!!!
The most outrageous, still hanging around J-m I believe, claimed (claims?) to be a survivor of Babi Yar who was smuggled into England in the middle of the war, became an Anglican vicar and then mysteriously 'discovered his roots' and became an anti-missionary campaigner.
Despite compiling a formidable file on this character -- who, for various reasons I believe to be the most far-out Evangelical Christian you will ever meet -- the one thing I never found out was his real name, which is certainly not S****l *****ng. (Anyone have info? email@example.com is the address, or post here).
Posted by Paul Shaviv at 1:35 AM