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Head teacher Chris Fenton offers classroom tips for teachers, students and parents.

Another week, another atrocity. First it was a white supremacist in America using a car to kill and maim people who didn't have the same radical views as him. Then in Barcelona a speeding van ploughed into families on holiday and people of all creed, age and colour enjoying a beautiful city on a sunny afternoon in Spain.

It's terrifying that anyone would want to do such things, but without wanting to sound too controversial, the evil perpetrators of these crimes just look so young, one of the criminals involved in the Barcelona attack was only 17, how does that happen?

How do young people at the start of their lives with so much ahead of them become so disenfranchised and turned off to life and the positive things within it?

This is a complex question. I often talk about how parents are the biggest educators of children and how children mirror what they see at home until, if at all, they learn better, but can we honestly believe that all of these violent criminals have daddy issues?

A troubled home life is where these problems will undoubtedly start, but not always and not necessarily with fathers and family members spouting radicalised views. It inevitably will start with a sense of powerlessness that stems from a lack of love, guidance and support at home and a child who feels powerless will do whatever they can to create some level of control in their lives.

This might manifest itself in eating disorders, abuse of substances or on the flip-side bullying, violence towards other people or dismissive, aggressive behaviour towards teachers, but no matter how it starts, it will undoubtedly be a dangerous time for young adults and this is where, in my opinion, teachers are the biggest hope for children who are so obviously lost.

Every teacher at some point has come across a child who is rebelling or demonstrating extreme behaviour and undoubtedly what they will have expected them to do is conform to a system of rules that offers them nothing.

These young adults don't feel like they fit in so why would they want to fit in to system of rules that won't help them. Making them outlaws doesn't help either.

There is an old phrase that states 'birds of a feather flock together' - that's how gangs are formed. In the case of lost and lonely teenage souls, those who want to groom young minds know that if they can just make them feel like they belong to something they can start the brainwashing and once these lost souls are introduced to each other then the job of the recruiter is done and brothers-in-arms are born. Teachers need to change the ways in which they help children and young adults who may feel marginalised. Rather than expecting them to fit the norms of the discipline policies, they should begin to consider needs rather than punishments as a means of breaking down the barriers of isolation because in doing so we can lessen the chances of extremist groomers, capitalising on the confusion of adolescence and gathering up those most susceptible to recruit.

We have got try something new in schools in the 21st Century because in doing so even if we aren't making kids better we've got to stop making them worse.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Aug 24, 2017
Words:574
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