What a load of Ed Balls

Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Education in the UK, wants “cyberbullying” of teachers to be a disciplinary offence. Apparently, school pupils sometimes ridicule their teachers in online chat rooms and on social networking sites. Well knock me down with a feather, there’s a shock.

Look, Mr Balls, children have always taken the mickey out of their teachers – and politicians. But there is a common theme. I remember my Latin teacher, Mr Beattie or “Bogroll” as we called him. He was a nice enough chap, but wholly unable to cope with 30 teenage boys. No doubt he knew his Latin well, but he couldn’t teach. We mercilessly took the rise.

Sure, it’s unfair; certainly it’s rude; and perhaps you could call it bullying. But it’s a fact of life for bad teachers. There’s the common link – pupils do not take the mickey out of good teachers. They like them and they would defend them against criticism. Poor teachers, on the other hand – like poor politicians – get ridiculed.

What Mr Balls fails to realise is that he can’t stop the online ridicule of bad teachers. Indeed, even if he did stop it, children would still take the mickey out of poor teaching in the playground. What’s he going to do? Introduce “playground police” so that children can’t bad mouth teachers?

Here’s the point – good teachers don’t get ridiculed. And it’s the same for business. I often get asked by business owners “how do we stop getting negative comments about us in social networking sites”? Well the answer is the same as I’d give to Ed Balls – stop doing bad things.

Online businesses get negative comments because they fail to live up to the expectations of their customers. Teachers get criticised in social networking sites because they fail to live up to the expectations of pupils.

The answer is not to focus (like Ed Balls is doing) on the negative commentary – but instead to look at the cause of the ridicule. In the education world that means Mr Balls should really be concentrating on getting rid of bad teachers, rather than disciplining the school children. Equally, in business, if you get negative comments about you online, you should focus on improving your business, rather than handling the poor publicity.

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