Class-chat groups have been a restless place since their emergence, but during the time of quarantine and distance education, parents’ fights in such groups can actually end in real tragedies: a person died, because of a quarrel in a class-chat group in Volgograd, and another quarrel led to a massive fist fight in St. Petersburg. Irina Lukyanova, a teacher and journalist, reflects on whether it is possible to adjust the communication of parents in such groups and what is needed for this.
Naturally, many people demanded to prohibit class-chat groups or to regulate communication in them.
According to Znak.com, Marina Balueva, co-chair of the Teacher trade union, proposed abandoning class-chat groups and declaring them illegitimate, and transferring communication to moderated forums, since people cannot communicate calmly in them.
Many parents perceived this proposal as an attempt to prohibit self-organization from below, and teachers were anxious whether they would be forced to moderate these groups, even though they already have enough workload.
Meanwhile, banning class-chat groups is no easier than closing a country, and how to recognize them as illegitimate is also unclear. I personally did not participate in them, because my youngest son graduated from school a year before they appeared. However, since the appearance of such class-chat groups, mothers among my acquaintances have endlessly complained about streams of meaningless messages, discussions on what gifts to buy for Teacher’s Day to the class teacher that go on and on for days, a flow of flickering pictures on the occasion of any holiday, messages about homeless animals that need a new home, and endless quarrels between nervous parents for any reason. Many people simply turn off notifications from such groups in order to concentrate on their work.
Moreover it is almost impossible to moderate the class-chat group: a person has to be in the group around the clock to notify, reconcile those who are quarreling, and ban spammers. So the group’s advantages are rapidly turning into disadvantages, because a communication group which has no rules quickly becomes littered.
“Administrator is always right” and other rules
This is no secret to anyone. It is for self-defense that Internet communities have to develop rules for communication, prescribe its rules and appoint arbitrators from among their midst. So from the anonymous chat rooms of the late 90s – early 2000s, when no one could be recognized by their nicknames and could say anything, we have come to communication on social networks under our own names. By the way, a few inappropriate words can result in major damage to one’s reputation, financial loss, career and personal disaster. Until each group develops its own rules of communication, the loudest and most aggressive members of the community will set the tone of the discussion.
Starting from 2003 and until recently, I administered my forum for parents, which has grown from 3 members to over 14 thousands. For some time, we managed to exist on the tacit agreements of educated people, but when the number of participants went to hundreds, we had to introduce rules. Sometimes mild ones: three warnings, then a ban for a certain period, after two short-term bans – a permanent ban. Sometimes they are strict: a person could receive ban immediately, forever, and without discussion. Sometimes I had to resolve conflicts between parents, in which both sides sent me tons of private messages, accused me of bias, prejudice and other sins. I had to introduce a rule that “administrator is always right”.
The many years of experience in this work proved invaluable. I learned to ask clarifying questions, to rephrase sentences in a way that would not be offensive, and to make comments in a neutral tone. For example, you cannot calm down an overexcited participant with the words “stop being rude”, but you can say “your last remark contains sharp personal attacks towards N, this is a violation of forum rule number 22”. This isn’t offensive. I can’t say “grow up already, why do I have to separate you like two fighting children?” Because obviously they will tell me that the administrator is behaving incorrectly. I had to learn to behave correctly even when I wanted, like Don Rumata, to take a sword and chop everyone into pieces. Indeed, it’s hard to be an administrator.
Sometimes it was necessary to take drastic and controversial measures. For example, in 2014, I had to strictly prohibit any discussion of what was happening in Ukraine. The simple reason is the moderator team, which then consisted of eight people, did not have the opportunity to separate, persuade, notify, ban people twenty four hours a day, and I didn’t want to see as the community of people who gathered there to support each other was falling apart with curses. Indeed, the goal was to create a space of love and mutual assistance.
To give in is a sign of weakness
It turned out that parents are very vulnerable people and that children are the very Achilles heel by which you can grab each of them and give them a lot of pain. It turned out that they had learned to defend themselves against anyone who they suspected of willing to hurt them, so they attacked first. It turned out that everyone was taught to fight to the finish and to not give up: if they really can’t win, at least they can bite. Everyone was confident that only the strongest, the most assertive, the loudest, and the most aggressive are right. They believed that the evidence of weakness was to remain silent, to compromise, and to yield. They were sure that they would immediately be hurt by the stronger ones.
It turned out that only this rule works at school. This is how they communicated with each other, this is how they communicated with teachers, this is how they were taught to communicate as children. This is inherent in a culture that, due to some misunderstanding, still considers itself Christian. But this is the culture of the offended and beaten children who are in a hurry to hit first, so as not to seem weak.
At the same time, it never occurred to anyone that if a country doesn’t want its citizens to kill each other over quarrels in a class-chat group, then the slogan “we can do that again” is not enough. In the Great Patriotic War, which was laid in the foundation of all educational concepts and which has been especially remembered in our country in the past ten years, people didn’t fight in order to prove that they were stronger, but for humanism, against the rights of the stronger, against superhuman.
Children are brought up to fight, not to live. Kill and die, not make up and negotiate. All educational work is built around this war, as it was in our childhood. Parents themselves were taught to fight to the finish and they teach their children the same: hit right away, fight back, you have to put your money where your mouth is.
Certainly, all programs of tolerance, the struggle against bullying, school reconciliation services, school ombudsmen, conflict commissions and other attempts to at least somehow humanize the teacher-child-parent environment do not take root and seem to be either a dangerous heresy or an attempt by globalists to corrupt our traditional spiritual and moral values and to destroy the bonds.
Although it seems so simple: you have been offended, just forgive them. You were slapped on one cheek, just turn the other also. Try to explain to any child and any adult, except those who sincerely and firmly believe in Christ’s teaching, what it means to turn the other cheek and why this is a sign of strength and not weakness. I’m not even talking about the times when the concepts of “humility” and “meekness” are suddenly thrown into the final essay for schoolchildren, nothing but shame comes out of this: it would be lucky, if a student at least remembers the name “Karataev” and that he was mending a shirt for a French enemy.
Can you really not strike somebody right away?
There is no need for complicated matters. Don’t talk about the left and right cheeks, about meekness, about soft and kind strength right away [with your children- Tr]. You can start with teaching your children to not strike somebody in the eye right away, but to negotiate first.
Even adults can be taught this: instead of throwing insults, one can end the conversation and call a moderator. It works. Moreover, after several years of consistent work in this direction, adults say to each other: you are not very polite now, this is unacceptable, let’s stop, otherwise we have come to a very heated argument.
This self-regulation also works in the other direction: towards anonymous complaints, which in our culture are perceived as snitching, towards moderator arbitrariness, excessive strictness of rules and overregulation, which, for example, Facebook users complain about. The pendulum is still swinging back and forth: the golden mean is difficult to achieve.
But this does not mean that one should not strive for it.
A space of safe and friendly communication is also good because it requires fewer emotional resources. It is more useful. It is comfortable and safe in it. After all, if there is no way to teach the whole country to live in peace, you can try to create some peace around you.
And teaching children this important skill is to live in peace.
Translated by pravmir.com