As with any school, Renaissance College has had its fair share of instances where students believe they were treated unjustly by their teachers. For the most part, these claims vary in both truthfulness and actual importance, but a few months ago I met a fellow student who told me a story that I believe deserves to be heard.Student X is the alias I will use for someone I met a few months ago, who claimed he and his classmates were sent to counselling on the premise that they were ‘socially bullying’ a fellow groupmate. For the sake of his requested anonymity few things can be said about Student X, other than the fact that he was angered and frustrated on what he believed to be an unfair accusation posed by the counsellor and the groupmate in question.For a group assignment in PE class, X and his group mates worked together on what he described as a ‘tournament’, a graded task that involved organisation and participation of a series of games, followed by a graded reflection presented in the form of a website. Student X claimed that throughout the assignment one group member was consistently unhelpful.”In our group there was this person who wasn’t participating well, and she wasn’t doing her job properly.” He stated. “So basically we told that person to do their job and she denied not not doing it.”It is not uncommon for a group project to have at least one person that may not be pulling their weight. Such a situation is annoying, frustrating, and often creates a divide between the “worker” and “non-worker” parties of the group. No doubt the classmate in question felt that divide, as according to X she accused the group of deliberately excluding her from the tournament activities and talking behind her back.”So we played, and, basically in the end what happened was she didn’t want to play and then she blamed, actually I’m not going to say ‘blamed’, she misinterpreted and she thought that “oh these people are not actually letting me play”.” She later went to one of our school’s counsellors, and as you may have already guessed, he took her side on the drop of a puberty pamphlet (do we have those or is that just a Glee thing? Is referencing Glee cool?). “The counsellor talked to me and a few other students, and basically we talked about social bullying.” Social bullying according to Google is a form of bullying centered mainly around exclusion, or “Leaving someone out on purpose.” for the sake of damaging a person’s reputation and self esteem. In other words, Student X and his elitist gang were accused of bullying not through physical harm, verbal abuse or cyber attack, but rather one student simply feeling left out of a class assignment.There was also one other piece of evidence that led to the conviction of X and his group mates, and that apparently was a secret recording of student X and his group mates (in his words) “trash talking” their unhelpful group mate behind her back. This audio file was apparently recorded in class by another member of the group who was a friend of the group mate subject to the backtalk. The recording was then presented to the counsellor as evidence of social bullying. Student X claims this procurement of information is a violation of “the Hong Kong Basic Law Article 30”, which protects the privacy of communication among Hong Kong residents. While I myself am not capable of confirming whether that is breaking the law, I do find it funny how a guidance counsellor cares so much about people talking about someone behind their back (which happens to everyone all the time), but has little to no objection of people recording what was obviously meant to be a private conversation without the people’s consent or even knowledge. Moving on, student X explained how following the first of several counselling sessions, him and his group mates thought they were being unfairly judged and profiled to a near personal level. “We felt that we were attacked by the counsellor.” He stated simply. No doubt to provide much needed psychological closure to the wronged party, Student X and his group mates all had to apologise to the student they socially boycotted and had the decency to insult behind her back, but the assignment was still far from over. Whether to extend an olive branch of faith or just to further mess with the person, Student X recalled how the group asked the group mate to “make the website.” The website being the platform used to reflect on how their tournament went. “At first She said yes.” Student X said, “And then she said “Oh I don’t want to.” And then I’m like “Okay, just make it, just learn how to do it and make it.” And she felt very attacked by that, she must have misinterpreted what I said, so she went to the counsellor again.” To which the counsellor told student X later that he could have just “Teach her how to make the website.” And while that certainly would have been a nice thing to do, not doing that shouldn’t count as bullying, which given that this incident only led to more counselling sessions, was what the counsellor must have deemed it to be.In fact, after the group mate refused to put in the work, student X actually took it upon himself and completed the website on his own, just so he wouldn’t get a 2 for his final grade. Instead of being grateful, moved or at least just a bit relieved that someone else in the group did all the work, the group mate in question took yet another detour of emotional fragility, and accused student X of not thinking she was capable of completing the task herself (which according to him was true and the crux of the problem in the first place) and not putting any faith in her to get the job done.Wounds were reopened and it seemed that student X has reverted back to his old, dickish ways, and so he was sent to counselling once more. The group assignment ended a good three months ago now, but student X has only just finished his last counselling session a two weeks from when I am writing this. Often times at the end of a big story or really any story we want some kind of moral or message to tie it all together, and I have been thinking about what that message would be for this story. This usually means something or someone has to be wrong so we can learn from them or at best, judge them from a position of knowing better. In this case, obvious candidate would be the counsellor, and perhaps even the group mate to an extent, but it is from my experience as a top-notch journalist and a human being that most of the time, everyone is a bit wrong even while they think they are right. Maybe Student X really is everything the counsellor made him out to be: A callous and exclusionary strain on one’s self esteem. Perhaps he only agreed to share this story with me so he can use my superior writing ability as a way to paint himself as the righteous underdog and the counsellor who wronged him as the foolish tyrant who rules the school with an iron fist of guidance. In my opinion, I believe the only real crime student X committed was getting an uncooperative teammate and reacting the way someone does when they have an uncooperative teammate: 1) Ignoring the person more since they do little work so their opinion or suggestions wouldn’t be that valuable either, and 2) Venting his frustration on the matter by talking about the group mate behind the group mates BACK, which really is the nicest way to be mean to someone, because that’s literally saying everything bad you want to say about a person just not to their face or their knowledge, so you can get it out of your system and no one’s feelings get hurt. The truth is even while I admit on taking the side of Student X, I fully acknowledge and accept the fact that he that he could have done more to help his group mate and make less of a situation for himself.But even if Student X might have been a bit wrong, it should be said that the counsellor was more wrong.Let us for a moment discuss the purpose and role of a guidance counsellor in a student’s life. Guidance counsellors for the most part exist to provide emotional guidance to a student an important job especially for kids going through their adolescent years. I put emphasis on the term ‘guidance’ because I believe an important distinction must be made between ‘guidance’ and ‘aid’. ‘Guidance’ is helping a student unravel their own problems and setting them on the right path to confront them on their own. ‘Aid’, while used to achieve the same ultimate goal of making the student a happier and more fulfilled person, essentially means you put the job of fixing the students problems into your own hands, which is certainly easier and more convenient for someone with power like a teacher or a guidance counsellor. Say for instance you are a student and you feel excluded by your classmates so you seek the help of a guidance counsellor. Guidance would have a counsellor do some of the following things 1) Help the student decide whether his or her’s feelings of exclusion are real or simply a common product of insecurity and anxiety, 2) Teach the student ways to healthily convey their feelings and emotions if he/she is truly being exclude, 3) At most help establish some kind of communication or dialogue between the student and the people who are excluding him/her to both gain a better understanding of the situation and perhaps come to a quick resolution of the issue. Guidance while requiring empathy must quintessentially be based on impartiality, similar to that of a therapist or psychiatrist or any other profession focusing on mental wellbeing. Using the same example, a counsellor under the school of “Aid” would typically do something like the following: 1) Take the side of the person seeking the aid, 2) Intervening and, in the case of counsellors, using pre-existing power to give some form of punishment for the alleged to give instant satisfaction to the person seeking aid. Truthfully, both guidance and aid are important parts of a student’s well being, however I think in the post-bullying culture we live in today we have gotten a bit mixed up in which place should go where. Emotional aid should come from friends and family, people that would theoretically already provide you with unconditional support and confidence, while emotional guidance should come from teachers and counsellors, the people in your life that would encourage you to work and improve yourself to be better prepared for the future. The bottom line is that a good guidance counsellor would do more to actually teach a student how to confront the feeling of exclusion or other bad feelings rather than directly intervening and depriving them of a chance to grow as a person. A good guidance counsellor would also not use secretly recorded conversations as any kind of motive or agenda. Which is why I think the guidance counsellor was definitely the wrong party in this story. Boom. Moral.So in conclusion, we can learn all kinds of things from each person in this story. From the group mate we learn that maybe the respect and availability of your peers has something to do with how much work you actually put in for the group. From student T, we learn that even if it may not seem deserved or right for you, helping someone will always end better for you at least. And finally from the guidance counsellor, we learn that I really hope he doesn’t read this article, because I could definitely go to counselling for this.


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