Back in my high school, we used to have a room called the “Responsible Thinking Classroom” (RTC). This room was tucked away in a little corner of the school like a forgotten child, with tiny grilled windows which reminded me of a jail cell; a huge desk at the corner where one of the disciplinary staff members would sit in; and chairs lined up like a uniformed army from the back to the front. When there was a lack of empty seats, the carpeted floor would have to suffice. In that extremely claustrophobic room, there was only one thing that made it seem like a paradise — the airconditioner that saved us from the humidity outside. I have no idea if the AC was there to cool off the sweaty kids who were sent to the room, or to provide comfort for the staff who had to spend hours looking after the ‘troubled’ kids. Regardless, I sought pleasure in that AC. After realizing that it was pointless to fight against the school’s system and being regarded as a ‘troubled’ kid, I tuned my mind to picture it as a temporary haven which was cosy and cool, instead of a claustrophobic jail cell.

What in the world is the RTC for, you would think. Well, sit tight. Till this day, I ridicule at the logic of having that room because to certain kids, it did them more harm than good.

According to responsiblethinking.com, the “Responsible Thinking Process (RTP) is a process that teaches respect for others by fostering responsible thinking.” It also states that if it is used in the right manner, the child would be able to develop responsible habits and learn to respect others. Another sentence that sounds awesome in theory: “This unique classroom discipline process is both non-manipulative and non-punitive. It creates mutual respect by teaching students how to think through what they are doing in relation to the rules of wherever they are. This gives students personal accountability for their actions.”

You might think that this is an extremely great idea because ‘unruly’ kids should be more respectful towards people around them. In reality, it was a painful process.

Teachers could send you to the RTC for just any reason. i.e. You were late for school; you forgot your prayer book at home (I was from a Catholic school); your badge was crooked and not aligned properly on your uniform; you failed to cut your fingernails. Based on all these reasons, you could be sent to the RTC where you would be given a pink or blue paper with a number of questions that you had to answer.

1. What are you doing?
2. What are the rules?
3. What happens when you break the rules?
4. Is this what you want to happen?
5. Where do you want to be/what do you want to do now?
6. What will happen if you disrupt again?
• The next part of the process is implemented if
A) The student chooses not to work with the teacher and answer the questions
OR
B) The student agrees not to disrupt again but then chooses to do so (IN ANY WAY)
• The teacher then says.
7. “I see you have chosen to leave”

How in the world is this not manipulative?! For the most part, there was only ONE answer for each question — and that’s if you wanted to leave the room. Otherwise, you could be sent home if you don’t get the answers right after a few tries. Once conditioned to receiving that bunch of bullshit questions, kids could normally answer them without much thought — almost a mechanical process. However, some would pen their answers down in the slowest possible way because of the wonderful AC. Why would they want to brave the humidity when the school felt that those questions were more beneficial to their well-being than learning and enriching their minds in their regular classroom? Rebels, you might think. But hey, think about it from another perspective. When you are being sent to the RTC countless of times, being subjected to humiliation of being an outcast, and being hated by the staff because you simply failed to follow the rules, a perfectly normal kid would start to question themselves as well. Some would develop low self-esteem issues, others would build psychological walls to protect themselves from bullshit, and others would simply pretend that all of of these mattered nothing to them. Regardless, some of these kids would have repressed emotions and fail to recognize their true potential and worth in society because of the lack of real guidance in their growing years.

We can not disagree that everyone in the world is wired differently. I am different from you, you from your parents, and so on. This system might work for some, but definitely not the entire cohort. I was one of those kids who suffered through this system and I absolutely detest it. Growing up is not easy at times, and it is worse when you are trying to work against a system just because your mind is wired differently from others. Sometimes, I wish that the school counsellors could have provided me with the proper guidance instead of the simple subjection to that cold jail cell. But can I change my past? No, I can’t. But I can tell people that if you ever stumble on this system, use it wisely and understand the kid whom you are working with. Every kid has a spark in them, no matter how unruly they might seem to be.

And remember, we are all kids regardless of our age. We are still growing and learning about the world, society, people around us, and most importantly — ourselves. Give these kids a chance to speak up because the moment they repress their emotions, it would be tough to undo the tangled emotional knots.

RTP Questions Source: Everton Park State High School

Featured Photo Credits: Michelle Bartholomew