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Friday, March 06, 2009

Back Us Up, Already!

There comes a point when all you can do as a teacher is throw up your hands. The aim of the game is to nurture the minds and foster the attitudes that guarantee the highest level of success for each and every student who crosses our threshold. So, we have a curriculum, we know what we have to teach, so we teach. Or try to. We then realize that not an awful lot of teaching or learning can go on when the kids are up out of their seats, listening to mp3 players, texting friends, talking, shouting, laughing, singing, and/or fighting. So we have to address the attitude side of their education. We’re preparing them for life beyond the school walls, right? So they have to know how to behave to be able to hold down any sort of job and be successful in interactions with other human beings. To do this, we have to lay down expectations, rules, rewards, and consequences. We reward them when they do the right thing, and remind, warn, then punish the ones who don’t. Makes sense, right?

So you’ve got this student... You tell him to get back to his seat and begin the assignment, but he doesn’t want to. He’s over chatting to his friends and only acknowledges you’ve said anything at all by rolling his eyes. You prompt him again, and he tells you he hasn’t finished his story to his friends, who then laugh before he carries on with his anecdote. Everyone looks at you. You’ve been forced into the position of telling them who’s the boss, or they’ll walk all over you. So you tell him he has one more chance to sit down before you’re forced to write up the behavior. He responds by saying it’s a fucking lame class, all teachers are fucking lame, and everyone needs to get off his fucking back. He starts to go back to his desk as slow as possible and grins at his peers to remind them who really is the boss. (This is a hypothetical scenario based on actual events. I have seen these things happen, but I’m not thinking of a specific student or event at this time.) So you pull out the referral and start writing. The student gets even louder now, angry with you. It wasn’t that serious, why do teachers be makin’ such a big deal out of little things? Got nothin’ better to do, that’s why… etc. The entire class is still watching you, looking at the kid once in a while and laughing at his profanity. Some of the nicer kids are staring at the floor, silent.

So the referral goes to the administrator. He reads it and calls the student in. This may happen days later, during which time, the kid continues to return to your class and causing problems. The rest of the class continues to look at you and wonder why you’re taking that kind of crap. They even say so out loud. Finally, he gets called in to the principal’s office. You breath a sigh of relief. He may not listen to you, but he may listen to someone who actually has the power to make his life a little miserable. The next day, the kid is back in your class and boasting that he didn’t get any consequence. The next time it gets bad enough to have to write him up, he says he doesn’t care because nothing is going to happen. You find out later that the principal felt he had a great discussion with the kid. They’ve developed a rapport. A relationship. In fact, the kid likes the principal so much, he asks to go to him any time he’s starting to get himself in trouble or if something is just on his mind. This translates to his leaving some class or another a few times a week at least. He tells all his teachers that at least that administrator is on his side, even though all the teachers are out to get him.

At some point, that administrator starts to notice that this kid is getting more and more referrals from all his teachers. He’s getting worse in his classes. So he tries to step down from the “buddy” role and into the role of disciplinarian by trying to call the kid over to talk to him. The kid now realizes he’s lost his one “ally” and gets angry again. He walks away from the principal who is trying to talk to him and even goes so far as to slam a classroom door in the principal’s face. The principal unlocks the door, stands in the doorway and repeatedly asks the kid to come with him. The kid continues to refuse. Security has to be called and the kid is carted off to the office. HE STILL GETS NO CONSEQUENCE. Perhaps the principal doesn’t want to ruin the “rapport” they’ve built up. No one’s really sure and no one wants to ask. The kid continues to run the hallway here, doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants. (I remind you, these are all events that really took place, I’m just mixing together circumstances of three kids together).

So… Can proper teaching take place? Nope. Can a rapport be built up between the teacher and the student when it appears to the student that the teacher is unfair and “out to get him”, because the principal obviously doesn’t have a problem with the behaviors, so the fault must lie with the teacher. Now, we are held accountable for the scores this kid, and all the others, get when the graduation test rolls around. We also have to accept the grey hairs we get from being forced to put up with this crap on a daily basis. We have to deal with the monster they created. The parents already think we’re just out to hate their kids, do we really need the same attitude from our administrators? Does no one have our backs but us?

This past week, a kid came to school with a knife. He was “talked to” and wasn’t given any consequence. One of my guys skipped a class ten times. He got one day of in-school suspension for it. That same kid stole a phone from another student and the principal wondered if it really was “theft” per se, because it was on the floor when my student found it, pocketed it, and sold it and even CONFESSED to all of that. He was given no consequence for this because he had to be removed from the building for fighting and so that time out was kinda good enough to cover this little problem too. And now you want me to get this kid to pass? I’m sorry, I must have left my magic wand in my other pair of bloody uncomfortable maternity jeans. I don't have any personal problem with our principals, we just need to take a step back and examine this situation TOGETHER.

I don’t work miracles. Stop complaining when I don’t.

3 comments:

Bdubba said...

Wowee wow wow! I miss my friends like you from up there but not situations like this. Where I am now may not be perfect but the inmates are not running the prison.

My Evidence: In one of my classes a girl comes up to me during a lab saying that she had a camera in an open pocket of her backpack and now it is not there (she also tells me she knows she is not supposed to have that kind of digital equipment with her and it is her own fault for having it here but it was taken - accepting responsibility for her actions --> Yea!). I called security (as I was trying to make sure no one got hurt with the chemicals they were supposed to be mixing in lab and therefore did not have time to deal with this myself )who show up to my room, question a couple of students one at a time outside the door. Then the police show up as stealing is against the law. 3 'suspects' get escorted to the office. One finally confesses and is carted directly off to juvey not passing go, not collecting $200. In fact after his 3 day stint there he is in OSS for 5 more days.

This is one example but I am shocked at how much student accountability there is here on a campus of 3300 students. Again it is not perfect but closer than any other school I have been at.

Hugs to you....I wish I could do more to help....all I can do is empathize - been there, done that. :(

Julia S. said...

Not being a teacher and only having sat on the student side of things, I can honestly say in our old-fashioned high school, beating worked. Oh yes, in the 80's they still got away with that. The football coaches would froth at the mouth to get a hold of the trouble makers and make them run laps... Of course there were abuses, but man, our school didn't have the crap going on in them that they do today. (I sound like such a crotchety old lady right now) Corporal punishment is NECESSARY! Especially if you have a crazy principal (our was named Pluto - no joke) it would work like a charm. Did I love school? To some extent. Was I terrified of the teachers? You bet! Some of these precious little spawns from hell would really benefit from a visit with Mr. Pluto! I feel for you - I really do!

Hepius said...

Our school has its discipline issues, but nothing like this. 5 to 10 day suspension for the profanity and insubordination. Possibly even a citation from the police. Definite police involvement for any knife issue.

How can education occur when there is no feeling of security for both teachers and students?