The Percolating Thought
I’ve had a thought percolating through my brain off and on for some time now. What About Everyone Else (A Sure Way to Shatter the System)? deals with a question that keeps bubbling up and demanding a response.
It was the quote by Ed Allen, president of the American Federation of Teachers for Oklahoma City that grabbed me. It was in the October 31, 2015, article in the Oklahoman, written by Tim Willert.
Mr. Allen noted that parents and community members should “have a sense of outrage” when it comes to the daily harassment teachers and students are forced to deal with as a result of the efforts of a small, but unrelenting group of individuals.
Who Else Sees This?
My teaching career was pretty much like everyone else’s. On the other hand, there were times when I seemed to be experiencing students from a different dimension. I heard about quiet, compliant children from my colleagues who bore no resemblance to the individuals filling the chairs in my room.
What the heck was going on? How were my experiences so contrary to the classrooms my colleagues professed to be enjoying?
I discovered that the responses changed depending on who else was listening in when my questions were asked. When there were no administrators and no more than two other teachers participating, meaningful dialog was my prize.
My Trippy Little Question
My question was simple. “Who is the classroom supposed to serve?” Simple, but not easy, because it was followed with bemusement and dismay.
Now, we all know about the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) of 1974. This law specifies that no State shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin. It goes on to require school districts to take action to overcome barriers to students’ equal participation.
Yet, did you know that it also prohibits discrimination against faculty and staff?
Yep! It does.
It’s my contention that the behaviors that teachers and 85% of our students endure every day are in violation of the EEOA of 1974.
This barrier to learning is heaped on us by the remaining 15% who cannot, or will not exhibit normal classroom behavior and disrupt our lessons to the fullest extent of their abilities.
These numbers are based on my experiences and those of my colleagues. In the average class of 30 students, there seems to be a consistent average of five who live to dominate the teacher and fellow students.
Let me draw your attention back to my original question.
“Who is the classroom supposed to serve? The law of the land clearly states that it is to serve all students.
An Upward Trend
I’ve watched the incidence of disruptive students grow over the 20 years I’ve spent in public school classrooms. Perhaps you’ve witnessed the same things my colleagues have reported. The number of disruptive students per class has grown as has the severity of the disruptions.
I can also represent with complete honesty that never once did the behaviors stop after talking with the student, the parent/guardian, or administration. The only relief was the arrival of the end of the school year.
A sense of helpless desperation sets in when you realize that the same individuals are going to show up in your room at the beginning of the new term.
- The names change
- The faces change
- The particular type of disruptions change
- The results remain the same
You and the students who have a desire to benefit from your information are short-changed by the few who have learned a different lesson. They’ve learned that they can do almost anything they choose with near to complete immunity.
Sorry, but I’d be lying to you if I did. If you look at the article, The Bullied Teacher you’ll discover stories like the one told by Sarah Sorge. She points out how bullying campaigns almost never mention the problem of students bullying teachers. In an attempt to get along and keep their jobs, most teachers just suffer in silence.
In a study about understanding and preventing violence against teachers, two points were noted:
- 80% of about 3,000 K-12 teachers surveyed felt victimized by students, students’ parents or colleagues in the past year.
- Teachers reported that students were most often behind the verbal intimidation, obscene gestures, cyberbullying, physical offenses, theft or damage to personal property.
I’ve had principals suggest that students should speak up and tell the kids disturbing them to be quiet. But, many of these disruptors operate from a point of fear.
They threaten and intimidate the teacher and get away with it, so what’s going to stop them from threatening and intimidating a classmate, or worse? Most students simply sit quietly, looking at the teacher with pleading eyes to do something, anything, to get rid of the disrupters.
A student in one of the classes I taught constantly brought lessons to a screeching halt with outbursts and accusations that had no seeming connection with reality. Whenever he left the room to go to the restroom, several students would beg me to lock him out and not let him back in.
They were not joking. No one wanted to endure his wrath. He was removed from my class the day a campus security officer heard him planning my demise. Wondering what I had done to deserve such disdain? I was the replacement for his previous year’s teacher, and bore some resemblance to her. That’s all he needed.
If everyone is entitled to an education, why are the majority of students having their educations hijacked?
If the law says schools must overcome the barriers to making full access happen, doesn’t that mean these out-of-control few must be compelled to behave or other options found for them?
The folks that seem to be calling the shots in public education today have made the terrible assumption that every child sitting in a classroom wants to be there, wants to do well, and has some notion of how that should be done.
Questions for the Powers That Be
What happens in the classroom when teachers have students that prevent the majority from getting the education they come to class every day hoping to receive?
What happens to those students? Do we want to tell them to live their school years in quiet desperation. That’s exactly what they’re being forced to do when well-meaning, but misguided individuals impose conditions that perpetuate the chaos in our classrooms.
Our society needs to determine just what school is all about. They consume a huge chunk of our budgets. Our children invest 13+ years of their lives in classrooms.
If school is about helping mold capable citizens through academic knowledge, skills, and abilities, then we need to create environments that allow that to happen.
That means not fooling around with students who can’t or won’t get their acts together. Allowing them to impede everyone else’s progress is unconscionable.
The adults in charge need to be allowed the authority to act like adults in charge. Not like dictators, not like thugs. But, like the caring adults they are, prepared and able to guide students to successful modes of behavior. Behavior that will ensure their assimilation into society as functional adults.
If that isn’t going to happen, then we need to rethink the whole proposition of public education. The tax-paying public is not getting their money’s worth as it currently exists.
An Alternative to Teaching
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