Saturday, March 05, 2005

Teacher Freaks Out

Speaking of teaching, this is how you *don't* do it. The story is that a high school teacher yanked a chair out from under a student who refused to stand for the national anthem. Apparently the kids who taped this aren't exactly angels, and were hoping to catch the teacher in a bad moment. However, one thing you don't get to do is do anything physical to a student -- however much it may seem to be deserved, or how angry you get. You don't have the luxury of "losing it" in a classroom; if you feel like you are close to that point, then you have to stop and re-think what you are doing. Because if you are getting angry, then you are the one handling the situation badly. Now, I'm as human as any other teacher, and there are some kids that will push my buttons -- but I always remember that I'm dealing with someone else's child, and there are limits. Probably the worst I have ever done is say things I probably shouldn't have said -- I once had a parent upset at me because I yelled "What the hell are you doing?" at a student, during a situation where the whole class had been difficult to control, and I was getting pretty frustrated. But I certainly have never laid an angry hand on a student. I'd be scared that if I pulled a chair out from under a kid, he'd hurt himself somehow, and then I'd be in real big trouble. Subs are vulnerable; I don't have tenure, or even a contract, and a school district can simply decide they don't want to call me anymore -- they don't even have to take the trouble of firing me.

If I had a kid that didn't stand during the pledge or national anthem, I would simply assume that they had some religious reason for doing so, and would have let it pass. I don't think patriotism is a thing you can force out of somebody anyway. Now, if a kid was being deliberately rude or disruptive during the national anthem, that would be a different story, and I'd have written him up for it.


Anonymous said...

I called the school, and when given the menu for whom I wanted to speak with, I selected the school nurse.

I told the nurse that I was concerned about the health of the teacher mentioned, because he's clearly on his way to an early grave from a heart attack. She slipped up once and actually laughed, but for the most part was very terse and offered to transfer me to the principal.

It was the first time in my life that I was thrilled to be sent to the Principal's Office.

Karen said...

LOL!! I suspect this teacher is a macho type that has never figured out that losing one's temper is a sign of weakness, not strength -- but clearly the kids know this. The best teachers manage to assert their authority seemingly without effort. I don't always live up to this ideal myself, but my "nightmare" days are less frequent as I gain more experience. I had one class I could settle down just by glaring at them, although the minute I took my eyes off them, they'd get rowdy. So I spent the whole class period standing in front of them and looking stern.

However, whatever a teacher's flaws, I can't approve of the way the kids in that class were treating him. Yes, he went too far, but it was not without provocation.

I do have some questions, though:

First, why was this teacher doing patriotic exercises in third period? Is this one of those schools where the schedule rotates? To me, it seems that if patriotic exercises are a problem, then they can be dispensed with. I know that opinion won't go down well with some people, but my first obligation is to teach, and if doing a particular activity is interfering with that, then I wouldn't mess with it.

Secondly, how long has this guy been teaching? His lack of classroom management skills seems to point to someone who is inexperienced. Either that, or you have a guy who has stuff going on in his life, to the point where's he's just falling apart generally.

He should not have even attempted to start singing the national anthem until he got the class quietly standing. (If a kid is quietly sitting, he should be ignored. If he doesn't have a religious or political reason for skipping patriotic stuff, then he's baiting -- don't take the bait.)

The teacher should have just said "I asked for quiet.", not yelling, but in a tone that means business. If the class is still rowdy, then you say "O.k., start over. Everyone sit down again." You don't go on to the next step until you get what you want out of the kids.

That last sentence is worth repeating: You don't go on to the next step until the kids have done what you want. Otherwise, you've thrown your own authority away. If you've told the kids to stop talking, then you don't even try to do anything else until you've got quiet.

If the class is really impossible, start writing the worst offenders up and sending them to the office. If chaos still reigns, and kids are just resolutely defiant, then call the office for backup. If the office won't back you up, then the school has bigger problems than kids who won't sing the national anthem.