Monday, June 05, 2006

And for this, he gets detention!

My Dad graduated from high school in 1959 and my mom in 1962. I have asked them on occasion, "When you were in school, what would have happened if a student said 'XXX' to a teacher?" Their answer is usually, "No student would have said that to a teacher." So I say, "OK, work with me here. Let's say that the student did say it, what would have happened?" The answer is always, "That student would have been expelled." I often think about these conversations with my parents when I take note of the penny-ante punishments that students at my school receive for the dumbass things that they do, over and over again.

I have observed that what used to get you expelled, now gets you suspended. What used to get you suspended, now gets you detention. What used to get you detention... you get the point. Here is a perfect example:

A couple of days ago, I was walking out of my classroom right at the end of the school day. I noticed two eighth graders - a boy I knew, and a girl I didn't - having a serious verbal confrontation. They were all up in each other's faces pointing and yelling. I told them to break it up and get off campus as all students are required to do at the end of the day. They complied and I began walking away. Not five seconds later, they were right back at it. I went back to them and told them to either break it up, or they would both accompany me to the office to call home. The girl complied and walked away. The boy? Well, the boy decided to test me. This boy - we will call him Syd'Quan (his real name is almost as ridiculous) - began to smart off to me, telling me that he didn't have to leave and that he could do anything he wanted. I told Syd'Quan to accompany me to the office, and he refused to comply. I again told Syd'Quan to come with me, because he needed to call home. He again refused to comply, this time saying to me, "No! Get the fuck out of my face!" At that point, I could see that this was hopeless, so I told him I would be writing a referral and have a nice day. I marched straight to the office, filled out the referral, and turned it into the VP's box.

This morning, I checked my mailbox and saw that I got my copy of the referral back from the VP. And what did young Mr. Syd'Quan receive from the VP for his offense? He received a call home from the VP, he was called into the VP's office where he received a review of the proper conduct page in our school agenda/planner, and an hour of detention before school. WOW! Excuse me while I stand here astonished at the harsh measures handed out to our young transgressor.

This little bucket of goo told me to "get the fuck out of my face" and he gets an hour of detention?! Hell, why not tell that to a teacher if that is all that is going to happen to you? I recently read about what makes teachers want to leave the profession, and right up there was lack of support from administration. I don't plan on leaving the teaching profession any time soon, but things like this make me see how some could want to. We are, to borrow a famous phrase from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, defining deviancy down. If you plunked my school into a time machine and took these kids back to, say, 1959, probably half of them would be expelled or suspended on their first day. Even who we often consider to be "good" kids would have trouble adjusting, because again, what is accepted now as "good" would have been considered borderline 40 or 50 years ago.

It is a shame to watch as the inmates run the asylum.

Good Day to You, Sir


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that it all depends on the school and the administration of that school.

My nephew, who is 14, recently got a full day's detention because he broke a rule that is minor in comparison to your young lad's behavior. He was told to go the office after a verbal argument with another student. On the way, a friend of his asked him where he was going so he stopped to tell him. Well the teacher who sent him to the office saw this and told him that since he can't follow the rules, he would have all day detention the next day.

I'm not saying that his breaking the rules shouldn't have gotten him in trouble, but compared to your young "gentleman's" behavior and discipline, it almost seems extreme.

Maybe it's just the difference in kids and the areas that they live.


George said...

True enough. I am no liberal, but when I consider the behaviors that some of my "good" kids have exhibited over the years, I have to adjust what I expect. Not much surprises me. One of my sweetest students cussed out a kid and threatened to fight her,right in my classroom, etc, etc. She later apologized.

I also think that anonymity plays a role; I don't know most of the kids I have had to deal with. Having worked with rougher kids I have found that the way I approach them is important and can lessen conflict. I have approached students who have their cellphone out during lunch and said something like, " Oh, wow, what a bummer . . . you must have forgotten about our cell phone policy? What is your name? Hi, I'm Mr. Mimmen. Look, I need you to come with me to the office because we just don't allow these things out on campus. Can I see it? Nice phone. Is it off? Ok, well let's go (I have their phone in hand)". Off we go to the office, with the kid's head in a 360 turn. No kidding they almost say thank you.

I think the teachable moments come after the anger.

Polski3 said...

Yep, a lack of administrative support for discipline, coupled with the fact that teachers usually can enforce no meaningful discipline for troublemakers and other disruptive students in their own classrooms has been a major factor in keeping people from making teaching a profession.

IMO, we teachers can thank the courts for this mess.

Have a good rest of the school year!