Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Another day in the trenches

This incident actually happened yesterday, but I finally have time to mention it. I thought you would all get a kick out of an anecdote about what we teachers face nowadays.

My student teacher took over my fourth period class a couple of months ago. Aside from some struggles with getting the class to settle down, she is doing a very good job after being thrown in the deep end. The other day, I was in the little connecting room off my classroom, having an impromptu conference with one of my students who is struggling socially. All of a sudden, my student teacher opened the door and ushered in Juan Gama. Juan is a little 8th grader with a bad case of Napoleanic complex and a penchant for doing practically nothing academic, both in class and at home. As my student teacher directed Juan toward a nearby seat, she informed me, "Juan was throwing Skittles at me and other students." This happened near the end of the period, so I had Juan stay in that seat until the bell rang and lunch began.

I had Juan stand at my desk as my student teacher wrote his referral, and then I was going to take Juan along with his referral to the office. While the referral was being written, Juan kept trying to leave the classroom without permission. Three times I told him to come back and wait until we were finished. The fourth time, he walked out the door and kept walking. I followed Juan out the door and walked alongside him, the whole time instructing him to go back to my classroom. Juan kept walking with this ridiculous looking stone-faced stare. After giving him five chances to go back to my classroom, I finally said, "Fine, have it your way. Keep walking to the office, but just know that you just dug your hole deeper." As Juan and I walked toward the office, he began spitting on the ground near my feet. Four or five different times, he hocked up some saliva and spit toward my feet, not hitting them, but spitting near them.

Isn't that awesome? The warm and fuzzy part is that it appears that nothing will happen to our young spitter. I turned in my student teacher's referral for the Skittle-throwing incident, along with my referral stapled to it, and I had a conference with the Vice Principal and Juan during my prep period yesterday. This morning, I ran into the VP near the mailboxes and he told me that he hadn't given Juan a punishment yet, but had talked to his Mom (I had already called Mom right after the incident; she was ambivalent at best). If nothing has happened yet, I don't see much happening at all. He should have been sent home immediately! I had a bad feeling yesterday during the conference with Juan and the VP when the VP asked me if I have ever had to send Juan out of the classroom before. No, I haven't; I have had plenty of other discipline issues with him, but nothing that ever warranted kicking him out. When the VP asked me that question, I knew that he will probably get off with a tsk-tsk and a warning. This is precisely why my campus continues to be dogged by discipline problems that we shouldn't be experiencing. Those students are given waaaaaay too much leeway. As that socially inept student explained to me during our impromptu conference, "I am a sheep among wolves!" Her life at school is hell every day because of students like Juan.

I would love to have Bluejay, who is one of my regular readers and who graduated from high school in 1962, tell us what would have happened to young Juan if he had spit at a teacher, thrown candy at a teacher in the classroom, and refused to follow a teacher's directions in a junior high school in the late 1950s-early 1960s. How about it Bluejay?

Good Day to You, Sir


Anonymous said...

Of course, as we "old" people know, IT NEVER WOULD HAVE HAPPENED! The reason: all of us knew that the penalty would be instantaneous and horrific. Our parents would have been called, yes. But it would have been for them to pick us up from school, never to return. The expulsion would have been automatic and permanent. Our only options would have been to beg another school in the district to admit us, or to go to the local steel mill and work a grunge job for minimum wage as a trainee with no union protection. Our fellow students would have treated us as if we were a leper, and cut off contact with such a social undesirable. Times have changed, huh?

George said...

Boy do I sometimes wish we could we turn back the clock, but I am being faced with a different reality.

I too have been resistant to the changes I have seen around me, that is, I refuse to accept that that is just where we are as a society. Decency has lost to disorder, but it can be recovered, though not without a great deal of work and change.

That a school VP and parent can't see the logic behind disciplining a child does not surprise me. In fact, as a teacher I am often overwhelmed by the misbehavior of my students and sometimes fail to punish them. But at least I know that when I do, the admin. is behind me.

We are not being faced with anything new, consider what the famous Augustine wrote of the students at Carthage ". . . the students are beyond control and their behavior is disgraceful. They come blustering into the lecture-rooms like a troop of maniacs and upset the orderly arrangements which the teacher has made in the interest of his pupils. Their recklessness is unbelievable and they often commit outrages which ought to be punished by law, were it not that custom protects them".

Until America returns to her Judeo-Christian roots (Augustine was teaching in a pagan society), with a clear distinction between right and wrong, students will only get worse.

The irony of your situation is that the student most likely lives by a code of ethics which argues that if someone did that to him, that someone would deserve a "beat down". What would it be like if students were afraid that they might be beaten by us? My EL students tell me that classrooms in their home countries are very calm and peaceful because of this very threat.

Darren said...

I've worked at two jr. highs and one high school. The junior highs were much more lax than the high school. I think part of it is the feeling that "they're still children."

As if it's ok for a child, or anyone for that matter, to spit at a teacher's feet.

Maybe they just look older in high school and it's easier to be tougher because they're more like adults. Or maybe I'm at "alternate universe high school" and it's the only one in which the administration is pretty good about student discipline.

But no way would I have tolerated that. The child would be somewhere else for at least a day. Have you considered the one-day classroom suspension that you're entitled BY ED CODE to impose?

For me it would start there, and continue.