One thing I still hold to is my post on discipline. I still feel that most schools lack proper discipline, and fail to act (or are constrained from acting forcefully) when something happens. That still needs to change.
In the course of my career, I've been spit on, cursed out, had a marble fired at my head from a sling shot, and been shoved by a student who sneaked up behind me and tried to knock me down. You might infer from this, if you knew little about NYC schools, that I am a poor disciplinarian. You'd be wrong. Just about every teacher who has worked in what is euphemistically called a "challenging" school has similar tales to tell. To be fair, all the above incidents took place at my previous school, which was hardly a nirvana.
My tenure in my current school, which is much less "challenging", has been highly uneventful from a discipline standpoint. In all my years here, I have never so much as sent a child to the dean. Not once. Until today.
This boy started school about a week late because he was still serving the suspension dished out to him last year. He'd been mostly manageable until today, when he got annoyed because I wouldn't let him do something he wanted to do (I'll let you speculate on the details). In any case, after I walked away from him, he got up and got in my face, not once, but twice. He was trying to physically intimidate me (which is impossible because I am a rather big guy and the only thing the student would have accomplished, had he tried to hit me, would be a sore hand). He chose not to take a swing, but walked out of my room.
So what was the upshot? He's being removed from my class for a few days. He'll sit in the suspension room while I am teaching his class, and then he'll be returned to his regular classes as if nothing had happened.
I, on the other hand, had to spend an entire period writing the incident up and talking to the dean and principal. Then, because this child was suspended from my class, I had to spend another period submitting work that he will undoubtedly not do while he is suspended from my class. From the way things turned out, you would think I was the guilty party, because I am the only one suffering any consequences.
I know full well that there are many of you out there who suffer the same and worse on a daily basis, so please know that I fully sympathize. It's impossible to teach effectively when you are being physically threatened, or when one child holds a class hostage to his or her recalcitrance.
Bloomberg will claim that he's made schools safer but teachers know that is nonsense. What he's done is made suspensions part of a school's report card grade so principals are often loath to report anything but the most serious infractions. Rather than help clean up the schools, he's swept problems under the rug.
Is it really any wonder that half of all teachers leave within 5 years? In bad schools, it's a wonder anyone stays five minutes. Does anyone really believe that education will improve when we're doing nothing to ensure that the vast majority of students, who come to school to learn, are shielded from the antics of those children who just don't give a damn and who can act out with impunity?
Last week, I blogged about my own ambivalence about leaving the school system now that I can retire at the end of the year (or sooner, if I wish). Perhaps by the end of the year I'll be thanking this student for edging me towards the door. I'd almost made up my mind to stay another year, but I'll be rethinking that now.
I've been able to deal with the paperwork hassle, the evaluation hassle, and just about everything else thrown my way. I'm not sure I want to deal with another discipline hassle.
Sorry for venting. If anyone wants to vent in the comments, I promise to read them.