Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Punishing Teachers

Way back when I started this blog, nearly five years ago, I wrote a series of posts called "Fixing the Schools in Five Easy Steps". Some of it was tongue in cheek, and some not. Some of it I have changed my mind about, and some not. 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.


Anonymous said...

I really think you will enjoy retirement.

Anonymous said...

I too thought about staying longer. But then I thought of the students (and even teachers)that I had to deal with plus the added burdens of those teachers that were either excessed or retired and I said NO.

Anonymous said...

I have already left my school on a backboard, due to a LODI that left me undergoing three separate hospital procedures. Now that I am back, I am subjected to racial and sexual epithets every day. I am called "white bi***", "racist white 'ho", "f***king skank", told that I need to get laid, my clothes are commented on daily "You wearin' that dress so you can get some dick?", and I have already been threatened with being shot, having my car vandalized and a student even threatened to kill my kids. My unions position? "Transfers aren't on the table anymore."

Anonymous said...

I can relate big-time! Except for the part about being able to retire... There's another big trend in my school (rural northern NYS) wherein admin. does not prosecute criminal behavior and/or passes problems to a "mediator" so things do not show up on school's report card etc. Teachers get marked off in reviews for sending kids to the office etc. Besides providing work for short & long term suspended/sick kids (which 98% fail to do), we also must document what we provided on paper in the office. Admins. are teaching each other these strategies to further the superficial appearance of their success. It sounds like you have one of these very wily admins. at the helm.