This is my 7th year teaching, and it might be my last.
I have taught at both an alternative school and at one of the top-performing schools in the state. I always work with the most challenging kids, and I love them. I love their spirited energy, their directness, their good days and their bad days. I feel called to them, and I care about them.
In spite of my best efforts, there are always a handful of students I cannot reach. After trying every technique in my tool box, they remain unmotivated and disruptive. Some of them are outright hostile.
With the district’s new approach to student misbehavior, I find myself teaching in an increasingly unproductive environment where a small number of students routinely disobey rules, are openly disrespectful to staff, and continue to disrupt class on a daily basis. There are virtually no consequences for their behavior.
Recently, I had a student tell me to get the fuck out of his face. According to the district’s new behavior policy (Positive Behavioral Intervention & Support), I should have had a positive conversation with this student about WHY he wants me to get the fuck out of his face. This way I can understand the motivation behind his behavior and better address his needs. Because I had a class to teach and couldn’t take time out to host a therapy session, I called security. He was removed for the remainder of the class period, but there was no other consequence.
On a daily basis, I am verbally assaulted for one reason or another. Asking a student to put a cell phone away, move seats, or stop talking often results in backlash. I do my best to handle the situation in a non-emotional, business-like manner. I try to keep the atmosphere focused on learning but most days it feels impossible.
Every single day in my building, there are egregious acts of student misconduct going unchecked. Teachers are losing hope that things will ever get better, and we are tired. We are expected to be therapists, social workers, substitute parents, punching bags, and outlets for student rage and verbal abuse. Teaching is only a small percentage of what we do anymore.
In an effort to reach the bottom 5% of students, we are sacrificing the education of an entire generation of students. There needs to be a place for students to go who can’t (or won’t) exist in a traditional classroom without ruining the learning environment. Not only are we allowing them to continue a path of self-destruction, but we are robbing other students of their right to a proper education.
Parents need to talk to their children, spend time in school buildings, and realize what is really going on. Those in positions of power need to stop imposing social experiments on schools, teachers and students. Teachers need to speak publicly about what is happening. If something doesn’t change soon, there won’t be anybody left who wants to teach our youth. Nobody can endure what we are being asked to endure indefinitely.