Friday, November 12, 2010

Thanks Admin, for Crushing my Spirit

Last week, I had a student come to class looking for a fight.  Why?  Because she had not turned in her book report and therefore, she earned a 0 and thus, an F for the 9 weeks.  Keep in mind, this was a project announced 6 weeks before, with many steps along the way.  But that's not the point.  The point is, she was mad and came into class ready to punish me.

For simplicity's sake, I think I will just cut and paste my "statement" written for Admin....

On Wednesday, November 3, 2010, J*** came to class very agitated.  Everything that I said in class was met with a disrespectful and/or combative response.  We were going to the library and so as we walked out, I asked her  if she was ok.  She told me she had nothing to say to me.  I asked if she needed to go to guidance.  I did this because after a similar incident with J*** the previous week during a test, Ms. Guidance Counselor asked me to please do this as a courtesy in the future when J*** got upset, because she has been working with J*** on controlling her emotions.  J*** refused to go.  I warned her that there would be consequences if she continued on with this behavior.  She told me that I couldn’t do anything to her and then walked ahead of me to the library.  Just in case, I grabbed a guidance pass before locking up the classroom.
When I found her in the library, instead of looking for a book, she was seated on the sofa loudly talking to three other students about the situation with the Book Report.  I leaned over and quietly told her that she needed to either go to guidance or I would call an administrator.  She stated that she wasn’t going anywhere.  I asked the librarian to call an administrator.  When J*** saw that an administrator was being called, she apparently got up and went to guidance.  By the time, Mr. Morale-Crushing Administrator arrived, J*** was gone and I briefed him on the situation.
J*** returned to class in no better frame of mind than she was in before.  Instead of doing her work, she had a printout with her grades in my class on it and was talking to a friend loudly saying “How can I have good grades in this class all 9 weeks and then fail because I didn’t turn one thing in?”  I gave J*** her work and told her what we were doing.  She resisted doing the work and argued with me.  I told her that we could talk about it after class but this was not the time or place.  J*** was very angry and aggressive.  At that point, I told her I was calling an administrator.  I picked up the phone and dialed and while it was ringing, J*** said something (and I can not remember the exact words) to the effect that she was going to punch me in the mouth.  “Mouth” is the only word that I remember for sure as being used—the verb is unclear, but it was clearly a physical threat.  I was so shocked and upset by what was such an obvious threat, I could not believe what I heard and I turned around and said,
J***, what did you just say?”
She responded, “You heard me!  Why I need to repeat it?”
At that moment, I was so stunned I blurted out, “Because I was hoping you would have the sense to shut your stupid mouth.”
At that point, I stepped into the doorway to wait for an administrator.  


Ok, was that the best thing to say?  No. But I had just been threatened and wasn't exactly thinking clearly.  At worst, I insulted this child.  I didn't threaten her for crying out loud.  The problem?  No one heard exactly what J*** said, but EVERYONE heard what I had said.  So  Mr. Morale-Crushing Administrator informed me that while they would honor my request to have this child removed from my class, she would receive no disciplinary action.  Why?  Because of what I said to her.

"So let me understand this," I said.  "You are not disciplining her because of what I said in response to an entire class period of unacceptable behavior?"

That's right.

"You are then sending the message to a student that if they ramp up their behavior to a level that makes a teacher lose it, there will be no consequences."

I disagree.

"Ok, so her defiant, disrespectful and disruptive behavior is considered acceptable?  Because if that's what you are saying, then I'm not sure I can let this go."

Ok, fine.  I'll give her 2 days of ISD <In School Detention>.  (By the way, I am not sure this ever happened).

I was somewhat satisfied at that point, but more than anything, deeply disturbed by the lack of support I had gotten from Admin.  Did I  mention that this child had been kicked out of school the year before and had to go to "Community," which is the county high school for the kids who are a discipline problem?   But, she gets the benefit of the doubt instead of the teacher....that makes TOTAL sense. 

The upside to this, if there is one, is that I found out that I was not the exception, but the rule.  Across the board, I had teachers of every age, color, subject and teaching style come tell me similar stories. I also had their total support.  My Department Head (who I am totally in love with now) as well as my mentor (who was assigned to me when I started my job), totally went to bat for me with Admin.  I could feel the love and it helped alot.  But the "Us versus Them" atmosphere is disturbing. 

My mother told me how sad she was that I was teaching "in that kind of school"--meaning one full of poor, minorities.  They aren't the problem.  Its Admin., and I could have that problem at any school.  So now I know.  Document everything.  Watch my mouth. Expect no support.  Most important--I broke down and joined the NEA (National Education Association), because apparently Admin. is less likely to mess with you if you have a national organization with free lawyers behind you.  

Live and learn... Sigh...

1 comment:

  1. Everything you've posted made me smile, because this IS teaching! We connect, we are mom or dad to these students for six hours. Sometimes, the only positive interaction they get is the "Good morning" we greet them with at the door. That being said, there are those days ( weeks, and sometimes years) where you have to drag yourself in for even that *one* student.Our job is the most frustrating and rewarding ever.I look forward to reading more!