In the last week or so two videos have been prominently featured on my social media feeds. In the first, a student–apparently angry about a confiscated cell phone–slammed a teacher to the floor in a classroom. In the second (a video from 2011), a small group of students took turns harassing a substitute teacher in a Chicago Vocational Career Academy classroom: yelling at her, throwing candy at her, intimidating her, cursing her, and thoroughly disrupting any attempt to lead the class.
Baltimore-area teacher Ken Patterson took to Facebook yesterday to express his frustration with student behavior at his own school. Ken has been a teacher for eleven years, and currently teaches fourth grade.
I really try not to vent on FB but my heart is heavy tonight. Please let me say that today was easily one of the worst 3 days of my teaching career of over a decade. A class full of African American students flat out refusing to learn, exceptionally disrespectful, and entitled beyond belief. Then after school a group of former students of mine (now middle schoolers) threw rocks into traffic and busted out the back window of a fellow coworker of mine. We can talk about “school-to-prison pipelines”, “black lives matter”, and whatever else, but what we aren’t talking about is the total loss of control of these kids who no longer respect any ounce of authority.
I mean just last week a kid lied to their parent (because kids lie to their parents and basically know they either aren’t intelligent enough to recognize this, or are too in denial to know their being lied to) and the parent came to the school and cussed out every adult in the presence of their child smirking. What are we supposed to do? (Even after it was proven the child lied, the parent did not return to apologize, but only covered their child’s lie.)
I don’t think many people have any idea what teachers really deal with. If black lives matter, they need to matter at parent-conference night too. If black lives matter, they need to matter when the teacher is calling because your child is ridiculously disrespectful and is killing the chance of the other kids in the class have to learn, yet you’re refusing to answer the phone. You can’t wait until a child is slung from a chair across a classroom before you start getting upset.
I love these kids. These are kids that look like me. My heart broke though. It took everything in me not to break down crying right in that 4th grade classroom. I’ve never in my career wanted to cry until today. I’ll still serve my face off with the hope of at least impacting a couple lives, but y’all need to get your kids. Bad kids are not cute. Bad kids turn into cell-dwellers and hashtags. If black lives matter, start showing up at these kids’ schools and help these teachers.
One commenter noted:
My daughter is a BCPS teacher…..5th grade. And I say Amen to your ‘rant’. God bless you and every teacher who tries every day to educate, not all, but many children who just don’t want to learn. People have NO IDEA what you endure day in and day out. I was a teacher for 35 years and, yes, I had difficult students during my tenure. But I never had stories like my daughter had. Keep fighting the good fight!
Ken is African American, but this comment comes from a White former-teacher in a deep South public school:
I have so been there. I do get what this African American teacher is saying. I experienced the same thing with white kids in my classroom, however. Every parent wants his/her child to learn; every parent wants the other kids in his/her child’s classroom disciplined, but few parents are ok with their own child being disciplined. How can we teachers expect kids to treat us with any more respect than they give to law enforcement, however? There is a widespread disregard for authority that exists, and it is the parents’ fault. If parents respected and revered teachers, law enforcement, etc. in the home, the kids would respect and revere as well.
A close family member was a public school teacher for several years, but has left the profession in no small part due to parents of students.
Student attitude, misbehavior and violence is nothing new, and isn’t limited to a single race. The movie “Stand and Deliver” chronicled a failing mostly-Latino public school in Los Angeles, complete with problem students. When I was in high school a student in my science class became antagonistic toward our teacher, a woman. One day, without any kind of provocation, he threw a ball he had made from dried glue and hit her in the face. She returned to class later badly bruised, and dazed, I am sure. If memory serves me correctly, he was expelled. If not, he should have been.
The question, “Where are the parents?” is legitimate. If parents and teachers don’t work together for the good of the student all three lose. I’m no expert in educational systems, but when we have students fighting teachers, teachers seducing students, parents disengaged at the learning level, emphasis on test scores over breadth of learning, and fractures between teachers and administration, the system, as the deep South teacher above told me, may be broken beyond repair.
Pastors and other church leaders, schools are fertile places for demonstrating the love of Christ. Buy backpacks of school supplies, meals for kids who can’t afford them, provide tutoring, have lunch with a kid who’s parents are out of whack, provide a special meal for the teachers once or twice a year. Give the local elementary school teachers $100 to help decorate his or her classrooms. You’d be shocked how much teachers pay from their own pockets.
We cannot just criticize school problems when we have the capacity to help.
One church may not be able to fix everything, but you can have a huge impact in one school. Several churches banding together can impact a district. Give it a try. You might change a student. You might save a teacher. You will glorify God.
If you are a teacher, leave a comment indicating what kind of help teachers need.
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