Before I start this rant, please do not be offended by what I have to say. This may or may not apply to you, but please examine whether it might possibly have some bearing on your child and his/her behavior.
Most of you know that I had a position as an ensemble director last year. You may not know the circumstances, but the gist of the situation is this: a teacher had to unexpectedly leave for circumstances that cannot be publicly discussed, and I came in as the teacher for half of the year. At the end of that time they held interviews for the position. Someone in the county who had more experience on the instruments in the ensemble was given the position. This person got it “fair and square” as she was the more experienced teacher and had “done her time” doing some itinerant work in the county for the past few years.
The reader should also know that I prefer middle school students.
Today while subbing for an elementary music teacher I had an especially rude and unruly 5th grade student, one of those who MUST have attention anyway they can get it. Finally, being fed up with this student, I told student to face the wall to the side of the classroom for timeout. He refused. There was also a timeout chair in the room, but it was in the back of the room where he would have to walk and clown away to get there (also he can fall out of it, knock it over, etc.). So his mother will be receiving a phone call later (student said she wouldn’t care). Later after school I was actually reprimanded for telling him to face the wall. Ok, so maybe the timeout chair would have been better. But for a student who acts like a middle school student, challenges authority regularly (from other teacher reports), and generally causes problems to be disciplined like he’s still 8 is rather silly (in my opinion).
I asked the regular teacher about this (because I was surprised that it would have been an issue) and she said that it had to do with not embarrassing the student. I was taken aback. We’re more concerned about self-esteem than self-discipline? More concerned about not hurting their feelings than we are about making sure they grow up to be responsible and well-balanced adults? Teachers can no longer use corporal punishment (which may or may not be a good thing, you decide), half the time you can’t give a student detention because of some schedule conflict, and you can’t discipline them in a way that would be slightly embarrassing? I was embarrassed by teachers in school FOR BEING GOOD AND INNOCENT!!!!
One time in a middle school geography class we were studying Australia and the teacher (for some reason) had a kangaroo scrotum that had been dried and sold to tourists as a draw-string pouch for change or what have you. The teacher passed this around the room for us to look at. When it got to me he asked, “Do you know what that is?” As the kids all eagerly looked at me to see my awkward reply. I, being the quiet and somewhat intelligent one, knew fully well what it was (I can read the label, after all) but was embarrassed and decided it would be wiser to feign innocence, replying that it was a “kangaroo pouch.” (Technically it was a pouch made out of kangaroo…) Of course they laughed at me and my supposed stupidity, the teacher included.
Another time in this same class one student decided it would be cool to dump out my (fairly messy) binder on the floor. I was upset, of course, and wanted the teacher to make the kid pick it up. I was only laughed at and I’m pretty sure I ended up picking it up myself.
In English class another time I had some pens that were incidentally the same as the teacher’s. The kids sitting near me tried to tell him that I had stolen his pens, which I desperately denied. The teacher smiled and I eventually realized that he knew what was up, but I was embarrassed and upset because the teacher didn’t refute the claim and I really wanted him to like me (he was a friend of my father, and has since passed on).
Another time, in high school, I had an Advanced Placement World History Class. In class we were learning about the origins of slavery and were going to watch a movie called Amistad. Now this movie has full frontal nudity in it, and the teacher never sent home a permission slip (that I can recall). My parents did not want me watching this movie because of the nudity, and at 14 it was probably a good decision — I didn’t want to see it either. This teacher (who was also a friend of my father) actually MADE FUN OF ME IN FRONT OF THE CLASS for not being allowed to watch this movie. The next time we watched a different movie he brought the same situation up AGAIN! Also in front of the class, which laughed at me again.
My question to parents is this…if we are so intent on protecting the hard-headed brats who always want to have their own way, and continue to allow the weaker students to be belittled, what is going to come of our children? We allow concerns for self-esteem to keep from building character, and most often the kids who are down and depressed are not the ones being protected. Many students pretty clearly show their journey from funny class clown in elementary school, to bossy 5th grader, to arrogant middle schooler, to rebellious teenager and right into JDC. The students often think they have the control; I’ve actually heard students claim that they got a teacher fired, after trying for a while to do so. I’ve heard of students who disagreed with a teacher in middle school start calling the teacher a pedophile because she didn’t get her own way (she was also a problem at other schools, so I hear). I don’t know what I as a teacher can do to help those students and reverse this trend, but I do know that the most fundamental prevention can be found at home. Teach your children to be respectful, responsible, and trustworthy; this is YOUR job, not the teacher’s. Spend time with your kids, nurture them, correct them, and teach them how to respond in different situations so the possibility of putting their face to the wall doesn’t have to come up.