Saturday, June 2, 2012

Heck On Wheels

For whatever reason, Safety Guy's seventh grade class has a large number of very difficult students.  His class has an unusually large number of students with behavioral issues that are disruptive and distracting or hurtful to classmates and disrespectful of all authority.  My husband and I are very concerned that our son has spent (and will continue to spend) so much time with many of these students.  Some of them have bullied him.  Some distract him on purpose, just to get him to react.  Some are just plain mean and obnoxious to everyone around them.  Many are extremely disrespectful of authority figures.  It's hard for Safety Guy to keep his cool and make good choices in such an unpredictable, provocative, anxiety-ridden atmosphere.  Our son's seventh grade class has a reputation in the school, and it's not a good one.

This school district has a discipline gap:  what the administration says it expects and what many of the students actually do are very different things.  Sometimes I think this school district doesn't have enough authority and control over the kids, but then I wonder how it is in other districts as well.  We can't be alone in having this trouble, and I've heard from parents all over the country that we're not alone.

It pains me to say that our hands are often tied as teaching professionals.  We can't administer any discipline more serious than having a kid lose a special privilege, sit in the corner or in the hallway, send them to the office, assign detention(s), and/or talk with the parents.  Suspension (in and out of school) is assigned by the principals for repeated or serious offenses, but many students treat detention and suspension as a joke, a vacation, even a warped badge of honor.  Many students skip detentions and in school suspension without any consequences from home.  Many parents don't appear to care what their children are doing at school.  If the teacher has the personality and presence to consistently enforce the rules, their classes are manageable, but even very good teachers are struggling with this current group of students.

As a teacher, it makes me crazy-frustrated.  As a parent, it makes me angry.  As a citizen, it makes me worried for the future.  If the district rules are not enforced consistently and firmly from class to class and school to school, then the unruly students take advantage of the inconsistency and manipulate the teachers, ignore the rules, and terrorize the other students, or the better-behaved students get frustrated with school, discouraged with learning or become anxious or afraid to come to school at all.  If the students don't respect authority at school (or, apparently, at home), they certainly won't respect an employer or civil authority when they grow up.

And I know this is a GOOD school district.  It has a GOOD reputation for its special education programs and generally for its regular academics.  There are many fantastic teachers at all grade levels and across all subject matters here.  As a sub I have been in most of the classrooms above sixth grade now, and of course I have my private opinions about individual teachers.  Some are great; some are not.  But overall, this is a GOOD school system.  It pains me to see these struggling students and frustrated teachers.  And it makes me anxious for our children, since Princess Yakyak is not immune to these problems either.

I can't and don't lay all the blame for this difficult crop of students on the schools.  WHERE THE HECK ARE THE PARENTS OF THESE DISRESPECTFUL, UNRULY STUDENTS?  We may not have a large or wealthy community, but that's no excuse for the amount of blatant rude, disrespectful, inappropriate and hateful behavior I've seen while subbing.  I'm gobsmacked at the things I've heard students say to each other, and the things they've said directly to me (both while teaching and just out in the community).  It's truly sad.

So I try to make a difference where I can.  Each day, one student at a time, one conversation at a time, one lesson at a time.  I love teaching, and someday I may return to doing it full time.  But this climate of disrespect makes me wonder at times, "Do I really want to do this?  Is it worth it do deal with this stress day after day?  Is there hope for these kids?  Why bother with the ones who don't care?"  But I come back to my conviction that all people are valuable, put on the earth for a purpose, created in God's image, and, therefore, worth respecting and loving with Christ's love - and worth teaching.

Now I just need to remind myself of that the next time I'm asked to sub for Safety Guy's grade. . . .