I am shocked by a rock.
It is my second day of teaching. I am in my Special Ed classroom when an extremely agitated playground supervisor bursts through the door with two of my fifth-grade students. The supervisor thrusts out one of her hands to show me a rock almost the size of my fist.
“Clyde threw this at Tina’s head as hard as he could! The only reason she wasn’t killed is because she was running away from him, and she tripped and fell just before it hit her!”
Tina is standing there frightened and pale. Clyde is standing there happy and unrepentant. Except at the fact that he missed. Happy? His face is positively beaming. A smile of pride splits it from ear to ear. Even after only two days of knowing him, I believe that if Clyde’s rock had made contact and truly killed Tina, he would enthusiastically add a little victory dance.
Of course, I send Clyde to The Office. The District has very strict rules for protecting the safety of our students. I know that students are suspended immediately for threats alone, with no exceptions, because my poor next-door-neighbor’s 6-year-old was suspended just for pointing his pencil and saying “Bang!”. What will happen to Clyde for trying to bash a girl’s head in with a rock? And he is no six-year old.
Here is what happens: The Office sends Clyde back moments later to rejoin my class.
The Special Ed teaching lesson has begun:
I am here as a babysitter, nothing more. My students are not expected to behave. I am expected to keep them out of sight and out of mind and deal with any problems within the four walls of my classroom.
Several weeks later, after more office referrals for violent acts, The Office responds with this note:
“You are sending students to The Office too often.
Work on your classroom management.”
The real lesson for the students, and a very effective one, was to follow the Nike Rule: Never threaten–Just do it.
And for me, regarding my classroom management? At no time in my first months alone in my classroom as a new teacher, and a new teacher in a Special Ed classroom with several emotionally disturbed children mislabeled as having learning disabilities, was anyone ever sent to instruct or assist me in how to “work on my classroom management”.
Not that my classroom management was the problem here, but I think you get my point.
Next Teaching Post: Sex In the Classroom
Originally posted Jan. 1, 2012 based upon a career that ended many years earlier.