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Carol Perkins: School Bullies, Part II
In the second, and author says last word, on the subject of bullying in public schools today, she takes administrators to task for not taking responsiblity for their part in maintaining discipline. She says that the problem is not just about young teachers launching their careers. It affects veteran educators as well: "Even we veteran teachers have not escaped undaunted." My last year was the worst year of my career.
Next previous Carol Perkins column: School Bullies, Part I
By Carol Perkins
I must not be finished. I thought I had said enough, but then you, the readers, reminded me of more issues. This will be my last. I think I will start Bully Buster Parties like Tea Parties.
Wonder if anyone would show up?
A semi-retired teacher/friend called me about my previous articles because she knew how much it occurs and how often. You don't spend a lifetime in public schools and come away immune. She pointed out another aspect of the problem.
Bullies often drive young teachers out of the profession
Bullies often bully young teachers and drive them out of the profession. This is particularly true with middle and high school teachers. A young teacher is often at the mercy of a bully each period of the day. She tries to present her lesson, but they talk over her. She tells them to be quiet, so they mock her, ignore her, and turn up the volume.
Some make lewd remarks and improper suggestions. They twist her words into something dirty. Most of all, they take away her confidence. She cries; they win. They brag about making Miss So and So cry. They are still talking about it at their thirty year reunion.
Before you blame the teacher, think twice. She is not a military trained, combat person. She was taught how to teach; not how to referee. All the books on college shelves do not prepare her for these encounters. All the discipline giants with multiple books in print do not address such behavior with realistic solutions.
Administrations label bullied teachers as persons who can't control classrooms
Why doesn't she seek help? Here is how the system works. A non-tenure teacher walks on egg shells. She needs the job. I would bet she has large college debts. If she is constantly seeking help from administrators, she soon becomes labeled as a teacher who can't control her students. Most principals don't like to have to insert themselves into issues between teachers in students. At least, that is what I have discovered. The more a teacher asks for help, the more she is thought to be weak.
A principal wouldn't want to walk into her classroom because that would undermine her attempts and make her look incompetent, but what he could do is offer her support by telling her to send bad students to him and he will handle them. That doesn't mean a speech and then allowing them to swagger back in the middle of class. Help her find solutions.
Few young teachers develop 'the eye'
Very few young teachers have developed the "eye" as I call it. That means with one glance a student knows his place. That doesn't necessarily work today because the really obnoxious, out-of- control students in high school have usually smoked or snorted or popped something the morning before they arrived.
No, I'm not kidding. When a teacher confronts a student jacked up on something, she is asking for a fight. Some kids, however, are just naturally mean; they need no substances.
A young girl told her mom (who called me) that she felt sorry for a certain first year teacher because of how the kids treated her. Given time, if she stays, she will find her voice and her discipline and her inner strength, but right now she is drowning in a pool of sharks without a way to fin for herself.
She is nervous, frightened, and overwhelmed in a classroom of at least twenty-five students each period. Will she stay or leave the profession?
Even we veteran teachers have not escaped undaunted. My last year was the worst year of my career.
I had very few students who wanted to learn and many who longed to fight each other. That kind of nonsense. I discovered that teaching was secondary to keeping my sanity. If I had been a first year teacher, I would have looked for a new career.
That is exactly what has happened to many new teachers. They don't want to spend their lives discipling students who don't want to learn, while throwing those who do want to learn under the bus. I had reached my limit with what I wanted to endure, even as tough an old bird as I was.
Discipline today and 10 years ago far different
Discipline today and discipline ten years ago don't resemble each other.
In closing, bullies aren't just in schools. Every day one of you go to work, knowing you are going to face someone who picks on you, exerts unnecessary demands, or belittles you.
You put up with this because you need the job. Isn't it a shame people have to live in misery at the hands of someone who browbeats them each day?
Maybe charter schools will be the answer for students. Maybe someone will do something before another school year begins without a vital young teacher who needs support, not criticism.
I miss teaching, but frankly, I wouldn't want to fight the battle. This old bird can't get out of the nest. That is my final word, for what it is worth.
This story was posted on 2010-08-15 17:57:09
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