My first day in a middle school class, two of the kids had knives, a couple were making out at the back of the room, one kid was standing on a desk ,and another proceeded to tell me every dirty word he could think of. I was twenty-one, and it was supposed to be an easy "conversation assistant" job. Instead, they thrust the text book at me and told me to teach.
What's your worst story?
Hmmm. Well, Iowa City, IA, is the home to ACT and NCS, two of the largest standardized testing companies in the world. A lot of people who live there are students and there is a mobile population, and grading tests at these companies on a project basis is a popular job.
With my background, I got a job grading standardized essay exams--and can tell you these tests (which sometimes determine if a kid graduates high school) are graded in approx. 2 minutes or less. Sometimes, the more creative a young writer is, the worse his or her score is, because the rubric is absolutely STUPID and people working there are drones.
There have been kids who didn't graduate because of this. And law suits. Justly so. Standardized tests are evil.
I painted a deer in a snowy woods when I was in the third grade. My father was an artist and taught me the basics of painting. I took my painting to school and presented it to my art teacher. He took one short look at it and called me a liar. He said that I was far too young to paint that good. He told me to never do this again!
I was afraid to tell my father because my father was the type of man who would have went to my school and shoved the teachers easel up his ass.
It was 30 years before I painted again. I had many wonderful teachers in school and only one effected me in a negative way. I did paint the deer in the snowy woods all by myself.
It's not quite as dramatic as yours, but my sister (who is now a grandmother) always laughs when she keeps bringing up a kindergarten-teacher story that has (as we joke) "left her emotionally scarred for life":
She was four years old and the class was told to draw a picture. My sister, thinking of a sunset or sunrise, drew a big, orange, sun. The ugly (looks-wise AND personality-wise) teacher, known for essentially being verbally abusive to the children (and yet, oh so friendly with adults), asked my sister what the big, orange, circle was. My sister told her it was the sun (again, she is four years old at the time). The teacher scornfully said, "The sun isn't orange. It's yellow. There's no such thing as an orange sun!!!" My sister was too polite (and intimidated) to explain that she had, in fact, seen an orange-looking sun.
Now, whenever we admire an orange-looking sun, my sister will again bring up that story and say how she'd love to go back and see that teacher, and tell her that the sun sometimes looks orange. She doesn't mention it more than a couple of times a year, I guess, but the "pain" appears to be as fresh as if the incident occurred yesterday.
That is so sad. A similar thing happened to me when I was in High School. I was admitted into the Lit Magazine staff (you had to "audition" to get in.)
I was really excited until I realized I was having a block. My block broke when I had a "what if" conversation with my dad and I wrote a story based on our conversation.
Anyway, the teacher of the class told me that she didn't think I wrote my story myself: "I have dreaded this conversation. I don't think you wrote your story yourself-I think someone wrote it for you."
I was offended and a little outraged when she told me this and left the class in tears. She was saying that not only was I liar but I obviously didn't have enough talent to write my own stuff in her estimation. Needless to say I did not choose to participate in the magazine anymore.
Unfortunately I think some teachers in the arts are frustrated artists themselves and can be envious of their students talents.
Well I'm sorry to hear that.
There are a lot of caring teachers as I was and some duds
Stacie, I hope you realize that I said 'some' teachers and not all. What I said was no way an indictment of all teachers and I am glad that you were one of the caring kind. I also experienced quite a few caring teachers and up until that point had several English Lit teachers who were supportive of me and my writing.
But unfortunately, as the saying goes, just one or two bad apples...
And it is often the critcism and negativity that a student will end up remembering instead of the positives.
Tom, I wonder if you have ever heard of the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron? It is a book using a lot of pop psychology words but is essentially about "recovering" our creative selves.
I did write a hub about the "frogpond classroom" -- doen't measure up too well with the one you mentioned. No letal weapons were involved.
My best friend worked as an elementary teacher in a bad part of Chicago for a couple years and her school had a visit from a SWAT team at least once, and police pretty much daily. She is very good at dealing with certain types of behavior problems, so she herself ended up with some interesting cases at various points, though first graders, so at least they were only taking weapons to school and not actually using them. *facepalm* I particularly remember her stories about one kid she had who was pretty far behind developmentally and used to throw tantrums about strange things and then stand on his desk and scream for hours. She got him to the point where he'd be standing in the corner screaming and the rest of the class would calmly go about their work, instead of freaking out around him, so yay for progress, I guess. Poor kid.
My friend's mom is a school psychologist in a much better district, but she has some really crazy stories too. Kids who genuinely believe they're lions, and that sort of thing.
While visiting my grandson in California, we went to one of his basketball games. My grandson plays on the St Francis de Paul 4th grade school team. While watching the game I noticed there was no scoreboard. Turning to my son, I asked where is the scoreboard. He said they don't keep score anymore, everybody wins... I couldn't believe my ears...no score keeping..?? Spotting a nun below us I asked her why they don't keep score... She said that it was important to protect a child's self esteem and do everything possible to raise it. I was ( and still am ) blown away with this approach to sport.
Kids are tough...they can handle winning and losing...I coached Little League for 10 years, winning and losing goes with the game, much like life. You exalt when you win, and try harder when you lose. What are these kids going to do when real life hits them in the face..? Competition is tough, as it should be, and so much sweeter the feeling, and reward, when you succeed.
This is timely! I am new and starting a hub on how I saved my life by quitting teaching. Okay, dramatic but I was so stressed that I needed to get out.
My last straw was when I had a couple kids working, the one who was having the biggest issues of the week was actually working well with a girl. We had met with mom before school and told her we could not tolerate him hurting kids any more. I was actually invited to that meeting. So they are working and I turned around and when I turned back she was holding her neck and crying. I sent her to the nurse to get checked and make a report, I didn't have time to question or write anything up because we actually were getting some work done. Then the discipline person came and got the boy. They left and soon after we went to lunch.
So after lunch the boy is back in the classroom, no explanation or comment from admin. He is there the next morning too, still not even an e-mail about the situation. I found out from our community liason who does translating that they were talking about a 3 day suspension when he did something very good (walked away from a fight and told the truth) so they dropped it. So I sent an e-mail concerning the entire thing, still no reply.
I am thrilled that this boy finally was able to calm down once but that was my last straw. Where do you get to choke someone and come back the rest of the day and the next day without consequence and how do I teach under those circumstances?
Thank you for this story. I am sorry this happened to you and happened in your classroom. This situation is all too common and needs to be discussed openly, in all communities, so it can be corrected. We are teaching too many violent children with serious mental health issues that are not being addressed. The way your building administrators dealt with that boy was completely, and unforgivably, inappropriate. They taught him nothing valuable by "rewarding" his good behavior for one situation with "no consequences" from another situation. A child who chokes another student does not belong in the classroom. I don't know where he belongs but relocating troubled children to more appropriate educational settings is not our responsibility as classroom teachers. However, we need to enlist the help of concerned parents and angry tax payers to help support us in our quest to make classrooms peaceful and safe places for other children to learn. We also need the support of concerned parents and angry tax payers to force administrators to deal fairly with troubled children. Placing that boy back in your classroom was unsafe for him, for your other students, and for you. The administrators lack of communication with you was unprofessional and disrespectful. I'm sorry you felt forced to leave teaching; we need all the caring professional we can get in this profession. I'm glad, however, that you put yourself first and walked away from an unhealthy situation. When more teachers are willing to do you what did then, maybe, we can force the system to change for the better.
I had a fourth grade teacher who used to pinch the backs of our necks when we were in trouble. Nothing we ever did was "that" bad.
This was not a little squeeze, either. Her name was Mrs. Skaggs...and boy did she earn that reputation, big black hairs on her face here and there and a screechy voice, like nails down the blackboard
Its a wonder any one was able to pass that grade!
But you know...after these many years of running the same old record (of this memory)over and over...I am healed from it. I forgive her.
But, really, where does certain behavior get signed off and others not? How do we make those calls on another's life?
I don't normally just add a link to a discussion. But the following hub/memoir is directly to the point of this discussion.
http://hubpages.com/hub/Classroom-Manag … ing-memoir
Thank you for sharing that Barranca. It is helpful to know that an experienced teacher has real trouble in the classroom. I am writing about my experiences and it will be over several hubs. Somehow reading what you wrote made me think that I may still be able to teach, and I was pretty much giving up at this point.
A lot depends on the context, the support and the community. The incident I described took the wind out of my sails for a while but then I landed a job teaching at a girls' school and I haven't had any serious problems since.
Teachers may want to see the Palme d'or winning ond best foreign film Oscar nominee movie " The Class" (Entre Les Murs) Your problems may seem insignificant compared to those of the French teacher in a Paris school with students from French colonies all over the world.
I was only 15 years old when I had the confirmation that the education system was not what should be and as such I didn’t believe in justice at schools anymore after this episode (at least in Portuguese schools).
It was my economy class and we were having our last test for this unit. We were all cheating because this particular teacher was far too scared to teach! And far too frightened to remove the textbooks from the students’ tables… she was scared with good reasons though. In nine month she has never taught one single concept to my class.
Back to the beginning of the academic year, we were given a black female teacher; black teachers were rare in Portugal at this time. Now, my class was known for being the worst class in the school. There were five different years being taught at this school, from the 7th to the 12th grade, so basically students’ age range was from 12/3 to 17/18 years old.
Some of my class mates were known by all teachers for the trouble they used to cause; as an example, these pupils would attempt against everything, from property damage (both school and other students) to personal injuries, mainly broken arms, legs and noses; so the administration decided that maybe if the eleven students which were the schools’ biggest menace were mixed with good students their bad behaviour would change by influence. Well, it didn’t work and by the end of the academic year more of the class had been recruited to the “evil dark side”.
So back to the test situation; some of these menacing pupils had the answers to the test as another class have had the exactly same test the day before, therefore, they were in possession of the test paper, as well as, exam prompts. These exam prompts started to be passed to other students which did not have access to the test questions and instead of going through a 400 odd textbook pages to find the answers, they were using each others exam prompts. The teacher found this to be outrageous and she removed by force these exam prompts from one of the students. This particular student was the only of the eleven and the newly recruited ones that was actually serious about violence and in special against black people (he was a member of a Nazi group). Now this kid was using less polite language and getting really agitated… coming from nowhere, a butterfly knife was on the teacher’s neck! The class froze, literally!
As a student rep and as I was beside the student and the teacher, I got up and grab my colleague’s arm and told him to stop and that I was going to report him to the school principal (I don’t remember ever being so frightened in my life!) and I left the room with him screaming threats at me. Nevertheless, all shaking and with no memory of getting there I went to the principal’s office and reported all that I have seen. A few days later both I and the teacher were called to the principal’s office and I was impressed to see the police there; however, I was even more surprised to hear the teacher saying that the student didn’t used a knife but rather a pen! She was scared even though she had my testimony, as well as, the support of others students which I convinced to support me on this report.
I have failed at the time and still today to understand why this teacher did lied to the principal and the police. Because of her lie the student remained in school when he should have been expelled; she was told that if she reported him he would never be able to attend lessons again on that school and as such, both students and teachers would be safer, but she didn’t tell the truth! What she saw more suitable was quitting and go back to her African country. Her words were: “I prefer to be poor and starve sometimes, rather than teach again.”
In the end we all passed economy unit with a reasonable mark and we all went to our A-level years. My parents moved me to a better school and I never encountered situation as this, but years latter that school was rated one of the 5 worst in Lisbon. That kid remained on that school for the next three years and he did graduate.
I have no stories at all. But I want to acknowledge you (teachers). You are underpaid, overworked and way overburdened with responsibility. Most of you do it because of passion and gifting, and a desire to make a difference. God bless you!
The other day, the school where I teach conducted a Lock Down drill. While I see the necessity of conducting these drills, each time I'm involved in one I'm reminded of my very first Lock Down which was no drill. On that day, seven years ago, a teacher in my building was stabbed to death by an angry student who refused to comply with a simple rule of conduct. This experience was horrifying for every educator, student, and parent involved. Yet equally horrifying was the message sent via cable public access later that night by the district superintendant who got on television to express his concern for all that had happened. After sending condolences to the family of the victim, he warned teachers that we were still bound to uphold all rules of student conduct but neither he nor the district could be held accountable if we enraged students to the point of violent retaliation. The sick feeling I felt that night returns to me each time I experiene another Lock Down drill.
Thank you all for responses to all the stories.
Ralph Deeds, I very much want to see that movie The Class. It played in Denver for about a week and I was not able to go. I may have to wait until it is available at our library or video store. It sounds like I could relate to it, and the students were not transformed by one magical teacher which is good to see sometimes.
I did interview with an alternative school for expelled students. They have not had any problems this year but they are strict and they do personalized programs for each student. It helps to not have curriculum that either too hard or too easy. But also I would have the power to tell a student to go home if they were disrespectful or swearing. Yeah, no going through layers of administration only to be left out of the loop and not supported.
Ah, I've a couple. They both rank on a scale of 10 in the [WTF?!] department.
At an early age my parents coddled me, told the school I had ADD/H (as if that mattered..?) and also that I had some disability with writing (not to boast but..HAH!). Truthfully, I've atrocious script when it comes to using good ole' pen and paper. But..other than that...
Anyway, they made me use this weird blue thing that I had to stick on the end of the pencil. It was supposed to make you hold a pencil "correctly." See, I already had points against me, because I'm left handed.
Anyway, needless to say, after growing up and learning to hold a writing utensil one way you're not apt to change. It cramped by hand. I rarely used it.
One day, teacher bent down and asked where the blue thingie was. I said.."You want me to use it?" and I took it out of my backpack and threw it towards the front of the classroom, and I said "Go get it."
No idea how I avoided action against me on that one.
And in a similar note, for some reason, I once punched this kid in the back of the head for yelling a slurr at someone he was friends with. It was like this...gut reaction. The teacher there, too, didn't do anything. In fact, me and the kid I hit made up and all that jazz.
The whole class laughed at me when I realized that I had hit the kid..I was deer in headlights.
A lot of good comments here, hope I've added to the discussion.
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