Thursday, February 25, 2010

Teachers Held Hostage

On a daily basis, more and more pressure is added to the teacher workload. Endless standardized tests, heightened expectations for growth and an increasingly diverse group of learners are  challenging teachers enough without the added pressure of the unique behavioral challenges today's students bring.
In my school, teachers often feel as if they are "held hostage" by students whose behaviors require very frequent individual intervention. In my kindergarten class, I have had a child poke students in the eyes, choke other students, body slam peers and stomp on others' feet  while the administration deems this child unable to qualify for any intervention or special services. Of course, suspension is not an option either, as kindergartners are never suspended at my school. My principal is proud of his "low suspension" and low "behavior referral" data without critically evaluating the reason behind the data. The real issue is that teachers often don't refer students to the office for discipline reasons because the principal often blames the teacher for "not engaging" students adequately. Even more importantly, students view a trip to the office as a "break" and not something to be avoided. I am not saying that some teachers don't "over -refer." And I know that when an environment is engaging and challenging at the right level some of these behaviors don't surface. I try to reflect and try every strategy under the sun before I send a child to the office.
When teachers at my school feel safe enough to be honest, they report that they have a handful of kids who have been "repeat offenders" since we had them in kindergarten. If our school-wide Positive Behavioral Intervention System is so great, then why are these students still wreaking havoc on the classroom environment in 4th grade?
As I look at my own class profile, I reflect on the kids who take my attention away to the point that I lose track of my lesson. Some kids, not ready for school, are here for free daycare. Their disruption affects everyone's learning, yet if I ask for help I am given the message that there is something wrong with my teaching.  Aggression, emotional lability, difficulties with attention seem to be a clear problem in my school and most others I have read about. Yet teachers are asked to do more, work harder and just "teach better."
Sure that will fix the situation. If someone were truly a hostage, would sending in food and water be the ultimate goal? Or would administrators be working to alleviate the hostage situation? I think we know the answer, now, don't we?

1 comment:

  1. I know how you feel. It is discouraging and for a teacher in the beginning of their teaching career, as I was when I taught in this situation, it can be devistating. I had not yet developed enough confidence in my own teaching abilities to know that the problems that I was experiencing with my students' behaviours did not mean that I was a bad teacher. I went to admin for help and was told that it must be my teaching style. I was ready to quit. I talked to a friend's mother, who was a principal in another school, who thankfully convinced me to try her school before packing in my career. Great read. Thanks.