Thursday, December 22, 2011

I should run the world

When Sam was in eighth grade, I got an email from a teacher saying that she had been having some problems with him blurting out what he thought were funny jibes in the middle of class.  He was trying his hand at being a class clown.  I told him that if I ever heard anything like that from a teacher again, I would go with him to every class, every day and monitor his behavior until I was sure he had adjusted his attitude about school, teachers and what he was there to do.  I told him it would probably take a couple weeks.  He was terrified I would do it, and I would have.  (I was actually kind of looking forward to it. I love school.)  I didn't have to yell, or punish.  I just had to let him know in a way that he understood that I valued his education and it was my job as his parent to make sure he took full advantage of his opportunities.  We've never had another problem.  He takes school seriously now and is a successful student.  I'm not delusional enough to think I enlightened him to the importance of soaking up as much education as he could, I know it was because he was worried about his social status with his friends.  That's why he was acting out in the first place, to be "cool."  He apparently doesn't think that having his mom come to school with him and nag him all day every day is very cool so he adjusted his behavior. As a result of his mortal fear of humiliation, he has come to realize that he learns more with his mouth shut than with it open. Mission accomplished!

Of course, I am totally influenced to be a hard ass on this subject because I'm a substitute.  I see especially obnoxious behavior from students every day, and I have a special apprecation for parents who nip obnoxiousness in the bud.  But parents can't do anything about it if they don't know what's going on.  I regularly call parents when I have an especially difficult behavior problem with a student.  When kids have a sub they sometimes have the attitude that they will never have to see this lady again in their lives so anything goes.  They are usually pretty surprised when I produce a class list with parent names and phone numbers and ask the sixth grader to take five minutes out of their lunch break to call mom and explain why they thought it was so funny to yell out, "Never mind what my name is, you're not the boss of me!" while I was taking attendance.  Usually when I call parents I get a very positive response and when I go back to that classroom, I have very few problems.  But sometimes I reach a parents that is at their wit's end.  They don't know what to do.  They say, "You should see how she acts at home!"  What is a teacher supposed to do with that?

This is what I think they should do.  I think that if your child's behavior is something a teacher finds she is spending too much time dealing with, they should be removed from the class.  Why should a teacher have to deal with your obnoxious kid?  A teacher's job is to teach a large number of students at one time.  It's efficient and cost effective and if there weren't any behavior problems, it would work wonderfully.  Unfortunately I find I am spending more and more time dealing with the rotten behavior of a small percent, while the majority of students sit there and wait.  Why should teachers have to spend so much time on kids who don't want to be at school anyway?  Sure, they NEED to be at school, they NEED an education, but they don't know that.  They're too young.  They don't have the perspective to see what a wonderful opportunity they have.  All they know is that they are being "forced" to do something they think they are supposed to hate, against their will, and they will fight it any way they can.  It's the only way to express any power over their situation.   Schools are perpetuating that view by tolerating more and more outrageous behavior.

My solution?  KICK 'EM OUT!  Sure it's the law that students stay in school until they are sixteen but do you now how many problems a fifteen-year-old that doesn't have any rules at home and thinks he's being oppressed can cause?  Do you know how much damage just one kid can do?  It's a lot.  Why do we put up with it?  If they did that at a job they'd be fired.  If they acted that way while patronizing a business they would escorted out.  When I ask the kids who cause me problems what would happen if they talked that way to their mom, many of them get a glazed look on their face and say something along the lines of, "I don't talk that way to my mom.  She'd kill me."  When I ask the kids causing problems why they bothered to come to school that day they look at me like I'm stupid.  "We HAVE to come to school!"  When I tell the high school  kid walking around disrupting the class after I have repeatedly asked him to sit down and do his work, that if he doesn't participate and do what he is supposed to do, I will mark him absent (my most effective behavior modification tool for the older grades) they freak out.  They tell me that I can't do that because if they are physically present, they are working toward a passing grade and then they spend their time berating me for making such an empty threat.  They are counting the days until graduation and assume that if they show up and do a bare minimum amount of academic work, no matter how many problems they cause, no matter how much stress they put on other students and their teachers, not to mention the physical damage many of them do to the school; they will graduate and get their diploma.  Why do they think that?  Because they see people do it every year.  They brag about how little effort they put into their classes.  I had one freshman proudly show me his report card last report-card day.  I was baffled when I saw that he was getting a .85 grade point average.  Why would he show that to me?  Why wasn't he embarrassed?  Why did he think it was so funny?

Of course, if we expelled kids for behavior problems, we'd have a lot of obnoxious minors running around during school/work hours causing problems AND they wouldn't even have a chance to get some education by osmosis.  Okay, how about this?  If your child gets removed from class for a behavior issue, he will not be allowed back in until he has a meeting with his parents, teachers and school administrator, and arrangements are made for that student to have a behavior aide with him at all times until it is agreed upon between the student, parents and teachers that a behavior aide is no longer needed.  The parents would be responsible for paying the aide's salary.  If they can't afford it, they or the kid could work off the cost by volunteering at the school.  Sure, being a freshman at a new school and having a babysitter with you at all times would be embarrassing, but so what?  The aides would be invaluable to the staff and other students, and I would guess that general behavior problems would virtually stop after two or three kids were seen sulking through the halls with their aides.

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