Angry Kids, Mean Kids

When I was in school I would have never thought of treating a teacher disrespectfully. Even when I was in those angsty teen years when supposedly it’s expected that you test your limits and pull away from your parents I think I had decent relationships with adults. I could be wrong.

I do remember thinking, “I have better, more sensible ideas.” But if I expressed them I did it without scorn.

We all had teachers we thought were boring or bad, right? And we all had favorite teachers. The strange thing is, sometimes those people are one and the same. One student’s guru is another student’s insomnia cure.

And so it is with me. Some of my students seem to genuinely enjoy my class. Others seem to be there just going through the motions. A few make their contempt for me very plain. The latter are concentrated in two of my five classes.

Complicating matters is the behavioral philosophy du moment: Restorative Practices.

Now, our district is embracing this idea. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is a great thing. But as in many practices, it should be well planned ahead of time, with all supports in place before you roll it out. The cart should follow the horse.

The basic idea starts with relationship building, and continues with helping students develop skills for dealing with conflicts, anger, etc.

For most students, it won’t really change much about their day to day experience in school. It’s for the troubled students who are likely to drop out at some point. The goal is to give them a reason to keep coming to school.

In practice, if you have a student who tends to disrupt class regularly you’re supposed to have a plan in place to give him or her an out short of being excluded from class. The problem is when no such plan exists, or supporting staff isn’t available. You can’t just say, “Okay, we’re doing Restorative Practices now. Ready? Go!”

I try to treat all my students respectfully. I put up with a great deal of disrespectful behavior, but a line needs to be drawn when the behavior disrupts students’ ability to learn, and a teacher’s ability to direct learning. Educational leaders need to make sure disruptive students are not disruptive, or find another setting for them. I feel bad for the students who have many adverse conditions in their lives. I give them plenty of room to make mistakes. But their rights should not trump all others’ rights.

About Michael Brown

I am an Elementary School teacher in the state of Washington. I enjoy writing, bird-watching, working in the garden, photography, and spending time with my family. View all posts by Michael Brown

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