Discipline

I heard a radio show about a guy, veteran teacher of 18 years, who had his jaw broken by a student.

They also discussed kids with severe discipline problems, children who were born to drug addled moms, foster kids…many kids who are put into the “system” and then what happens from there.

In Texas apparently a 6th grader who kicked a classmate in the face was charged with a misdemeanor. He was struggling with a diagnosis of ADHD and bipolar disorder. His mom knew he was a handful, supported the teachers and school to help her with the boy, but was just amazed at the misdemeanor charge that she had to defend him against. It was like a regular criminal charge. She was asking the same question anyone else would ask “Is this the best we can do?”

And it’s true. Kids who don’t comply are ejected.

The same day I see a mom from a boy of mine, a student, a smart student who had a ton of problems in school and finally dropped out of school. Seeing her, a single mom, grocery shopping with her daughter (just as I was), I wanted to say something kind to her. But I didn’t know what. We had talked extensively at parent conferences. And what if she preferred that I said nothing. That is precisely what I did, I said nothing.

This year I had this realization, one I might have had before.

Every year there is going to be one intelligent kid who has a whole mess of problems. Ones that are way beyond my reach. And these problems will manifest themselves in my classroom. Attendance problems, disrespect, not working or distracting other kids, bringing the class down with their attitude…and these are pretty mild things, but after awhile they need to quit. If they don’t quit, they will get worse, and that isn’t acceptable either.

As a teacher, I have had this “You’re either on the train or you’re on the tracks” mentality about life/school. The problem is that some of these kids are on the tracks. And they know it, and they don’t even want to be on the train. If I push discipline on them, they will leave. They will drop out. Now I know that means they will go to the counselors most of the time and say “Homeschool”. Never mind that no one at home speaks English. Homeschool is a more acceptable reason for attrition than flat dropping out. Homeschool is more like a construction job somewhere, or a lot of babysitting. What have I done for this kid at this point? At some point he will realize he should not have dropped out, I know that.

Most of the time, the kid doesn’t even cause a problem. They do an absolute minimum of work, they might attend regularly, but they literally goof off every single day it seems like, and they scrape out with like a C minus. Whether or not they will ever remember a single thing, well probably not.

But the kids that can’t get the jist of the mass productions education system and sit quietly in their desks for 13 years, well the options are just lousy. Vocational high school. Juvenile detention centers. And ultimately prison. It reminds me of something a professor said once. He said that if the government can’t educate kids, then eventually a high percentage will get the education of incarceration in the prison system.

As a teacher I know how to run a classroom. But kids some times refuse to play by social rules and their will can become overwhelming. At this point, I wonder how teacher training programs prepare future teachers how to deal with these inevitable circumstances.  Because they will happen.

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