Teachers and Classroom Behavior Photo credit: tim ellis
I read an eighth grader’s blog (!) today that resonated with me, and it triggered a memory of what Jewish teens shared with me in a discussion about bullying.
Back to the blog. This young teen wrote about derogatory and mean comments that kids said in hushed tones to others in her class. What they said was either whispered, written, or mouthed out—-all while the teacher’s back was turned.
Can you imagine the effect on the ‘victims’? Just thinking about it will probably tug at your heart.
Instantaneous changes of emotion. Heads bowed. Backs rounded. The day ruined.
And then—-thoughts of a system that offers no corrective action.
The talk I remembered having with my 10th graders was similar. They experienced or witnessed as a bystander, all kinds of inappropriate behavior by teens that was not done at recess, not on the school bus, not on the playing field, but in class!
In most cases, the teacher’s back was turned.
Want to be shocked? The students affirmed that sometimes, the teacher was not facing the board, or doing work at the desk.
“What happened during those other times?”, I asked.
“Ugh, the teacher just pretended not to hear or see.”
Can we think of a more challenging environment for our students?
Some feel that they are constantly the ones to point out flaws, misbehavior, or teacher concerns. They’ve told me that when they’ve actually brought these incidents to the teacher’s attention, the information is not even acted upon. And there certainly is a lot of negative feedback the teens get for doing that. (The cultural pull of not being a tattletale comes to mind).
A while ago, I wrote about our schools being Safe Havens, and reading the blog today made this fact even more potent.
No one should deduce that all teachers ignore bad behavior.
But neither should we assume that the teacher is always equipped to manage bad behavior. Or that the teacher gets support from the administration on these issues.
We can rise to the occasion, be better listeners, better mentors, and better teachers of Jewish values.
But that won’t change the system.
Creating students who want to become activists just might.
Supporting their efforts as parents and teachers is what we have to do. And oh yes, we can’t let them give up.