Friday, December 23, 2011

The surreal world of discipline within an American public school Part I

I knew the kid disliked me.  He told me to get out of his chair one morning after walking into the computer lab while I worked on the school's yearbook.  I asked him to go outside to discuss his rude behavior where he told me his mother "didn't even like me."  I emailed his mother, an elementary school teacher in the district.  I never heard back from her.  This young man was on the 8th grade basketball team and had chosen to get photographs of the team for the yearbook.  Since he had sprained an ankle or something of that nature.  He should have had plenty of opportunity to comply.  But he was disruptive and almost sadistic in flaunting his disdain for me or the rules of the computer lab.  One day he sat there and took apart a keyboard right next to me as if daring me to take action.  His behavior deteriorated even more as the year began to wind down.  I called his father who told me he would "ask one of Michael's classmates whether I was accurate in my assessment or not."

I received an apology letter from him saying he would try and improve his behavior.  I knew it did not jive with his earlier behavior and waited for the next attack.  A week later I heard "M is on the warpath" from a colleague of mine.  His mother was after me. Yep....should have known.  The kid was well behaved for about 3 more days.  I could see these people thought they could do whatever they wanted with impunity by the actions I had seen so far.  The boy had never completed his pictures of the 8th grade boys basketball team. As a matter of fact, he had not submitted a single picture. He had not showed up for detention due to his poor behavior and been given As despite not showing much work. ( He was given credit for work he said he did that he claimed had been lost due to computer difficulties).  By the time we finished the yearbook, I asked students to include everything they had done in a small booklet.  He had nothing to enter but went so far as to blame me for the class when asked what particular projects he had worked on.  He mentioned spending time texting on his cell phone and playing video games online in this resume as well.  He wrote an essay blaming me for issues that arose in the class and was quite vindictive.  I had inherited a computer lab that was basically dysfunctional for 3 months and we still managed to put out an improved yearbook over the previous year's product.

Now he was being held accountable and still behaving poorly.  His grade was a C- or D and moving towards an F very quickly.  I handed out a worksheet students were supposed to work on one day and found that he claimed I had never given him one on collecting this homework.  I knew this was an attempt to bait me.  If a student is paying attention and something like this happened, they would let the teacher know.  This was ridiculous to believe.  I had a talk with him outside and left him out there.  My class moved to the computer lab and instead of following us, he stayed outside of my regular classroom, attempting to do whatever he could to not comply with feigned lack of understanding.  I sent someone to get him and had a heart to heart.  When I walked out of the lab, seeing his face bout 3 week from the opening, I felt his foot under mine as I stepped towards him.  He was now going to play the physical abuse game.  "Get your foot out from under mine." I said.  I told him he had not done his work and had been doing whatever he could to get under my skin.  He told me he wasn't responsible for the basketball pictures because I hadn't "written it down."  When he asked how coud he have taken the pictures when he was in the games, I replied he probably sat on the bench, referring to his injury.  He gave me an F-U and I sent him with a referral.  He never went there.

What do you know?  His mother had scheduled an appointment with the principal that morning. I sent the principal information stating I had never spoken to the mother and had been trying to resolve the issue for some time.  A week later I was asked to show up for a meeting with union rep. figured I was in hot water after putting up with this bully.  I brought all the paperwork I had trying to defend my behavior.  It was futile.  The mother claimed I had kicked her kid and when I told the administrators that he baited me the way he had I got a sarcastic "yeah right" from the principal.  The principal told me she wanted to put me in the program improvement which is a euphemism for the teacher exit door.  "You have never even watched me teach I retorted."  She said she was unimpressed with the way kids just threw down their backpacks as they entered the lab, on a day when she covered for me.  I was incensed by the injustice in this.

That summer I found a site called NAPTA (National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse). I bought the book on principal mistreatment of teachers and joined.  Little did I know that this travesty of justice was only the beginning of my nightmare in this snake bit district.

(to be continued)

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