Thursday, September 25, 2003

School Violence

Another school shooting: this time, one student dead, another seriously injured. The shooter was convinced to give up his weapon by a teacher and a coach. I wonder if I would be brave enough to try to talk down a student who had just shot two other children. I wonder if my relationship with the student would allow me to do so.

I am not, on a daily basis, concerned about such an incident happening at my school. We do not have metal detectors, nor did the much larger, much more chaotic middle school where I used to work. In my experience, students themselves deal with all kinds of threats of violence at school, but it very rarely escalates to the point where guns could be involved. Much more common are verbal harrassment, small scuffles, and fistfights. Knives are much more likely to be involved than guns - last summer I met an old student of mine (still only in seventh grade) hanging out on the steps of my new school, a 3-inch blade hanging from his belt. I have seen few incidents of violence against teachers, although it certainly happens. No student has ever tried to attack me.

While each incident of violence is a terrible thing, I think it is important to keep school shootings in perspective: they are rare! Much more common is low-level, degrading violence prevalent in many city schools. Even the way administrators, teachers, and students speak to each other can be violent in nature, full of threats of violence, nasty or frightening in tone. In my old school, a teacher hit one of my students, in my classroom, in front of me. Punched him. Yes, he was a thug, and undoubtedly he'd been bothering some of her girls, as she accused him. But this was a child who was in the sixth grade for the third time and still could not read, whose mother came in to meet with teachers while obviously high, a boy who I could tell had a very sweet heart inside a really tough, scarred exterior. I was working with him, just on the basics: not cutting class, calming down the violence, getting a little work done. This tough thug came running into the room and hid in the closet when the teacher came after him. In one blow, this teacher undid what little progress I had made in gaining his trust. I reported the incident to my assistant principal, who said the teacher could lose her license over this, and that as a new teacher, I had nothing to gain from going after the license of someone who had been teaching at that school since before my birth, and that she would have a serious chat with her. The sad truth is that she was right: going after this teacher's license would have led to my ostracization within the school, hindering my effectiveness for all my students. It wouldn't have helped the boy whom she hit. And in the end, she might not have even lost her job. But I still feel terrible about colluding in allowing this woman to continue teaching.

There is much more to say on this subject, but I don't feel up to saying it right now. Here is a link to some statistics about children and violence.


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12:58 PM  
Blogger real_tips said...

whatever children done,.. they are still young.. they need guidance...

11:18 PM  

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