0039: Bullying, Helplessness, and a Cycle of Crushing Pain
Teaching, being a humanist profession if attended to correctly, puts you in direct and often harsh contact with the gamut of human emotions. It can get a little heavy. Kids, teachers, people are up and down. There are moments that are wonderful and rich, and others that scrape the edges of darkness. There is no moment more painful and confusing than watching someone wretch and cry over something that is so out of their control. Bullying is a bad word and a buzz word. It’s easy to become numb to it. We sit through professional developments about the subject, most of them vaguely tell us that bullying is bad, and then they spout of some suicide statistics. We are to “deal with bullies”, but how? They bully, we talk to them. We send them to the office. They get suspended, punished, or let go. They enter the cogs of punitive discipline while keeping up with their chronic victimization of others. We punish the bullies without dealing with the genesis of their behavior. And, then the group-think. A kid sparks a fire and the next thing you know you have a class of kids or an entire school against one person, or so it seems.
Finally, the victim. Today the victim has a clear and tearful face. She’s been harassed since she got to this school about being “poor”. The majority of the kids here receive free lunch. The school is a Title I school. The area is poor. But, there’s that one kid who stands out. They don’t have the nice clothes and the shoes. The family has other pressing priorities. She’s had enough. One comment about her shoes resulted in a desperate scream of “leave me alone” and out the door to violently breakdown on the sidewalk. The class laughed, and she was alone. I walked out behind her and listened through mumbles and tears— about lost it myself. I was helpless except to listen to her and share with her my delight in who she is. But, that does not change the fact that she feels entirely alone. She says she has no one except her mom. She was the victim of the day on the wheel of outcasts that are defined in classrooms. I’m baffled today. I’m baffled every time it has happened to anyone.
What to do? Listen?
0032: The money’s not in the cure, it’s in the remediation workbook
#testocracy #teaching #testing #nervousbreakdown
I just watched a kid absolutely crumble because his reading scores are low. It took a while to get to that reasoning, he got incredibly belligerent before he crumbled. He told me to send him to the office. He tried to walk out. He was out of control— he was out of his normal element. He’s usually a smart ass, but generally delightful. I snapped at him because he wouldn’t sing with the class. He wouldn’t participate. I called him up and asked if we needed to call his mom. He said he didn’t care, and he didn’t care if I sent him to the office, or if I fucking failed him. I took his mother’s number down and waited until the end of class. Everyone left. I asked him to stay, and sing his part. He refused. He said, I’m just going to the office. I stopped him and asked if he’d prefer suspension over talking about it. And then this tough middle schooler, much taller and far more apt to play football than I, broke into the ugliest crying fit I’ve seen— crumpled chin, drool, and all. I asked him to breathe, and I if he was having a tough time. Through shallow breaths and spit bubbles he told me that his mom had fussed at him and taken all his privileges away. “Everything?” I asked. “Everything”.
He got a note sent home yesterday stating that he would have to attend after school tutoring because his reading scores were low, and he’s failing science. This prompted mom to remove all privileges. Mom is hard working person and wants her son to do well. She is reacting to the pressure, even she feels, from the great test. The test is some 5 months away. The kid feels like an absolute failure. He can no longer participate in extracurriculars, and he’s on edge. The pressure is too much. I asked what he was doing to improve his reading. He replied: we’re working in the workbook. It’s the answer I expected, but that’s no way to remedy a reading problem. How about guided reading or engaging in discourse about a text or teaching text structure or building his vocabulary. Really! And, to make all this even better the workbooks are provided by the state. State mandated corporately developed remediation workbooks— that are ineffective. The teacher’s hands are more or less tied, or she doesn’t understand that just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s good. All I can say is, what the f**k?