11/20/14

THERE IS A TIME


We are independent professionals, working alone in our classrooms day after day. Routinely we have to make quick disciplinary decisions without outside help. We realize that administrators are busy, overwhelmed with the day to day operation of the school; they don't need any extra burdens. We are taught to be autonomous, to "handle things ourselves." Michael Linsin even makes a case that we should NEVER involve administrators in discipline issues unless the student's behavior is dangerous. Interestingly, I know some teachers at my school who send almost every discipline issue to the principal, and some who refuse to send any discipline write-ups at all, choosing to take care of it themselves 100% of the time. 

When, if ever, is there an appropriate time to ask for help? Or do we just endure, chalking it up to "that's just the way things are (culture, communities, etc.)?" 


From my school district's 2014-2015 Code of Student Conduct:
"If the action taken by the teacher is ineffective or the disruption is, in the teacher’s judgment, sufficiently severe, the student may be referred to the principal or his or her designee....Any charges involving alcohol, drugs, weapons, aggressive behavior, or a suspected crime may result in intervention by law enforcement authorities ....."
I know what you're probably thinking - "severe disruptions and aggressive behavior?" I talked to one teacher this weekend at the AAEA Fall Conference who told of children throwing desks and a kindergarten student actually biting a teacher in his school district. Some teachers have zero parental or even administrative support when they are at their wits end with behavior (see the article entitled, "Roadblocks" below). However, in a more positive light I must note that most of the art teachers I talked to at the conference said they were very pleased with their teaching situation and they did have parental and administrative support. 

In my classroom I do occasionally have students who refuse to settle down and behave regardless of my efforts, and I have needed to ask administrators for immediate help. In the 11 years I have taught at my school, I remember pressing the "call" button 4 times; once because a student refused to leave my room, once because a student was being so disruptive (dancing, singing, etc. to entertain everyone, ignoring me) that I could not teach, and twice because of fights that broke out in my room. One of my students last year would not settle down until he entered the mentoring program sponsored by one of our assistant administrators. Nothing I did made any difference with him. Also, I remember asking an administrator to help me with a difficult class (one 7th grade, one 8th grade) at least twice in the last 11 years, just as a visible help with reinforcing my classroom rules. 

 Under some circumstances a teacher's classroom management plan is not enough!

 Case #1: If a student has a weapon or illegal substance, get an administrator!

Case #2: If a fight breaks out, get an administrator!

Case #3: If a student is physically threatening you or cursing you, get an administrator!

Case #4: If a student's defiance disrupts the learning environment in an extreme way, you should be able to ask for an administrator! A few years ago, a student staged a virtual "sit-in" at the front of my classroom, refusing to leave, demanding that l I write her a pass to her next class. She thought it was completely unfair that she would be marked tardy due to the fact that she had been cleaning up her area in art when the bell rang. After I explained to her why she would not receive a pass (she didn't clean up everything when it was time to), she chose to remain right where she was. I hit the "call button." The administrators immediately came to the classroom and escorted her out

Today I asked one of our assistant principals when he thought it would be okay for a teacher to call for an administrator. He says;
"When teachers summon administrators routinely to their class, student respect for them and their classroom management tends to slowly evaporate.  Now, with that said, whenever there are events in your classroom that supercede your span of control, do not hesitate to call administrators; i.e. events such as Class III, this includes fights, weapons etc. and extreme Class IIs.  Again, think in terms of, 'Will this issue disrupt the class at large or can I maintain a sense of calm in the classroom while managing the situation?' If a student absolutely refuses to obey, sit down, and do his/her work, you should call us!" (He also mentioned a few situations where he had been summoned unnecessarily; a teacher called him because a student's cell phone rang in class, and another time he was called down to a classroom because a student was not doing his work.)

It is actually part of my district's written job description for teachers to; "Seek assistance of specialists, to work collaboratively with staff, and to maintain a cooperative working relationship with parents and community." It takes a village, a team, a community, (including teachers, administrators, and parents) to raise a child; part of our duty as a teacher is "in loco parentis."

 In my opinion, it is a mistake to believe that you never need to seek outside help for problems. The longer I teach the more I understand how limited my own capabilities are, how much I need to seek the wisdom of others. There is a time for everything; a time to work independently, and a time to ask for help! I am extremely grateful that I work in a school where I am supported as a teacher. I know I can rely on my administrators to back me up when I need it. 

The below picture was taken in my classroom last week - on the day this clay project was due, this student's sculpture broke. Her friend held it up off the table in order for her to make the repair. This student could not have done it alone, and in my opinion neither can we teachers work completely in isolation. There is no shame in seeking answers; there is great strength to be found in the wisdom of others - we call it "the power of collective wisdom." 


Clay wolf sculpture, 7th grade


from the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; 
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak...


article by: Mrs. Anna Nichols

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