Violence in the Classroom, those two words should not be in the same sentence, let alone be allowed to occur in a school setting. Unfortunately, it does occur, every single day in classrooms across the country.
Each morning parents send their children to school expecting them to be educated by caring teachers in a safe and secure classroom. While some parents may be nervous entrusting their child to an adult stranger, they have peace of mind knowing that teachers go through a vetting process that includes a criminal background check, a child abuse clearance, and an FBI clearance.
Yes, teachers and administrators are approved to be in the classroom, but what about the students? In my 17-year career as a public school teacher, I witnessed a lot of violence enacted by children in my classroom. So much so, I had to leave the profession due to stress and mental fatigue.
What grade did I teach? The answer might surprise you. It wasn’t middle school or high school. The last 3 1/2 years of my career I taught Kindergarten. That’s right, Kindergarten. 30 students in a regular education setting, where both diagnosed and undiagnosed socially/emotionally disturbed children were placed.
I was expected to teach all of these students and achieve measurable results through differentiated instruction, small and large group instruction, and following the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) goals of special needs children. A tall order when classrooms are overcrowded and your district has cut funding for vital programs and essential school personnel.
Things happened in my classroom you had to see to believe. One school year there was three sexual assaults in my classroom: children assaulting children. That same year, one of the students who’d committed an assault, tried to stab two classmates with a pair of scissors he’d brought in from home.
I’ve had chairs thrown at me and tables pushed into me. I’ve been punched, kicked, bitten, slapped, pinched, spat on, and pulled to the floor. I’ve had students empty an entire classroom library of books, throwing the books and book bins at their classmates.
I’ve had students push classmates down the stairs, stab each other with pencils, flip over shelves, jump and tackle students while they sat on the carpet, and down right brawl during instruction. One student liked to open and slam the door while I taught, another would sometimes scream whenever I opened my mouth to speak, or just scream for the sake of screaming. One student threw chairs at his classmates for fun! He laughed while he did it.
On more than one occasion, I had to remove students from the classroom due to violent outbursts by their peers. Children can’t learn when a classmate is throwing chairs at them or climbing on cubbies while throwing pencil boxes and lunch bags at them.
When I couldn’t control the severe and dangerous behaviors I was penalized. My principal gave me poor scores on my observations. To some this may sound unbelievable.
How could a teacher be held accountable for the actions of children, who should be learning social norms at home, and receiving the medical support they need from their parents? I asked myself that question everyday until I resigned from my position.
This is the first school year that I’m not teaching. I had hoped that the teacher who took over my classroom would have a better experience than I had, but according to one employee who works there, things are still the same. This cycle of educational neglect needs to be undone.
What more has to happen before we as a society take collective responsibility for our nation’s educational future? Many of us are so busy pointing fingers at those with differing points of view that we’ve lost sight of the truth: our nation’s children are losing out on their inalienable right to a free and fair public education that is rigorous and utilizes the latest research-based methods.
There has been a strong push to increase the literacy skills of students. Our students need to compete in an ever-evolving global economy. While I agree that being literate is essential to a productive society, I would argue that nurturing our youngest citizens mental health should come first.
It is a moral imperative that we safeguard the welfare our future. Parents and educators alike must make their voices heard for this essential need. Parents have to work together with teachers, petitioning leaders and volunteering at schools to fill the void left behind by so many cutbacks.
It is a daunting task, but together those of us who believe in our children can achieve what some have forgotten, that all children regardless of race, religion, or gender are our only hope. Let’s give them the tools they need to succeed.