[NCTE-TALK:2311] Re: A writing teacher who DOES write...

Sun, 14 Jan 1996 16:24:27 -0600

> But with four of the five classes I teach this year,
>I'm dealing with kids who may wander into their classes twenty
>or thirty minutes late, maybe singing a song, certainly
>greeting friends loudly (in the classroom and elsewhere). They
>will immediately pick on anyone they can pick on, and the one
>picked on will immediately start cursing and maybe fighting.
>On any given assignment, most of the class will take five to
>ten minutes to get started; a significant number don't do any
>work at all for any of their teachers. They spend more time in
>the office than in the classroom and don't seem to care which
>place they're assigned to.
> Alone, without the posturing they do for classmates,
>most of these kids have some endearing qualities. In a group,
>though, they are the ultimate challenge.
> The "real world" writing and reading assignments seem
>to prompt particularly hostile responses; I'm not altogether
>sure why. Maybe reality is just too much for them to bear.
> Thanks anyway.
> Julia Shields
> Charlottesville, VA

Dear Julia,

I have worked in schools and with some administrators or colleagues who
would tolerate the above behavior and, thus, permit the teaching conditions
you describe. I am working now in a school (small, admittedly) where the
teachers got together to solve the problem and provide a place (we call it
the Guidance Center) to send such kids. Ask your administration to work
with the staff to figure something out. No teacher should have to teach a
class with even one disruptive student.

Kids who are disenfranchised or who feel powerless resent teachers and the
whole educational system. From their point of view, school is where they
confirm their worst nightmares about being outside the world where people
are working, living, and being successful. As teachers, unless we create
an environment where civil discourse (as our social sciences guru says) can
take place, they will continue to act disrespectful and destroy our "best
laid" lesson plans.

I hope you have colleagues who will help you change this situation.

I haven't posted anything in the last month, mainly because I was in India
at the Triennial Conference of the World Council for Curriculum and
Instruction. WCCI is an offshoot organization of the Association for
Supervision of Curriculum and Development. At one of the sessions, I heard
from a man involved in peace education. He reported on comparative studies
of violence in public schools in several countries. Suffice it to say here
that the conditions you describe in your classroom are examples of the
kinds of violence he described in the study. If you are interested, I will
write more here or send copies of his talk to snail mail addresses.


P.S. In India, one of the main issues is equity for women (and, of course,
men in the lower classes) in education. A sampling of signs posted on the
campus of the BBK DAV Women's College in Amritsar, India:

There will never be a generation of great men until
there has been a generation of free women.

Uncaged flight
for birds and women!