Apparently I'm using the last few weeks of grad school for feminist bird-dogging on the discussion boards. I thought this one was worth sharing more widely.
When I was a third grade teacher here in Philadelphia, I was assaulted by a student about once per month. I had heavy lab tables pushed into me. I had a student try to break my thumb. I was shoved into a door, kicked into a desk, subject to fat-phobic, misogynist, and homophobic slurs. I had a student who walked from desk to desk, telling girls that he was going to rape them, and then the principal said he did it because I stressed him out. I had a student throw a large metal locker at me and was admonished to stop “putting myself in harm’s way.”
Marzano says that “If teachers and students do not feel safe, they will not have the necessary psychological energy for teaching and learning (53) but I would take that one step further—I experienced days in the classroom so traumatic that I felt like did not have access to my brain at all. Years later, a therapist explained that that feeling was accurate: panic shuts down the language center of the brain.
In their post “A Silent National Crisis: Violence Against Teachers”, the American Psychological Association said that EIGHTY PERCENT of teachers surveyed nationally in 2014 had been victimized within the last school year. (http://www.apa.org/education/k12/teacher-victimization.aspx) Even more disturbingly, the article didn’t make suggestions for how to change the system that led to this problem, but instead gave teachers tips to avoid being victimized. This essentially sets up an abusive relationship between the class and the teacher, with her on the lookout for signs that someone might get upset and hurt her. Because when she gets hurt, it will be her fault.
I say “she” because teaching is a traditionally female profession, and thus we are subject to the same structural problems that underlie the rest of American culture. As even a cursory glance at the internet (or the 2017 election results) will show, we are currently in the process of dismantling the system of misogyny, and I think that can have a great benefit in the classroom.
“Teacher training” chimes through every source that we read. A great deal of strategizing is done on that subject on the Common Core video that we watched. Marzano asserts that a “guaranteed and stable curriculum” is the number-one priority for school improvement (15) and the Common Core can go a long way toward attaining and standardizing that goal.
I want to make it clear here that I’m not blaming the children AT ALL. They are subject to the same power dynamics, the same toxic masculinity, the same gender enforcement, the same sludge of patriarchal contempt that we are, and then they are trapped in an environment that doesn’t respect their humanity.
But we can’t use the training we are given if all of our physical and emotional energy is devoted to a codependent relationship in which we must guard against attacks rather than enjoying a respectful and healthy rapport with students.
Add to this the now-almost-expected news of in-school mass shootings, and it is a wonder anyone ever learns anything at all.
If we as a society could find a way to treat women with respect instead of contempt, to honor teachers as professionals rather than blaming us for any imagined shortfall, and to hear us when we ask for what we really need, then the goal of a safe and orderly learning environment would be much more attainable.
Common Core: What's next for school systems? (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2017, from http://www.aei.org/events/common-core-whats-next-for-school-systems/
Marzano, R. J. (2003). What works in schools: translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
(n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/education/k12/teacher-victimization.aspx