PERSPECTIVES: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY.....or Classroom management 101: By Michael L. Washington, M.A., C.P.C.(Originally posted on 11/3/15). You can read the original post by clicking here.
In the wake of recent news of a Black teenage high school student being flipped and tossed around class by a cop for not putting away her mobile phone, it's only fair to show and discuss the fact that there is also a stark contrast to this story that should be equally considered.
Let me be the first to point out that no child or for that matter, no human being should be assaulted the way this cop did to this Black teenage girl. Though she was clearly breaking the rules, she was NOT breaking the law! She was not a threat to anyone in class nor was she making any threats. She was simply being defiant. This is not unusual for some teenagers to do under even the best of circumstances.
Well, as most of you know, this cop was fired and the family is considering legal action against the former cop for violating her rights and assault. After watching the video, the issues seem pretty apparent. However, there are times when students become defiant and the dynamic is completely different as shown in this video. PLEASE NOTE, this video is difficult for some to watch as the teacher was completely helpless, had no control over her students and appears to be completely vulnerable to the whims of the students who have no respect or consideration for the teacher whatsoever....NONE!
It truly saddens me to see fear and desperation in the eyes of a teacher who is probably overworked, underpaid, unappreciated and now at risk of being hospitalized by a 16 year old who's obviously confused. The reality is ...students are more fearless now than ever, especially since capital punishment in schools has been abolished in most states in the u.s. with the exceptions existing primarily in a few southern states. This along with the current mindset of raising children through understanding and cooperation instead of fear and obedience means that children are also more likely to challenge teachers and parents than they did in the past. Though this approach usually allows teens to mature with a sense of accountability, it can also backfire and provide students with a false sense of empowerment. If this behaviors is unchecked at home, it's likely to manifest itself in school as well.
This makes a lot of teachers as well as parents cautious and sometimes afraid of being harmed physically. Some teachers actually fear for their very lives , and for good reason. Many of these students today are armed with guns, knives, high on various drugs, are members of street gangs or suffering from enough stress at home to push students towards psychotic behaviors.
Naturally, this doesn't apply to all children nor all schools, but it is something we need to consider when we examine the behaviors of students, teachers, as well as campus security. These kinds of extremely obnoxious behaviors are not the norm. However, they are increasing across campuses nationwide at an alarming rate. This type of defiance also lowers high school graduation rates and raises teacher burnout and resignations.
As an educator and a trainer in classroom management, I feel compelled to share a few key issues here that have seriously contributed to these conditions that could've been avoided, or that are reversible if a plan of action is developed and implemented with the cooperation of all involved. I've also offered some recommendations as well that can be applied immediately that cost nothing more than time, effort and commitment.
1. All teachers must be assured by administration that they will be supported and protected as long as they are doing their jobs. All too often teachers feel as if they are forced to be "lone wolves" when it comes to addressing classroom issues. If they follow an ineffective protocol, they will be in compliance, but the outcome won't change. If they implement their own independent ideas for classroom management, they could risk disciplinary action for not following protocol. Damned if you do, damned if you don't; a common theme in education that doesn't have to happen at all.
2. This assurance must also be in writing so there is no confusion if an issue ever presents itself. Not having rules and expectations in writing will create loopholes that will not work in your favor. Some administrators might accused teachers of over-reacting or being paranoid. But, not having something in writing, signed by the appropriate parties means that no one is legally bound to anything and that there is no proof of such an arrangement in the first place.
3. Class rules and campus rules must be know and explained to both teachers and students, and students are required to sign these rules indicating that they have read and understand what is expected of them. That student signature will come in handy when you explain to an administrators that you have a copy of their signature regarding their agreement to cooperate or at least agree that they understood the expectations. Now, no one can ever point the finger at you and say "I was never informed of this".
4. A copy of these rules must be given to all students and teachers as well as mailed to parents of all students, so that they know the rules and possible outcomes if these rules are not followed. Most parents who love and trust their children will usually give them the benefit of the doubt to their children. But if they don't have a copy of the rules and expectations, with their child's signature, teachers are far less likely to be taken seriously. This signed set of rules and expectations provides instant credibility for the school, their administration, faculty and staff.
5. Students who do not comply with ANY of the teacher's instructions will be asked to leave the classroom and go to the principals office for counseling, not suspension. If the student changes their behavior, they can return to class. If not they will be given homework and sent home where their parents will be asked to help them make up for class work they missed. Along with this, will be a request to meet with the parents and the students to determine the cause of the inappropriate behavior.
6. If a student refuses to leave class, a school administrator can come and pick up the student and bring them to their office to discuss disciplinary options. If the student refuses to cooperate with the administrator, then the student will be escorted out of the class and off campus by at least 2-3 campus police or security who have been trained in non-violent detention and crowd control procedures that are effective but not harmful to students. Some of this may involved some martial arts training on grappling and holds that allow you to detain, hold or move a person with little effort and no injury or physical abuse. Note, there is always a team involved, a minimum of two people should arrive to help control the situation, not the student.
7. Teachers need to be trained in a number of effective teaching and classroom management techniques such as proximity, social learning theory and constructivist anti-banking system pedagogies and techniques. They should also be trained in conflict management, active listening, "I" statements, Motivational interviewing, cognitive based therapeutic strategies, cooperative and collaborative teaching strategies, culturally relevant teaching strategies, and ongoing engagement. There's too much focus on curriculum and not enough focus on the process of teaching and learning. These steps will empower teachers to lead rather than follow, to listen rather than hear, to respond rather than react, to motivate rather than alienate, and to engage rather than confront.
8. Administrators and support staff must also go through the same training as the teachers so that they will have an arsenal of teaching, listening, and coping strategies that work in unison with teachers. This reinforces the concept and practice of everyone being on the same page and the same team.
9. There must be consequences at home or at school or at both locations whenever a student becomes this disruptive. If there are no penalties for poor behavior and no incentives for good behavior, then what incentive does any student have to cooperate at all? THIS is what you see in the video. THESE kids know that nothing will happen to them. And I'd would guess that THIS teacher knows she won't get the support or backing she needs from administration, staff and the school district itself.
10. As soon as teachers begin to teach their classes, they need to avoid lecturing and focus on engaging students to keep their minds occupied on the task at hand. When students feel as if they are a part of the learning process, they are less likely to disturb the class because they now have a vested interest in class cooperation. How soon we tend to forget that the average high school student has about an 8-11 minute attention span before they get bored or begin to consider other behaviors that aren't conducive to learning. add to this the current expectation of instant gratification generated by social media, internet access and instant information accessible to them at all times on their smartphones and it's no wonder that kids become bored and easily distracted.
11. All of the recommendations of points 1-10 must be adhered to from the beginning of the school, year and there can be no wavering or exceptions to these policies which focus creating an environment for cooperation instead of a system of artificial controls and insistence on conformity that do not elicit cooperation. Consistently applying these rules and expectations from day #1 will lead to a campus wide awareness that there are expectations for everyone, students and faculty, and there is no exception to these expectations.
Below is a link to a video showing a teacher who reminds his students of his expectations. as a result, the two students who were on the verge of an altercation reluctantly respected the teacher's wishes because they knew what the expectations were. They simply had to be reminded by a teacher who cares about his students and was willing to do what was expected of him.
Despite the efforts of lots of responsible parents, some kids simply don't care and they will act out no matter what anyone says. When one kid is permitted to act out without consequence, other's will soon follow suit because it's no longer considered to be deviant behavior for this environment if the teacher doesn't make that obvious from day one of class. Setting expectations is a vital aspect of creating a positive learning environment and avoiding a chaotic one. Teachers don't have to control students...but they do need to control the environment in which their students reside. These are very different objectives. One aspect controls a person while the others controls the conditions.
Following these points will establish the expectations for all students at all times. Instead of looking at troubled youth like criminals, why not look at troubled youth as ...well ...TROUBLED. When you see a video like this, the problem didn't start THAT DAY. The problem developed over time...probably years of neglect and a major lack of accountability by EVERYONE. When students verbally or physically threaten teachers, it's usually not the teacher that upset them. It's the expectations that these students are against because it forces them to hold themselves accountable. The teacher is merely "THE MESSENGER"...and as such, the easy target for rebellious students.
Teachers, administrators and school districts absolutely must be on the same page and there must be support for teachers and consequences for students who simply have no interest in cooperation. Students don't need to be condemned. They need to unlearn bad habits that create consequences for everyone. Despite all these efforts, on occasion, you will still experience the student who simply won't adhere to any reasonable expectation, regardless of the rewards or penalties involved. But once this plan of action is implemented, this will be the exception, not the rule.
That's my perspective. What's yours?
Michael L. Washington, M.A., C.P.C. is an Adjunct Professor-CSUS, Educational Sociologist, PhD Candidate, (Claremont/SDSU), Certified Nat'l Trainer-Classroom Mgmt. To learn more about Michael L. Washington, M.A., C.P.C. click here