I think it prudent from time to time to re-examine my philosophy of classroom management. My philosophy of classroom management has changed over the years. When I was a newbie teacher, I thought if I used the right techniques for classroom management everything would be OK. Well, I’ve learned and used many classroom management techniques over the years, but I have come to the conclusion that while excellent management techniques are necessary for classroom success, they are not sufficient for classroom success. I found that developing an authentic relationship with my students helped my classroom management more than any of the latest classroom management techniques. When kids saw that I cared about them, they better managed their behaviour in class. I start to develop positive relationships with my students on the first day of school by asking these nine questions. How do you develop positive relationships with your student?
Of course I want my students to be successful. All teachers do. But, I think the Ministry of Education and I have different ideas about what student success means. I don’t think students are successful if they only develop intellectual skills. Earning a high school diploma may be a necessary condition for student success, but it is not a sufficient condition for achieving student success. Students aren’t just one dimensional beings. Students, like everyone else, are multidimensional. We all have an intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimension that needs nurturing. Students need help developing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually (not in a religious sense but in the sense of dealing with alienation, with sense of identity, ) . So Ministry of Education, what are you going to do to help meet the spiritual needs of students?
“Significant work related stress may take 2 months leave of absence” the letter said. I never would’ve thought this type of letter would apply to me, but its my letter from my doctor to give to my school.
I’ve been teaching high school students almost thirty years and still love teaching. I’ve chosen to teach high school students who are at-risk academically for most of my career because I felt I could make the most difference teaching academically at-risk students. When my students ask me from time to time, why I teach high school instead of university, I always tell them I teach high school because I love teaching teenagers. So what happened? Why did I crash and burn that Tuesday after school?
Why did I crash and burn? I think the following contributed to my burnout:
- students’ disruptive behaviour in class;
- students’ verbal abuse and threats of cyberbullying;
- students’ considerable, constant emotional demands;
- students’ special needs and the expectation to differentiate teaching and assessing and evaluating students’ work;
- heterogeneity in abilities of my students;
- conflicting demands made by my students, parents, and administration;
- ever increasing paper work, reports, and report card comments ;
- new discipline policy for students regarding lates, incomplete or unsubmitted assignments that some students think the new policies absolve them of the responsibility they have for their own learning.
Now, of course I know I also contributed to my burnout. I’m just a teeny weeny bit type A personality. I worked hard to do my best and try to motivate my students to do their best, but despite my best efforts I couldn’t motivate many of my students to take more responsibility for their own learning. In desperation, I tried to ignore these troublesome, troubles and troubling students, but I couldn’t. I felt it my job to get them to do their best, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I ignored them. When I called home for support, many of the parents were not surprised by their kid’s behaviours and tried to be supportive but most said they didn’t know what to do. Sometimes when I called parents, some parents didn’t return any of my phone calls. I learned to call cellphones and not leave a message at home because the kids would just erase my message before their parents got a chance to hear the message.
Anthony (not his real name) , one of my students, skipped almost a third of my classes, repeatedly came late to class, and didn’t submit most of his work. When I talked to Anthony about all this, he asked “What is your problem?”. My problem I thought?
Another one of my students, Darren (not his real name) told me repeatedly he hated my classes and that I wasn’t any fun. I was giving the class too much work. I should be more like his teacher last year and let the class watch movies on Fridays- in a math class?
Tom (not his real name) another student in my class had a hair trigger temper and would throw things around class. Students were afraid of him; I was afraid of him. You just never knew what would set him off. He asked me one day as he came into the classroom, what I would do if he refused to go to the office when I asked him to go to the office. I told him I wasn’t even going to consider that question because I didn’t expect to have ask him to go to the office. I really try hard to start each day with a fresh slate. So, what happened yesterday does not affect today. I don’t usually send students to the office. I try to deal with any issues myself in class. But on rare occasions, I feel I have to send students to the office. Later in class that day, Tom chose to behave inappropriately, and I asked him to go to the office. He refused. Two behaviour support teaching assistants came to escort him to the office , he wouldn’t go either. He refused despite everything. Then five minutes before class was over, he announced, “Now I am going”. The learning environment was totally destroyed in that class and in future classes. Students were either waiting to see what Tom was going to do and couldn’t focus on their work, or after an incident they were afraid and couldn’t focus on their work or they talked about the incident after it happened and couldn’t focus on school work. I admit, I had a difficult time myself focusing.
Another student, I’ll call her Jenny, would skip classes, come late to class or sneak out of class when I was helping another student. One day I noticed Jenny was out of class and went into the hall to see if she was there. I saw her and told her to come back to class. Jenny just laughed and ran down the hall laughing more loudly as she opened the door and ran down stairs. I called home and left a message on her parent’s cell phone , but never heard back from the parent.
Other students have come to class high on some substance or another and have destroyed the learning environment as I dealt with the situation.
These are just some of the things that happened this semester in class. I don’t want to discuss any more hings that happened in class because I find it too upsetting.
I’m just thinking how much teaching has changed over the years. I’m surprised I still like teaching, but right now I can’t even think about teaching. That’s so sad. I’ve been teaching for so many years and have loved it. I’m a life long learner myself and keep on top of things by doing my own research on how to improve my teaching practice. I’ve had students who were at-risk academically and have graduated from high school come back and tell me how much I helped them while they were in school. I’ve even had students who didn’t graduate from high school tell me how much they appreciated what I tried to do for them. And, now all I can do is cry when I think about it all.
The Ontario College of Teachers and school boards are supposed to protect students from teachers who engage in criminal behaviour that does not respect teacher/student boundaries. Is OCT doing enough? Are school boards doing enough? I don’t think so and here’s why. Kevin Donovan, a Toronto Star staff reporter, reveals that a Toronto high school teacher who
- sent a message to a female student telling her how he dreamt of preforming oral sex on her;
- invited four female students to his room and they cuddled on his bed while on a field trip to England :
- invited a female student to come over to “spoon”or cuddle while his wife was away.
received a 30 day unpaid suspension from the Toronto District School Board and a transfer to Toronto’s Adult Education Centre while the Ontario College of Teachers completed its investigation. The OCT suspended the teacher for 12 months and then advised him if he took a “boundary violation” course he could go back into the classroom. Presumably, the teacher did take the “boundary violation course” because the OCT now says he is a member in “good standing” and can teach again. The Star could not determine if and where the teacher is teaching now.
I must confess, I don’t have much forgiveness in my heart when it comes to teachers who take advantage of their students in this way. Especially, when a teacher does it repeatedly. I want to ask questions like
- Where is the teacher’s common sense?
- Why was the teacher hired in the first place?
- Where is the mutual respect teachers and students ought to have for one another?
- How can we be sure the violations don’t happen?
Donovan also tells us that the criminal back ground check that all teachers have to have isn’t worth much. In fact, these criminal background checks can give a false sense of security. He notes that all but one of the teachers who sexually assaulted, abused or exploited young students over the last ten years had clean records before they were convicted. Sometimes teachers will give false information in order to hide a criminal record. Some of these teachers go on to conduct themselves inappropriately and not respect teacher/student boundaries. Even Michael Salvatori , OCT’s registrar, maintains that relying on a criminal background check of teachers isn’t enough to ensure that individuals are of good character.
What more can we do to make sure individuals are suitable to be teachers? In a report dated 2000, retired Judge Sydney L. Robins suggested that each school board needs to do a complete background check on individuals. This background check needs to include a detailed interview with a teacher before hiring. What do you think the system should do to protect students from the criminal actions of teachers?
Canadians for Accountability Blog has taken the OCT to task for it’s lack of transparency. I encourage you to read the article. I wasn’t aware of the issues involved. The grassroots needs to get involved here. I’m going to ask how I can help bring about the requisite transparency.
Photo of stop sign thanks to doublegrande