It’s Monday and my stomach is laden with the anticipation, anxiety and dread of another fun-filled week at work. I considered throwing myself in traffic this morning as I raced to work with the speed of an F4 tornado…funny how we race to places we never really want to be!
Jolita Berry and the Waycross, GA cases are sitting in the back of my mind…like an elephant treading on breaking ice. Jolita Berry, an Art teacher who teaches in a Baltimore City public high school, is physically assaulted by a student. Other students record the incident on their cell phones…do not try to help her…they make way for their peer to pelt their teacher, an adult, with her fists. I watched the clip in horror as students moved chairs and desks aside to make room for the fight. Ms. Berry was on the floor, squirming and wriggling like an insect caught in a spider’s web. Jolita Berry was a package of raw meat dropped in the midst of a circle of crazed wolves.
I find the public’s response to be both comforting and repulsive. You see, as an educator, I empathize with those teachers who deal with the daily disrespect of the trade…I take comfort in knowing that there are “civilian” members who support our efforts to educate the gems of our future. Then…there’s the repulsive…the people who contribute in turning our gems into bubblegum-machine-ring plastic (more on this in another post)!
Jolita Berry…what can I say? It’s true. It’s ALL TRUE! And I know you’re saying, “But you weren’t even there!” No…I was not at HER inner-city school, but I am at MY inner-city school…and there is no difference. As soon as I saw her face, heard her voice, listened to the emptiness and sorrow laced within her words…I knew her…she is me…she is every other teacher who is struggling to maintain a modicum of their dignity and humanity while trying to “educate” in a hostile environment.
The Administration? Well, let’s just say that I believe they are all given a generic handbook that pretty much says the same thing, regardless of location (and I’m talking inner-city administration here). If I were to guess, the handbook would read like this:
- Teachers are to handle all discipline issues within their own classrooms. Teachers are NEVER to send students to the office for discipline reasons.
- Administrators can/should threaten a teacher’s job if he sends a student to the office or locks his door after the tardy bell and requires that the student has a pass to gain entry into the classroom.
- Administrators can/should introduce several rules, but never enforce them.
- Administrators can/should make-up rules for the faculty as they go along.
- Administrators can/should bully the faculty because they will listen when the students won’t.
- Administrators can/should walk past fights, arguments, and students who are making-out in the hallway.
- Administrators should NOT stand in the hallway during class changes because someone may want to speak to them.
- Administrators can/should tell a teacher he is having lunch when the teacher brings a student, who has severely disrupted the order of class, to his office…and then shut the door in the faces of both the student and the teacher.
- Administrators can/should allow students to curse, beat, and sexually harass teachers without receiving any consequences.
The world that Jolita Berry describes is a world that exists on a full-time scale. Please do not be mistaken, like some people I have encountered, in believing that her situation is an exception. Due to the lax method of “discipline, students know that they can get away with murder…Maybe that’s what it will take before the community does something to put a stop to this madness, because the Administration and Central Offices don’t care about anything but their test scores.
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/24047456/ (Jolita Berry)