Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The Education Degree Programs Don't Teach This In The Classroom. It Takes An Experienced Teacher To Do What Is Right For Everybody Involved.
Many of my readers already know that I am an ATR at a wonderful high school with a good Administrative staff. However, as an ATR I find myself substituting for various teachers who are out for the day and feel, at times, I am not contributing to the school's success since I do not have classes of my own. Sure, I am dependable, tutor struggling students, the Administration trusts me to do whatever job they give me, and many of the students respond to me but it is still not like having your own students. However, something happened last week that somewhat changed how I felt about my contribution to the educational success of the school.
I was overseeing a class of 32 students, who, for the most part, was doing their assignment, so I settled down to take attendance. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I saw a student jump up from his seat and run across the room to confront a fellow student who apparently hit him with a spitball. The two students stood up and were nose-to-nose and chest-to-chest (no personal space here) and I realized I had an extremely volatile situation that was seconds from exploding into a fist fight. I instinctively took action to try to defuse the already dangerous situation. I first had a passing teacher call down to "school safety" to get assistance and then moved toward the two students as I encouraged the other students to back away from the inevitable fight. I screamed at the two students to "stop, stop this at once". I repeated this three times as I continued to make my way toward the two potential combatants. When I reached them I instructed them to "stop, and get back into your seats". I quickly realized that neither one was backing down so I did what I thought was best for the safety of the class, me, and the two students. I put my hands on each of them, just below the shoulders and tried to push each one back slowly and gently away from each other without me being caught between them (more like a triangle). At first, neither one budged and I thought this is real bad but I then said in a stern but caring voice the following "fighting each other will only result in both of you getting arrested and suspended for the rest of the school year". That did the trick, both students started to respond to my gentle push and started to slowly move away from each other. As the distance between the two students increased and they could no longer reach each other, I only then stepped between them to further defuse the situation. By the time school safety and the Deans came the altercation was over and both students were returning to their seats. Both boys (17-18 year olds) were sent to mediation to work it out. It seems that they were once friends and had a falling out that festered for some time, only to explode in my classroom. Lucky me.
Did I do the right thing? I think so. My experience in the classroom allowed me to instinctively protect the students in the classroom while defusing the fight and stopping two students from potentially destroying their chances to graduate on time, if at all. Furthermore, I realized that I could not step between them for fear of getting hurt and not be covered because, according to the DOE and UFT, I exceeded my duty in putting myself in danger. Therefore, I did what you are never taught in education courses, that is how to protect the students under your control while not causes injury to yourself. Only my experience as a classroom teacher allowed me to instinctively defuse a potentially dangerous situation into a simple mediation session
Mayor Bloomberg, this is just another example why teacher experience counts!