Sunday, February 05, 2012

More Regrets

I talked briefly about some of the regrets I have here but I've thought of more.  Fortunately, there are many, many things I do not regret (like the feelings paper), but there are a few things I would like to do differently.

Most of my regrets have to do with adult bullying.  I think many people wouldn't classify it as such but I would.  For example:

I regret that, when I was volunteering in a class after I stopped teaching, that I did not stand up to a bullying teacher.  She was a fantastic teacher - for any student who was willing to sit still, behave the way she wanted, and learn by direct instruction.  However, when children had learning difficulties, behavior problems, or emotional trauma causing them to act out, she shamed them.  Sh called them names, she told them that they would never do well, and she almost mocked them.  I don't remember if she ever used the word "worthless" but that was certainly what she was calling several children, whether she said it directly or not. 

There was one child in her class who clearly had severe emotional problems, although I didn't know any specifics.  He had such a hard time, just in daily life.  One day, he was sitting very very still, with his hands folded in that way children do when they're trying to "be good."  He was still wiggling a little but was clearly using all his willpower to stay as still as he could.  The teacher walked over toward him and snapped, "It's not that hard to sit still."  The child's face fell. 

I should have said something.  Not necessarily in front of the kids, but I should have said something afterward.  Something like, "Actually, it's very hard to sit still, and I'm 36, not 7."  Or "Take a look at this child.  He is trying so hard to please you and you just broke his heart."  That sounds a little dramatic but it was also true.  But I didn't.  I justified it by telling myself that this teacher wasn't going to change because I said something (probably true) and that I was just a volunteer and it wasn't my place to tell her how to run her classroom.  But I should have said something. 

I said something to the child, so I guess that was better than nothing.  I whispered to him that I thought it was really hard to sit still and that I can't sit still for very long.  Then I said that I thought he was doing a really good job.  But he should have heard that from his teacher and I should have stood up for him.

Another time, when I was teaching, some people from the curriculum department came in the classroom to check for compliance with the reading program.  These weren't our reading coaches who were generally really helpful - these were people from the district who I didn't know, who were - or at least this is how I read it - looking for teachers who were messing up and didn't have the proper components up on the wall.

I had the class - as scheduled - on the carpet, discussing the story we were reading.  The curriculum folks came in, continuing their conversation (which was not about curriculum) at a normal to loud level of volume.  They didn't try to be any quieter when they came into my classroom, and they didn't say "excuse me."  They just kept talking loudly, making it impossible for the children to continue their conversation, which was part of the curriculum.

I wish I had called them on it.  I wish I had just said, "Excuse me; we're having a lesson here - do you think you could talk a little more quietly?"  Or "Since you're so concerned with the curriculum, you might notice that we're trying to follow it and that it's very hard to do so when four adults are talking loud enough that the children can't hear each other."  I wish I had found out their names and emailed them later - cc'ing the superintendent - to let them know that their behavior was unprofessional and that if they were going to walk into my classroom to check on how professional I was being, that they could at least shut their mouths long enough to avoid taking away valuable learning time from my students. 

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