No Excuse

Today at my school, one of my third graders came in a little late.  I asked her why she was late and her eyes were big as she told this story:

Her teacher had told a boy in her class to correct some mistakes he had made on his work.  He didn’t make the corrections (I don’t know if he refused or didn’t know the right answers).  So, the teacher put his work on the overhead projector for the whole class to see and discussed the mistakes the boy had made.  The boy jumped up, yelled that the teacher had embarrassed him in front of the whole class, said “all the bad words”, threw his papers at the teacher and walked out of the room.  The girl told me she was really surprised that the boy did this, he had never acted that way before.  He was nice, she told me.

After the third graders left the reading lab, my coworkers were discussing what had happened.  One woman said she saw the teacher right after the incident and said the boy had really “rattled” the teacher- she was really “shook up.”  My coworker talked about seeing the boy, too.  She said he was angry and wouldn’t even go into the principal’s office.  A  couple of my coworkers shook their heads in disgust as if to say,  “Kids these days!” 

I was astounded that no one said what I wanted to say:  The teacher was shook up?!  What about the boy?   Was the teacher shook up and rattled because she knew she made a mistake?   How would that teacher feel if , at the next staff meeting, her supervisor put her mistake on the overhead projector for her coworkers to see?  Embarrassed, maybe?    

I know that teaching can be a challenging, thankless and sometimes frustrating job.  I have taught preschool and kindergarten.  My sisters are both middle school teachers (bless them!)  I am the last one to say that kids should say and do whatever they want.  I am constantly amazed at this new generation of kids that is often outspoken in a disrespectful way.  It is unacceptable to me.  But so is what happened to that boy today.  If he was refusing to make the corrections, then he should have consequences.  If he didn’t understand the work, then he needed help.  If he was being angry or defiant, the principal’s office is just a few buildings away.  Why would anyone make the choice  to humiliate a child?  Perhaps the teacher thought she was helping the boy, that the class could fix the mistakes as a whole.  Then she should have asked if she could put the work on the overhead projector.  I’m guessing she didn’t because I think  he would have said no.  He would not have wanted to be embarrassed.  Would you? 

Incidents like these are not new to me.  I have seen and heard about many similar incidents at my school, at my son’s schools, at schools attended by friends’ kids.  Teachers treat kids in a certain way, kids act out, kids get punished.  I am just an aide at my school, not a teacher.  I have no control, no authority like I did in my previous job.  So,  usually, I just  keep my thoughts to myself and get back to the work at hand:  being there for the kids, helping them to read better.

No one would have liked to hear my opinion today:  that teacher got what she deserved from the boy.  Everyone agreed that he was a boy who did not usually get in trouble.   Maybe today, he was pushed over the edge.  That teacher should be “rattled.”  The boy may have acted inappropriately but….so did she.  He is a kid.  What is her excuse?

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