If you are familiar with the teaching staff at your child’s school, you may be in for a surprise when school begins. It is no secret that teachers are leaving the profession rapidly. There are numerous factors: low pay, higher expectations, and larger class sizes. However, one factor, in my professional opinion, trumps the rest: the behaviors that are becoming increasingly rampant in classrooms.
General expectations are being challenged by students and parents consistently. Some children are identified as needing additional help for various reasons, and I am not referring to those situations. Teachers and support staff work hard to ensure that legal criteria are being met, but I dare to say that every public school in the state (and probably the country) is likely understaffed and overworked. The situations discussed are ones of outright refusal, backtalk, and aggression toward others, at the elementary level.
I have experienced these situations, and it is beyond frustrating. Teachers are being gaslit daily. It is common for students to take no responsibility for their own actions. Situations include putting their hands on another, using inappropriate language, and then arguing until they scream that we have invented the entire scenario. Students asked to clean up their area instead lay their heads down and refuse to move. They tend to ignore completely, and when asked again, yell, “they are!” and become enraged. Students throw pencils or chairs, slam their hands or books down on desks, and attempt to “elope” from the room. Many are familiar with the teacher who was shot this past winter by a six-year-old and may be countersued by the district because she apparently could have prevented the child from shooting her. When an educator is being blamed for being a gunshot victim, the line has gone too far.
Incidents become even more complicated when parents question the teacher for the behavior. We are often being told we need to improve classroom management or that a child doesn’t like us. When reporting a student becoming physical, it has become practice to be asked what the teacher did to set the student off. Students are sent to the office and return to the room with a granola bar and the opportunity to have free time on a computer if they work for ten minutes. It is such a feeling of defeat when you know that there will be no repercussions for how a student behaves or when you dread calling a parent because you know that the response will not be supportive of you. Clearly, teachers do not want this behavior in our classrooms. We don’t create it for fun. We want to do our jobs without tantrums and outbursts.
Why do I feel such a need to bring attention to the struggle many educators are facing daily? It is because it needs to be said. Loudly. We are burnt out. It is so difficult to begin a new day happily when we know what awaits us in our classroom. Our only options are generally to deal with it or walk away. Our hands are tied. Our admins’ hands are tied. A significant shift is needed, yet it is not something we can control, as it generally needs to start at home.
My challenge for all parents is to please discuss how important respect is with your child. If you encounter a situation with your child’s teacher that has left you upset, please initiate contact with that teacher as an adult, respectfully asking what occurred and why instead of immediately blaming. I am sure there are bad teachers out there, but in good faith know we do not want these behaviors happening in our classroom.
Finally, if you are thankful for your child’s teacher, please tell them. They are likely carrying a heavy weight on their shoulders unseen by others. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to sign up to become a substitute in your district. Remember, there is a reason why there are so many TikTok videos of parents thanking teachers in their cars immediately after exiting the building.