Your Questions: Violence in Schools

So I recently set up the “Contact Me” page on my blog. I was a little hesitant at first to do this, since I didn’t think it would fit in with my vision for my blog, to be a place for me to vent, my own personal journal, just in the public eye. But I have seen the value in it, and have connected with a few people now from it, and decided to answer a question right away instead of waiting. It’s a tough one, and touches my heart in a very emotional way.

“As a teacher, are you ever concerned about violence in your classroom” The simple answer is Yes. But this doesn’t deserve a simple answer. This is a very complicated issue and a very complicated question.As an elementary teacher, I tend not to think of violence in my class the same way that a high school teacher would. I had turned 12 five days before the Columbine shooting, so this is where my mind automatically goes when I hear of violence in classrooms. It’s something that I pray to God I will never experience. I can’t even imagine how a teacher would continue teaching after experiencing that, or how students would ever feel safe in a school after. For me, one of the keys to a successful classroom is a safe environment. To be honest, I had always felt so separated from that kind of violence. When I was in university, there were a few shootings at universities that made me feel uneasy, but I have never feared for my personal safety in a classroom.

Then in December 2012, there was the shooting at a public school in Connecticut. The news shared a touching story of a grade 1 teacher who hid her students in cabinets all around her room and then died protecting them. You can read a little bit of her story here. This really affected me. I’m not a full time teacher yet, but as a supply I still connect with the kids. The classes I go into are my kids – just as much as if I were their regular teacher. I have about 5 classes that I am always in, and I would honestly protect them with my life in any way possible. I would protect any child that was in my care.

To answer your question, I am always concerned about violence in the classroom. Not just “a gunman has entered, we are in lock down” violence, but all violence. I firmly believe that a child needs love and security in their life. Sometimes, school is the only place they get that, and sometimes it’s just not enough to stop them from growing up to commit crimes. I think as a teacher, part of my job is to be a place of safety and security for students – even if I only see them once a month or less. The way our students act with each other in class, sets precedent for future interactions. I don’t know the people involved in the Columbine or Connecticut shootings personally, but they were probably at their lowest point when their crimes happened. Whatever hope in life they had was lost – and as an educator, I try my hardest to imprint on the lives around me that hope is never lost. Their lives, their opinions, their existence matters.

In my classroom I have a zero-violence policy. I really don’t care if you are throwing punches or words, I don’t stand for it. When it happens, if I can deal with it myself then I do. A sit down, honest conversation can do wonders in a child’s life. When I can’t deal with it, I send it off to someone else who is more qualified like the principal or vice principal, and I will always leave a note for the regular teacher to follow up. Students need to know that their actions are being heard and that people care about them to make sure they are ok. I once had two grade 5 students at each other’s throats, puffing their chest out, standing over, taunting each other to swing first, telling each other they were going to kill the other person. This was not something I could deal with myself – but thankfully the principal of the school is a very kind and understanding man. He came down and just sat with the girls while they talked their differences out. I think more people need to take the time to really understand the reasons behind the violence before condemning the person who is being violent.

I hope that answers the question. The asker wanted to remain anonymous so I’ve sent a quick reply email to the address provided instead.

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