Last month I discussed a few newsworthy changes in the city of Baltimore, where certain schools have started implementing meditation in lieu of detention. This approach is is inspiring and certainly something from which we (those charged with caring for and educating students) can learn. Yet apparently such inspiration has not made its way around the entire city.
This past week a video surfaced of a teacher at a Baltimore Middle School, Harlem Park, berating children, who had apparently not heeded her instruction and were unresponsive to her directives about doing work. The video begins with the woman, who has now been let go by the school, removing a disruptive student from the classroom. By the end of the short clip, the teacher is calling all of the children stupid and telling them they’re the N-words bound to get shot. The teacher was white.
But her race alone is not the most alarming part. Her tone and the way she chose to address these students is most upsetting. To be clear, having worked in education, I understand that students can get rowdy, that some days are not as great as others, and that on those days, some students just won’t listen. That is not ideal but it comes with the territory, and educators should be prepared for dealing with it, especially if their goal is teach in a school or district where the population is historically underserved and impoverished.
Those children, as disrespectful as they are and as nerve racking as they can be, are just that, children. Many are disaffected by the education system because they deal with a world of hell outside of the school’s walls, which may include gun violence, drug abuse, hunger, incarcerated parents, bullying, and yes, racism. As I’ve discussed previously, these experiences can be traumatic, making learning (as well as teaching) difficult.
In turn, these children need the opposite. They need attention and teachers who care, who are willing to give the hard love that may turn them around, and who are able discipline without using profanity and demeaning language. Perhaps meditation is not a possibility for every school or classroom, but compassionate teachers should be.
And maybe this is an example of teachers needing to meditate themselves, or find some other way to care for themselves, to destress and decompress, and this should be encouraged by the schools. The job of being an educator is not easy in anyway, and being responsible for young adult lives, even when it seems like you’re the only one, is draining. Yet many of us have entered the profession, knowing the risks and still rising to the challenge with the hope of changing at least one life. If not that, then what is the purpose?