Too often, parents relay stories to me about what is happening in their children’s classroom. Sometimes, these stories are hard to believe. Students, both verbally and physically, intimidate their teachers and fellow students, and nothing visibly is being done to solve the problem. As we’ve heard during both parent and student testimonies at school boards, in the news and through social media, this behavior has escalated to the point that the status quo isn’t working. School systems need to find a different approach.
As the son of a teacher, I was raised to always respect my teachers. They were the authority in the classroom and were empowered to enforce discipline to keep the class in line so that the teacher could do what they were hired to do, teach. That is becoming less and less of the case these days, and we are asking our teachers to do their job with their hands tied behind their back. Teachers shouldn’t have to take disrespect and abuse from their students. Their job is not, and never should be, to raise these students. Their job is to provide their students the tools necessary to succeed at the next level. Teachers need our support.
Financial support is one avenue, but it is not the only solution. We’ve watched the Democrats in Baltimore City dump millions and millions into their schools without positive results. The Kirwan Commission has already given us a preview of its upcoming findings and it largely comes down to “investing more money.” That is taxpayer money. Money you’ve worked hard for. Democrats are good people and their hearts are in the right place, but as elected leaders, we have a fiduciary responsibility to spend your money wisely and in ways that produce results.
Teacher empowerment and parental support should be a much stronger push than it is now. Disciplinary actions in the classroom take time away from teaching and hurt those students who are there to learn. Teachers need the support of the administration and the knowledge that the administration has their backs. Teachers need support from parents as well. As a society, we have cut our teachers off at the knees by consistently siding with our students over the teachers or administration. If a teacher does something wrong, oftentimes they are disciplined or lose their job. If a student does something wrong, they are given second, third, fourth or fifth chances before finally being transferred to a different school or expelled. Parents, it isn’t always the teacher’s fault.
The lack of discipline at home or parental involvement in a student’s life is often a key factor that leads to problems in the classroom. Children need to be held accountable for their actions. They need positive reinforcement when they do something good and need to be held accountable when they do something bad. With most parents working to support their families and trying to succeed at their careers, often it is the children that take the brunt of that ambition and hard work. Children don’t always get the attention they both need and deserve, and it results in negative behavior and disrespect in the classroom. The negative behavior is often reinforced by attention, although not positive, focused on them.
Focusing our finite resources on guidance counselors and school psychologists who can identify those students needing increased attention is a strong first step. Finding mentors for these students and/or alternative education paths, such as Anne Arundel County’s Center for Applied Technology schools, might solve these problems early. Not all students are college bound.