by Ginny Hoover
The Issue of Violence in Our Schools
May your endeavors succeed beyond your wildest beliefs, and may you never look upon children without visualizing a sea of gifts.
Recognize the need to change
It is not important that we find the blame, BUT it is important that we deal with the results. When working with the at risk, one thing I learned is that you cannot control things beyond your classroom-but you can control YOUR CLASSROOM. Increase your effectiveness by working together building wide. A pleasant learning environment can be obtained where success is possible, even probable! Making excuses and looking for blame are useless pursuits.
Build, don't tear down/recognize the value of each student
Take time to look at the profiles of those doing the killings-children who think of themselves as misfits, who have been teased, put down, and, in general, those who have been made to feel somehow flawed. They have a burning desire to get even; no, I think more than even-they want to experience national attention-to experience being number one at something! These are not students who wake up one morning and say, "I'll take a gun to school today and shoot someone." They plan, they organize, they derive a high level of satisfaction from the importance gained from the needed secrecy, but they hint to others, and then they carry out their plans. How did they become so desperate for attention? To need revenge? What is more important, can we help to make a change?
We have to recognize the value of every student in our classrooms. We need to stop this cycle of violence caused by cruel words and a society that cheers for the bad guy (simplifying the causes). We, as teachers, need to realize our power. In my book The Gifts of All Children, Rita Abrams contributed her interviews with famous people regarding teachers who made a difference in their lives-each one attributed part of his/her success to a teacher.
When a teacher looks at a class, what does he/she see? Potential? A zero? A diamond in the rough? A lost cause? Talent? May you never look upon children without visualizing a sea of gifts. The Gifts Project asks that teachers, parents/guardians, and students work together to recognize, acknowledge, and refine the gifts of all students. It takes very little time. It has no cost. It opens up a positive dialogue with parents. Most importantly it allows a student to claim the gifts he/she possesses. I tell the story in the book about looking for keys. They can't be found. The spouse gets up, grabs the keys from a very obvious place, gets that very knowing look touched with a bit of annoyance, and wonders how anyone could have missed them. The point being--maybe they don't see their potential. Sometimes we need someone to "find" the gifts, talents, abilities, skills, etc. that are valuable to us now and will be valuable to us in the future. If you'd like to pursue this line of thought, the book The Gifts of Children by Carroll Killingsworth and Ginny Hoover will be available at Teacher TimeSavers http://www.teachertimesavers.com/ (end of April, first of May time frame).
Use non-confrontational discipline
I once taught near a man teacher who physically threatened students. One day he grabbed a student, shoved him up against the locker, and told him exactly what he thought of him. I was appalled. I was also worried. This was a gang member who had a big family. I think the only thing that kept this man safe from retaliation was that the boy was immediately arrested for robbing a jewelry store of expensive watches (major felony). This teacher was making choices that would make him a target. We, as teachers, can no longer afford to make that kind of choice. Teaching by domination should be a thing of the past.
This same teacher took on a teenage girl verbally. The air was blue-his and hers. His solution was to put her in the hall where she continued to use very foul language. At this point, I had to intervene, as there was no way I could teach over all those four-letter words. I simply said to her, "I know you are angry, but your problem is not with me and my class. If you continue yelling out these obscenities, I will have to take action. Instead, I'd like to give you a choice. Continue expressing your anger until you feel better by either whispering or saying it to yourself OR continue yelling. If you get quiet, I will walk away." She began whispering the angry taunts immediately. I smiled, told her we no longer had a problem, and it was solved. This teacher's solution was verbal abuse-again to an active gang member. This girl in high school leveled a handful of men who tried to catch her when she did not want to be caught. Why would any teacher want to use this method of "discipline?"
I was using a non-confrontational technique when I dealt with the angry young woman in the hall. I approached her as a human being who had the intelligence to make a wise choice, and she did. Non confrontational discipline is a good choice, and though there are many defined approaches to choose from, I like Love and Logic. Links for this book and other interesting classroom managements sites can be found at my website http://www.geocities.com/ginnyks/discipline.html
Work toward prevention of major problems/deal with the minor before it becomes major
Teachers need to learn to recognize actions that lead to BIG problems and to stop those behaviors before they have opportunity to develop into a challenging situation. If a teacher had an ongoing problem in the classroom, he/she should look for signs or triggering actions that indicate a problem is about to happen again. How could the cycle be stopped? Sometimes something as simple as a seating chart will prevent it. Seating charts are wonderful assets. Divide and conquer. Keep troublemakers away from each other and out of their line of sight if possible.
Be careful about the tattling rules. We are asking our students to inform us when something important happens like there is a gun in the school-then some teachers are dishing out harsh punishments for tattling. We preprogram our young people not to confide in us. Then we can't understand their hesitancy.
I strongly recommend Crime Stoppers http://c-s-i.org/world.htm. They supply a phone number. Students and parents can remain anonymous. If students tell teachers, they inevitably must tell an authority. Secrecy doesn't last long. To protect the student, Crime Stoppers is the best choice. Train students how to find the number. Explain to them if they ever use it, not to tell anyone, even their best friend. They will then be safe.
Deal with bullies and victims of bullies
Kathy Noll s Taking the Bully by the Horns is an excellent resource. It addresses the needs of the victim and the bully. Again, look at the reasons students say they are driven to violence. Most of them say that the treatment they received from their peers caused them to take action. We need to be counseling the bully and the victim. A passage comes to mind in Kathy's book--about how a victim sometimes resorts to being the bully if problems are not solved. It's how they are resorting to being bullied that is scary. There was a time when tension was solved with a good fistfight and both parties walked away. Now that guns are involved, the victim has found a way to be stronger than the bully. Guns are called the great equalizer, but I think victims have learned they make you superior to the bully.
Deal with any feeling of helplessness you have
The class is out of control. The noise is not educational, but a free-for-all. Students are insulting, belligerent, and/or vulgar. The teacher feels helpless.
How do we get out of a situation like that? Here are some suggestions for that teacher:
- Get a mentor. Someone you respect. Someone who might visit the class to give suggestions. Someone who will give emotional support (cheerleader-type support).
- If the teacher is stressed out, go to a doctor for a check up. Good health helps!
- If there is trust for the administrator, ask for help.
- Check to see if schedule changes can't help by dividing and conquering.
- Stop the introduction of any new ideas. Do a section of review and reinforcement. Concentrate on getting the classroom management back into shape.
- Be persistent. Enforce rules evenly and fairly.
- Explore different management plans. Find one that works!
- Never argue with a student. Arguing implies a winner and a loser-too often that loser is the teacher.
- Use the seating chart to separate troublemakers.
- Develop a plan and follow it. Make alterations as necessary.
- Believe that teachers have power. Those who do not believe will be truly powerless.
Young people are very self involved. Each is the most important person in his/her own world. Community service places the emphasis on the best interest of others-without pay! It is a tremendous opportunity to learn about giving and putting the focus on others.
About Ginny Hoover...
Ginny Hoover took an early retirement after 31 years of teaching in Kansas public schools. Her experience spans the 5th through 8th grades, although she does admit to teaching 2nd grade once for summer school. During the last ten years she has functioned as a trainer of teachers in a variety of areas in her district, surrounding districts, professional organizations, and teacher service centers. At the state level Ginny is a state trainer and a writing assessment grader for the KS State Writing Assessment (based on the Six Traits Writing Model), a member of the Kansas Social Studies Committee for writing the social studies standards, benchmarks, and indicators, and the lead trainer for the state in government and civics.
Recently, Teacher TimeSavers has published a variety teaching units and tutoring hookups that Ginny wrote and designed. These include a literary unit for Taming the Star Runner, Hookups for Language Arts, Transcripts of Trials for Goldilocks, The Wolf, and Mr. Dad, and Tactile/Kinesthetic Activity Patterns.
The Gifts of Children by Hoover and Carroll Killingsworth, a book about recognizing, acknowledging, and refining the gifts of children, is scheduled to be published some time this year. Visit Teachers Helping Children--The Gifts Project for additional information.
Ginny was selected by iUniverse.com personnel to develop their middle school site for teachers who wish to be published. On this site, teachers can publish articles expressing their ideas and opinions on education. In addition, iUniverse.com is a print on demand site that will publish books for teachers.
Ginny's Eclectic Middle School pages