Thursday, October 27, 2011

Teacher's response to suspension allegations

I received this interesting and well written comment from an anonymous Buffalo Public Schools' teacher. It was in response to a letter in today's paper accusing Buffalo teachers of suspending students for "clowning around" in class and wearing hoodies. I think the original letter writer (Danielle Judge-Johnson), is sincere in her beliefs and I don't mean this to be an attack on her. I think if she spent some time in the classrooms at some of the schools in Buffalo, she would realize how bad the behavior problem really is. As this teacher states, it is the teacher's job to teach. Not to be a replacement for the students' parents...

As a teacher in a Buffalo Public High School, I find Judge-Johnson's letter offensive. She writes as though she is personally watching eager and highly motivated students get pushed out the door with suspension letters in hand for petty infractions. She fails to recognize that the root of the problem lies deeper. The majority of the students suspended in my school are kids who lack the skills, support, and the motivation to behave properly in a classroom. They display complete disregard and disrespect for the rules and the staff of the school. So something that may start off as "frivolous" to her, (hoodie wearing and "clowning") end up being a suspension because the student takes it to a much higher level; escalating something minor into insubordination, threats against staff, etc.

To say that some kids come to high school unprepared is a huge understatement and if I wasn't a witness to it myself over the last 10 years, maybe I would feel the same way Judge-Johnson does. Of course, we would all rather have students in class learning than be out on the street, but there is only so much that can be done within the school. School is not a substitute for a parent. Furthermore, there is not unlimited staff to 'babysit' students who are not acting appropriate in class & need further consequence. Sadly, many kids don't care when they get suspended and don't really take it seriously. You can tie this directly with the lack of value they have for their education. The real question centers on how you deal with those students - the ones who don't care and don't understand why they should. I would love for Ms. Judge-Johnson to come to my school and see for herself what is really going on with these students and the staff who deal with these situations every single day! Surely it would be an eye opener for her!


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