Sunday, June 12, 2011
Meyer: Talking Points- Questions
This article was extremely interesting and eye-opening to me. What surprised me the most was not how much gendered harassment is going on in secondary schools, but the lack of intervention by teachers and administrators. As a fourth grade teacher, I don't see much of this type of bullying in my classroom (luckily), but it sickens me to think about these kids in middle and high school that are being treated so cruelly and nothing is being done about it.
On the other hand, it's very easy to judge and criticize these teachers and administrators until you are actually in their shoes. I loved how the article had actual excerpts from the teacher interviews and that they spoke so candidly about their positions. Teachers have so many demands, and several commented that they just have too much to do in class and often let this kind of stuff slide. The teachers also said that they don't get the backing from the administration, so some of their attitudes were, "why even bother when nothing is going to be done?" Moreover, many (especially teachers that were gay, bisexual, women, or people of color), felt that they needed to protect themselves and walk on eggshells. They didn't want to stir the pot, so to speak, even though they related most closely to those students who were being bullied because they had been through very similar experiences. The teachers also commented on lack of training in their teacher education programs on how to deal with instances of bullying in the classroom. Lastly, consistency was a huge theme that ran throughout this entire article. There is a definitely problem when teachers are not on the same page with what they punish students for and what they tolerate in the classroom. As Meyer stated, "Many teachers felt that they could not defend taking certain actions against students if other teachers were not addressing those same issues."
This thought-provoking article raised many questions for me as an educator. Here are just a few that came to mind:
1) As teachers, we are taught to have a zero-tolorance policy against bullying. In Meyer's article, a teacher remarks how a racist comment was not tolerated and dealt with immediately, but when a kid called another kid a 'faggot', she had to push for action and for it to be addressed. Why do we turn to other way and ignore certain types of bullying, while others are dealt with immediately? Who decides what kinds of behaviors and slurs are "acceptable?" If the school truly has a zero tolerance policy (which all schools should), then why do some bullying behaviors rank above others?
2) With bullying being such a huge issue in schools today (cyber-bullying in particular), why are education majors not required to take a class that focuses solely on addressing these issues in the classroom? When I was an undergrad, we had to take a classroom management class, but I don't remember it focusing on bullying at all. Hopefully things have changed, and that topic is addressed to college students studying to be educators. If not, why isn't more training being offered to teachers on how to deal with such behaviors?
3) One of the quotes that I found most interesting was when Meyer said, "The lack of consistency in reporting and response to such incidents among colleagues and the lack of a clear policy and definitions to guide teachers in the classrooms and hallways were significant obstacles these teachers faced in their school cultures." Students can sense when there is a lack of consistency among teachers, and most are going to push the boundaries and try to get away with whatever they can. As educators, are you influenced by what your colleagues are doing in their classrooms, and do you feel the pressure to follow suit? Or, do you try to march to the beat of your own drum and hold yourself to your own standards, not just to those of your school/district?
4) Meyer speaks about "barriers" in her article. She defines these external barriers as: lack of support from administration, lack of formal education, inconsistent response from colleagues, and fear of parent backlash and negative community response. Since every district or even every school is different, which of these barriers do we face? Which ones are more prevalent? Which ones will be the hardest to overcome and why?
5) There is a fine line that we, as educators, have to walk (especially those without tenure), when bringing up issues to administration. We want our administrators to address and follow through with these issues, but yet we don't want to seem like we can't handle our classrooms, or be that high-maintenance teacher that goes to our administration for every little thing. How do we open the doors of communication between teachers and administrators, and not make it "all about the adults?" If the main focus is the students, shouldn't we be working together to protect them, and not have to worry about protecting ourselves and our jobs?