I’ve been uncomfortable in the teacher’s room before as one of the teachers berates a student for something. Normally it involves some yelling and a kid nearly in tears. Today took things to a new level. I have no idea what was going on, but one of my 8th grade boys came in and was talking to his homeroom teacher (who yelled at him last week. During that conversation I caught the word “lazy” several times). I left the room and when I came back the two of them were talking to the head teacher. Then the P.E. Teacher, who is also linked to the 8th grade class got involved. I’ve never seen him so angry.
I was sitting at my desk, desperately trying to distract myself from the spectacle before me. The boy already looked on the verge of tears and I really thought he was going to lose it once the P.E. teacher went off on him. He yelled loudly at him, which any other student walking by the teacher’s room could have heard, and then he pushed him. I was convinced I hadn’t seen that at first. I thought maybe he had just backed up because it was an intense situation. But then he pushed him again. And a third time.
I understand that there are some kids who need the fear of god put into them by someone in order for them to straighten out. But this boy is not that type. He’s a shy, quiet boy. I can’t imagine anything he could have done that excused that kind of behavior.
I know that my reaction to this is greatly colored by my own culture and that it isn’t my place to judge. But it made me incredibly uncomfortable and it was really hard for me to just sit there and not do anything about it. I’ve wanted to go hug kids after they have been berated by teachers, but this was a lot more than that. He did not hurt the student. The pushes were forceful and serious, but only enough to make him take a step back. He bumped into one of the desks and knocked some things over, but that was the worst of it. Still, the idea of a teacher laying a hand on a student who didn’t seem to have it coming really bothered me. I’m almost afraid to ask what he was being yelled at for. I’m not sure if they will even tell me as it could be a private matter.
I’ve only seen a teacher get physical with a student one other time. In my first year here I went with the Japanese teacher up to the 9th grade classroom for lunch. She asked one of the boys to go downstairs and get my lunch. The boy made a big deal about it and threw out his arms and yelled “Shit!” The teacher, who was one of the nicest ladies I have ever met, promptly smacked him in the head and told him off for such inappropriate behavior. The student calmed down and went and got my lunch. Later, when we were brushing our teeth in the teacher’s room the Japanese teacher told the art teacher about what had happened. She was really embarrassed by the whole thing, mostly because it had happened in front of me. She turned to me and smiled apologetically and said, “Amanda-sensei. Not every day.”
At the time I thought it was a great thing. He had totally deserved it and she had not struck him hard. Just enough to get his attention and let him know that he had crossed a line. But the student today didn’t seem to have done anything that required such a reaction. He wasn’t talking back or not paying attention. He already looked like he was going to cry, implying that he understood the seriousness of whatever was going on. But I have to trust that the teachers involved know the situation better than I do and try to put it out of my mind.