The following was written by Marie Cushing, a teacher in Memphis, TN’s Achievement School District. She has worked for Teach For America, and she is a gifted writer, educator, and communicator. It is reposted here with her permission….
- Ask her to leave the room in a way that preserves her dignity. She is trying to save face with her peers. Make it casual. “Come with me real quick to talk about what’s bothering you. Let’s go grab a drink of water. Let’s go walk around the school building to calm down.”
- Give her choices. “We can walk out together or you can meet me in the hallway in ten seconds. You can go sit over in this other part of the classroom so we can talk or you can talk with me in the hall.”
- Ground yourself in empathy. Remember how difficult it was for you to be 15, then take away all the privileges you had as a young white man. “I can tell things must be difficult for you right now, and I want to help you be successful in school, so let’s go have a conversation about what I can do to help you get on track.” Use your authority for good.
- Let a friend come with her so she can talk it out. I know she has friends in the class – you know Niya, the one you arrested for videotaping you? She would have been a great choice!
- Ask a teacher she has a bond with come talk to her. Don’t be so full of yourself to think you are the only one who can help her.
- Evacuate. Every teacher working in communities where children are dealing with chronic stress knows how to evacuate a room. If you don’t want to leave, and you are on the verge of a break down, then everyone else rolls out to the hallway and we learn out there – instruction still happens, and you can get the time you need to get yourself together.
- Notice you are getting upset over a child acting like a child, laugh to yourself how silly that is in the grand scheme of things, take a breath, remember that at the end of the day you get to go home to people who love you (presumably, because you seem like an asshole), and remember this girl would like to go home to people who love her too – and consider she may be acting out because she doesn’t have that option. Then remember that the bell is going to ring eventually – at some point she will feel the need to leave that classroom. Play the waiting game. It’s not like there are other children in need of a good chokeholdin’ who will miss out on your fine services.
- Look at the child sitting there, sitting in a calm and silent manner. Reflect on the centuries of violence inflicted upon Black bodies and ask yourself if you really want to be a part of that historical oppression. Consider how the school-to-prison pipeline is apparent in the hyper-controlling toe-the-line classroom management techniques many teachers rely on because they don’t trust themselves to develop true relationships and view misbehavior as an attack on authority they haven’t worked to earn. Then ask her, “Hey, why aren’t you doing your work?”
- Remember that you are a school resource officer, not a member of Seal Team Six. Your job is to protect students, not take Cartman’s “Respect My Authoritah” mantra seriously. Bore her into compliance by reading from the D.A.R.E. handbook – that’s what my Resource Officer at HAJH would have done.
- Quit. Go home. Go to bed. Take the world’s longest nap. Wake up. Reevaluate your life. Take up knitting. Run a marathon. Dance the cha-cha. Ride a pogo stick. Recite a sonnet. Do a Sudoku puzzle. DO LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE.
Disclaimer (written by Marie): I worry Facebook is just an echo chamber for people to feel like they’ve accomplished something by posting a status, but I’m seeing a lot of people (and by people, I mean Don Lemon and four of my Facebook friends – we need a label for people you keep on your feed so you can fight their toxic worldviews because you care too much for them as people to let them live a life of ignorance) looking to excuse this man’s actions. And that is some grade A 100% certified bullshit.