All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Intimidated But Not Cowered

There is a group of Black Year 11 kids who subscribe to the whole gang culture crap. They walk around the playground (and also inside the building) wearing baseball caps as if they were going out of style and present an extremely menacing site to both teachers and students.

I say this, because today, I found myself as the centre of their attention - and it was not something I want to repeat.

I was teaching a Year 11 class and one student was (as per usual) totally ignoring my requests to stop eating or do any work. He brazenly left his mobile phone on the desk and as per school instructions, I got hold of it and put it into my back pocket.

He started by trying to take it out but when he realised that wasn't working (I held on to it for dear life), he squared me up and blocked my path, so that I found myself trapped against the wall, with his face a hairbreadth away from mine.

Despite my attempts to get past him, he stood (and even sat, legs spread out) firm, blocking me in. This eyeball to eyeball standoff lasted for quite a few minutes whilst I told him that I felt threatened and that he was only making things worse for himself (like he cared).

The classroom was silent. I was a gladiator in the ring.

I asked a student to call the teacher on patrol and to my horror, he abjectly refused. It was only after I screamed at him that he went out for assistance.

Another student walked in and my tormentor immediately changed tack by letting me through - and promptly going over to my desk, removing items and putting them on his seat (presumably as a bargaining hoard), before dismantling my computer, by pulling plugs out and turning the LCD screen onto its front.

To my relief, another teacher came in to remove him from the class and I carried on, shaken but unbowed (with the phone still clenched in my back pocket).

The lesson ended and the kids left. I locked myself alone in the room and thought about how I was going to get out, since a group of his friends were gathering outside the door, with the obvious intention of intimidating me into giving over the phone as I exited.

I had thoughtlessly left my own phone in the staff room, so I couldn't call for help.

I asked another student, speaking through the glass in the door to get a member of senior staff, but she answered "I can't do that as X is my friend".

I can't remember a time when I have felt so alone and so afraid.
Really afraid - stuck in a locked classroom, waiting for the cavalry to arrive.

Fortunately, the teacher who had helped me previously came to the door and escorted me out of the room, to the stony stares of the gang.

So what do I make of all this?

I am glad I stood firm and didn't return the phone, but was it really worth the hassle? Should I have left it alone and allowed him to do exactly what he wanted (yet again) in my class?

What can I say about the student(s) who did nothing whatsoever to help, even though they could see what was going on? Particularly the one who refused to go out. When I later asked him why he hadn't helped me, his reply was "I only help those I want to help".

How interesting that came to apologise (no doubt afraid of what was going to happen to him) claiming that he'd been afraid of the consequences from the students if he'd assisted me by getting another teacher.

I've written the whole episode up in school - but to what avail? The student in question probably wanted to be excluded anyway.

Dana told me that I have to leave the school and for once, I'm going to do exactly what she says, because today, for the first time, I was frightened to be a teacher -

and that's not why I spent so much time training to get into the profession.


Tense Teacher said...

Any job in which you feel intimidated is not worth having. I have to agree with your wife... It's time to go. Not all schools allow that mess to occur.

Pepperpot said...

It depends on what happens next. I should hope that your managers will take this matter up, will discipline the student who took you hostage and will approach you to offer personal comfort, reassurance and support. And the school need to consider putting phones in all classrooms so you are not trapped again.

You did good. You didn't back down, but nor did you resort to unprofessional behaviour. You called to account not only the student who threatened you but also the onlookers, and made them realise that their actions were also reprehensible. You are therefore a very good teacher and you have, in a small way, stood up to the pervasive bad attitudes of some young people today, and showed them that they are not able to intimidate teachers. Now, if your school does not discipline the instigator further, you may have cause for worry that your institution is not a safe place. But for now, I honestly feel that this incident proves how valuable you are to this school and in the lives of the students there.

Please - let us know what happens next.

The Teacher said...

Fellow professionals, thank you for your kind words and support (Pepperpot, I'm actually blushing!).

I will certainly keep you informed. Let's put it this way, the matter has been taken pretty seriously by the SLT (Senior Leadership Team) and is being dealt with....that is until the next incident embraces the limelight.