Sunday, February 21, 2010

Caring Teachers and Zero Tolerance in Schools

Teachers care, let's just start with that statement. People enter the teaching profession for many diverse reasons, some have a passion for a certain content area, others want to make a difference in the lives of children, while still others like the vacations. Once people enter the field, they either become a statistic and leave within a few years, or they stick around. For those who stick around, something invariably happens, they begin to care very deeply about the students they work with.

Caring for others and having a positive impact on their lives is the very essence of humanity.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” ~Elie Wiesel

For teachers, all it involves is looking at students as more than just numbers and scores, or labels of proficient and not proficient. Once you pull back the veil and begin to appreciate students for who they are as individuals, the job of being a teacher becomes a part of who you are, a part of your identity.

That's why when I hear stories of "zero tolerance," or idiots cracking down on students for no reason other than the fact that their job of teaching or being an administrator is nothing more than that, a job, it not only makes the rest of us look bad, but more importantly, it has the potential to destroy the education for many children.

This morning I came across a story on CNN.com titled Girl's Arrest For Doodling Raises Concerns About Zero Tolerance. Reading about the extreme level of reaction to a girl doodling, in marker, on her desk, is a cause for concern. The article discusses the fact that police are being asked to step into schools at younger and younger ages and more and more often. What is the reason for this? Have schools become this bad?

If you listen to a lot of what you read about in the media, yes, schools have become that bad. If you're actually in the schools, you know this isn't the case, especially in middle schools, which is where the above story happened. It's one thing to teach children about the difference between right and wrong, and to discipline a child for writing on a desk when it is forbidden, because part of being human is knowing the difference between right or wrong, but when we enact these zero tolerance policies, whose good does it serve?

When children are handcuffed, or expelled, the chances of them getting arrested or dropping out of school increase dramatically. In a society that seems so driven on punishment without rehabilitation, we can't afford to go down this path. Children make mistakes, children do stupid things, it's part of being a child. Responsible, caring adults take the initiative and educate them, that's the very essence of education. It's not all about literacy and mathematics. This is just a thought to ponder at this point.

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Great information in this post and I think the article discusses the fact that police are being asked to step into schools at younger and younger ages and more and more often.