In the comment thread:
--This is why I could never teach high school.
--This is what is wrong with students today.
--High school teachers are champions to put up with this #€$& every day.
While I appreciated the supportive remarks for those in my field, I still felt ruffled by the video and the comments it elicited. I felt that it did little to increase understanding, and instead confused and obscured the nuances of student-teacher interactions, and distracted from some of the more relevant issues facing teachers today.
To begin, the extreme violence and abuse portrayed in the video are rare. Yes, it does happen. And yes, students do lose their tempers and abuse their teachers. And in any school, students fight and disrespect teachers and bring weapons to school. But the preponderence of classrooms across America are filled with calm, controlled students who want to learn, or at least grudgingly submit to the process. The video is by no means a portrayal of what occurs in most schools, and not even most schools serving a stereotypically "rough" demographic. It is an outlier and should not be used to represent our daily experience.
Secondly, while I sympathize for that teacher who was clearly in a situation beyond her ability to manage, it is truly an example of a classroom management failure. Most high school teachers are experts in keeping situations in check so that they don't escalate to the situation in the video. We deserve accolades not for withstanding the abuse that can occur in a worst-case scenario, but for our skill at guiding students in a positive direction, and for heading off negativity, disrespect and crises before they have a chance to develop.
Additionally, a skilled teacher knows that student misbehavior is an opportunity for learning. Our kids are kids, after all. They sometimes don't know how to manage strong emotions like anger, frustration, or disappointment. We are there to help them. We are not victims, we are teachers and leaders. Just as a therapist would not be angry with a client for confessing a secret, how can a teacher be angry with a teenager for being a teenager? Okay, yes, sometimes we do become frustrated by situations and students, but overall, it is our job. It isn't torture, it is part of what makes what we do worthwhile.
I think it is, again, important to be precise in our criticisms and also in our accolades. Teaching is hard, yes, and students act out, yes. But if people think that my daily life is like that classroom in the video, and that I deserve praise for suffering through it, then they are simply incorrect and have a false idea of what I actually do. And then when I have a true problem, this misinformation will make it harder to get the support that I actually need.