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Teacher Tantrum

| 18 Comments

A Texas teacher has been suspended after a student secretly used a cellphone to record his classroom temper tantrum, reports the El Paso Times. The paper obtained the recording, in which, over the course of several minutes, the educator loses control, “screaming, cussing, and scolding students.”

He tells his students that they are “constantly whining, constantly (expletive) about your (expletive) (expletive) situation. If you don’t like it, get the (expletive) out.” According to the paper, his anger intensifies as he admonishes his class for not working hard enough: “(Expletive) kids grow up, have some common sense. How many times do we have to do this, huh?... [T]his can be so fun, yet you can’t understand that we have to work first. You haven’t done jack all week. I can show you. Your work, man, is pathetic.”

A student left the classroom to report the incident to campus security, who reported the incident to the administration.

One parent said that his daughter told him two months ago that the teacher had used profanity. That incident was reported in an e-mail to the administration, but there was no follow-up. This same parent said that his daughter got “real nervous [this time]. They had to take her to the nurse’s office because she started hyperventilating a little bit, and I know that when something like that happens, there is cause for alarm.”

Update, March 4:
The El Paso Times published the audio of the teacher here.

Update, March 5
According to the El Paso Times, the teacher resigned on March 4, but will be paid through the end of the month. The investigation continues, but the teacher can apply for another job in the district.

18 Comments

I agree cursing is unprofessional and it appears this has been an ongoing problem. I have a problem with the kid using a cellphone to record this because many I think it violates his privacy (even though it happened in the classroom) and this could have been altered(although I am sure it wasn't) hopefully this will be addressed and the teacher will be given an opportunity to apologize and maybe get some therapy. It is frustrating at times to be a teacher but it comes with the territory.

Privacy?

I wish all the frustrated teachers would come out and stand up for this guy. I know that working with a demographic that typically does not care, drops out, and is lazy takes a heavy toll on a teacher who works really hard and cares. I, myself, have personally gone off a few times during my teaching career but I have not cussed in the manner that he did, even though I really really wanted to. The teachers that are judging this man harshly must not have taught in the trenches where a vast majority of our children are living. THis should be a wake up call not a time to scrutinize this teacher when we have all had similar moments.

Anon:

I live in those trenches. It is really tiresome to hear all about how we don't care, are lazy and pre-programmed to drop-out.

I think the teacher probably should and wsill be spoken to and disciplined. Most of us have learned to create two "vocabularies" and keep them separate; he/she probably has to learn this lesson.

But the real issue is taping classes without permission. I can easily see where this could lead to disciplinary action from the "wrong" points of view, and put real discussion in the deep freeze.

Can you say "Big Brother"?

There is a very big difference between spying surreptitiously (Big Brother) and recording something that is happening in full view of witnesses. I wonder, if the teacher had done something less ambiguously inappropriate (dropping his/her pants, for instance, or brandishing a gun), would the camera issue even have been raised. Imagine if no one had been present with a camera on the day that Rodney King was beaten. He would have been just one more criminal trying to blame his predicament on the police. One also has to wonder if there would have been any action taken against the teacher merely on the word of students. There are credibility imbalances that are hard to overcome at times.

If everything I said to students, or for that matter, everything I said in any setting where there were cell phones to record with, I would be in trouble with a lot of people including . . . well, pretty much everybody . . . but, I am probably unique. I am sure most everyone else would have no reason to be concerned.

Imagine if kids would record parents at home? or, if kids would record other kids at the lunch table or on the school bus and turn the recording in for administrative justice? How about half time in the locker room? My favorite would be a recording of a conversation in the teacher's lounge played back at parent/teacher conferences. How about recording school board members as they talked after the Monday night board meeting? We could play that on the local talk radio station. We will all be jobless with no friends to call unless it was to apologize.

Question: If there is no teacher to hear the student cuss is it still considered profanity if captured on a cell phone?

Question: How about if I could hear everything you said to my own son? How about if I could hear everything you said about my son??

Question: How about if I record our next conversation?

gw:

Many of the things that you cite can and do happen--and may have legal considerations. The things that school board members say to one another are covered by sunshine laws--there are legal distinctions between casual conversation and discussion that must by law be made open to the public. In short, they cannot caucus in private and make their public meeting into a show that bypasses their conflicts and means by which they are resolved.

Schools have attempted to hide behind "privacy" laws when films exist of such things as assaults on students, or accusations levied against them based on behavior on busses or in hallways or classrooms. Courts have generally ruled that these arenas are not considered to be "private." Schools have also, on occasion, cried privacy to prevent parents from observing special education settings prior to their children being placed in them. Again, it hasn't held up.

A teachers lounge may or may not offer a greater guarantee of privacy. However, during my time as a substitute teacher (as well as a sometime lurker on teacher blogs), I would offer my opinion that some of that protected speech might better be aired in front of parents.

BTW--our conversation here is "recorded" electronically as a part of a public forum.

I have never lost it like this teacher did and his behaviour was unexcuseably unprofessional.

Unfortunately, often times teachers who are stressed, harassed and overwhelmed are not well supported by the administration of schools and when there is no safe place to let of steam or work out problems encountered in the classroom, teachers can be pushed over the edge.

I have had students repeatedly try to push me over the edge and I have had more than one student make it a campaign to do so and then joke about the fact that I was visibly angry, although I did not loose it.

Students, as high school teachers know, can be very cruel and manipulative, and if the general culture of the school is one of low expectations and apathy, it can be very, very demoralizing. The teacher in question in the recording (I did go and listen to it) was in a place I have been in my classrooms-absolutely fed up with lazy students who care more about their cell phones than learning anything.

Having said that, when you start screaming and cursing, you destroy trust and credibility and those are very hard to re-establish, once damaged.

I have seen youtube videos in which students actually bait a teacher, trying to get the teacher to flip out so they can then record the teacher losing it-it was a sad, sick game with the teacher as the brunt of the "joke".
Ha, ha, ha! (Or, is it LOL?)

I for one, am sick and tired of teachers being the whipping post for so many things wrong in our educational system. I go to work and work my heart out. I work harder than anyone I know, and I care more than lots of people. It makes me sad to see, yet again, another example of "bad" teachers being sent to the whipping post. Why don't we see more of the everyday heros that go to the supposed "trenches" and create the miracles they create everyday?

Cursing doesn't necessarily make the teacher a bad teacher, and I agree that it shouldn't have been done. Let's get that teacher some help - anger or stress management. That should have been done the first time the parent complained, but I wonder if the PARENT ever curses at home and if so, does it get reported to Family Services because he/she is abusing the child? Why didn't that parent, as my mother would have done, ask the teen what she did to have gotten such a reaction from the teacher? Parents need to recognize that their child isn't always blameless.

I think that, in the first place, the school should look at the fact the student used his cell phone in classroom. In some districts students are prohibited from using cellphones.
If El Passo district has that policy then the student should be punished first and then the case should be further investigated. The teacher did not behave professionally, but at least she/he showed some care about students’ school attitude and tried to correct it.

What message will be sent to the students if the teacher gets punished? Spy on teachers!

I learned to fake blow ups, what I called Academy Awards events, when students pushed me to the limits. Once the performance was so outstanding I had to leave the room to laugh and a student caught me. My favorite out of control line was - don't make me us the s word!!!! They waited in silence hoping for a real winner. My line - I do not tell people to shut up but you guys are pushing it. The sighs of relief were very audible. Humor always helps diffuse the situation.

What message will be sent to the students if the teacher gets punished?

Perhaps the message that someone cares about how they are treated? That the rules govern everyone? That people have to accept responsibility for their actions?

Margo/Mom- Are you a teacher? a parent? a student? all of the above?

I have been all of the above at various times, although I am currently a parent and a student--employed outside the classroom. Any you, Anon?

Folks, I teach in the trenches. I hear every cuss word possible including the “f***” word many times in a week, and I often hear girls screaming it. In fact, I saw a student walk out of PE just two days ago screaming, “F*** you. I’m going to my f***ing class now.” I’ve been called a “b****” and little is done. Today when a student came in late, I told him to get busy or I’d keep him into lunch. He said, “H*** no.” All that is this week! These kids hear these words and use them with each other all the time. I have kids say sexual things that make me want to throw up and I am not playing when I say I have been sick at my stomach for about 2 hours from a comment a student made this year. If I sent every kid to the office (after having written them up for their language and sexual innuendoes and rude remarks), I'd be writing 15-20 minutes into every period. Kids are so much worse than teachers that I am shocked and appalled that anyone would ever suggest that a teacher should be held responsible for their actions without first holding the kids response (who talk like this every day)! Yes, it is wrong that the teacher was swearing at the kids to the point that the kids were scared and sick; however, if you have not been in a high school class room for at least a week, don’t criticize those of us who do this every day. Why don’t you try being held responsible for the test scores of students who choose not to do the work, being held responsible when their actions require you to send them out of class, and being held responsible to call parents who have given you a disconnected number, and then see if you don’t lose it too? Walk a mile in my shoes before you criticize the kind I wear.

Kay:

It would seem as though many people are making many assumptions about who the kids are, who their parents are, who the readers and responders to this blog are. The one point that seems irrefutable, due to it having been videorecorded is that a teacher not only used profane language in a classroom, but carried on at some length in berating his students. I find it hard to defend that behavior from an adult in most circumstances that I can imagine--and I have no difficulty at all in imagining the ones that you describe.

Margo/Mom: I don't think you really understand what Kay is trying to say. I too work in a school like Kay and deal with students that use such language on a daily basis. I am not saying that the students at his school are similar to mine, but I also don't cast stones before I know the WHOLE story.

First:
We were treated to a moment in his classroom without any context or background information. While cursing at anyone is socially considered to be "Bad" or "Wrong," there are moments in life when we all do it (yes, even at children). The more important question than "what" is said, is "why" and "how." In having a deeper understanding of the realities that preceded this event, we are better able to deal with not only the teacher, but the students and the overall climate of the school. If his experience is similar to mine, then cursing is a norm within the school building. Like Kay stated in her post, high school students in my school use such language every day. I don’t even write students up for it anymore because it happens so frequently. Sometimes when I reprimand a student, they apologize because they didn’t even hear themselves say it.

Second:
You say, “I find it hard to defend that behavior from an adult in most circumstances that I can imagine--and I have no difficulty at all in imagining the ones that you describe.” The point is that you have to “imagine” what Kay and I and many teachers in the “trenches” go through. I am willing to bet that you would not last more than 2 months in the school that I teach in. If the children didn’t run you out, then the administration certainly would. It takes a certain kind of person to teach in the “trenches” and your comment makes me think that you really have no clue. Few people openly admit when they start teaching in a school like mine or Kay’s that they can handle it. You know why? Those are the teachers that leave because they can’t hack it. I remember my first year I almost quit 30 times because the kids were so awful, cursed me out everyday, made racial slurs, and, oh yeah, stole my car. Even now, I think about quitting because the stress is so unbearable. Some of the teachers on this board are not dealing with students that you would find in high-performing public schools. Students from the “trenches” come to us with serious issues, learning deficits, and home problems. They are products of a system that doesn’t care and sees only three possible futures for them: death, jail, or poverty. That being said, these students can be educated and they do want to learn, but as any teacher in this environment knows, you are battling some complex cultural components. It’s hard to be a perfect teacher in any school, but it is near impossible in the trenches. We blur the line between acceptable and unacceptable every day in an effort to teach our students and mold them into productive citizens.

Third:
Teachers must be positive role models in the classroom, but the type of role model that our students need differs depending on the school and the students. While I certainly don’t advocate cursing at students, in my school you must be strict and “go hard” as the kids say in order to get any respect. Some teachers do resort to cursing and are able to push the kids as a result because their authority is respected. I prefer to be very strict and consistent with my rules. Aside from cursing (which will always be a constant battle), I don’t let anything slide. Have I cursed at my students? Twice in my two years of teaching, and yes I felt horrible about it. I have made a commitment to myself to never do it again because I hated the way it made me feel. Do you want to know something though…I am a good teacher. After two years I have become more respected by my students, other teachers, and my administration. I plan for hours everyday because I care about my students like they were my own children. I don’t have a life because I work so hard to make sure that they have one. I make mistakes in the classroom all of the time, but I learn from them. Everyday I find ways to improve my practice and get my students to achieve at higher levels. I know I have made mistakes, but I have grown. Many other teachers do as well. I am not sure what caused this teacher to do what he did, but I “imagine” that he might have been a similar position. I can’t judge him, because at the end of the day I nor you will ever really know the circumstances of his unfortunate situation. The point: My experience tells me he cared about his students and was caught in a moment of frustration. You can keep your ignorance, “imagination,” and less complicated view of the world. I choose to live in reality and forgive him.

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