Opinion

Treat teachers right: they are education’s key

San Jose State University, which had its start as a teacher’s college.

San Jose State University, which had its start as a teacher’s college.

Teachers set an incredible resource. In early grades, they can set the course for students’ academic attitudes in life. In all grades, their attitudes can either encourage or crumble their students’ opportunities for academic success.

I still remember my teachers from the early years of my life. I was lucky to have a kind and sweet kindergarten teacher who loved teaching us and encouraged creativity. Yet, when the principal’s daughter stole my ice cream bar and ate it in front of me, she did nothing for fear of inciting the principal’s wrath.

Seranacolumnbug“You can always get another ice cream bar,” she told me anxiously. “There’s no reason for me to go to the principal about it.” Through her lack of action, I learned an important lesson about how the world works.

Then there was my sixth-grade math teacher, a woman with a harsh face and piercing eyes who insulted students that asked questions she deemed “obvious,” and made me dread going to her class. After one particularly harsh diatribe, I went home crying, and the next day I went to class with a letter from my mother. The teacher kept me after class, pointed her finger in my face, and told me I was a liar and a cheater for telling my mother that she was being mean to me.

She taught me that not all authority figures are to be trusted. There are bad people in every profession, and she was one of them.

Still, for the most part, I had a great experience in the educational system. My teachers were, for the most part, hard-working people. Most were impassive to me, but I clearly recall the teachers that were bright and optimistic, the ones that went out of their way to impart important messages on us and bring their lessons to life.

I appreciated those teachers more than anything. True enthusiasm is rare, and to go to school with eagerness, rather than resignation, is a huge blessing for a child. Although I was no Hermione Granger, I understood the value of learning and education: school opens up many doors for you, and it paves the way for success.

That’s why it is so horrifying to hear about violence in classrooms.

Search the internet, and you will find pages upon pages of teachers attacking students, or students attacking teachers. During one of my late-night YouTube binges, I came across a video of a student violently attacking a teacher until the teacher fell. Even then, the student went on, holding him down with his body weight and inflicting blow upon blow.

Horror seeped through me. How on earth could there be violence in classrooms? How can people have such little respect for the sanctity of the classroom?

Then I remembered my Japanese teacher, from my sophomore year of high school. When my freshman Japanese teacher retired, my high school hired a lady from Japan who had no previous experience teaching in the states. When she stepped into class on the first day, it was obvious that she expected her American students to be respectful and mindful of her authority.

She was in for a nasty surprise.

Like hawks, the students came upon her with sharp attacks and disgusting tactics. They would use her lack of experience against her, yelling that the former teacher never gave us so much homework and that in America, we get multiple chances to take the same quiz if we failed the first time around.

She was obviously a soft-spoken woman with a gentle heart, so when she tried to talk back against the students, their voices would get louder and louder, angrier and angrier, until a large group of kids was yelling her down. The poor woman tried to get tougher as the year went on, but after one day when multiple kids were disrespecting her through eye rolls, taunts or plain ignoring her orders, a boy yelling at her and giving her the middle finger was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

By the end of the week, she resigned.

According to Martha MacCallum, of the 3.5 million teachers in the US, at least 10 percent report being threatened at work, and 6 percent have been victims of “some type of violence.” According to a study by the National Center of Education, in a report called “School Crime and Safety Report,” as of 2014 teachers, especially in inner cities, are frightened of students.

It’s funny when you think about it: as a student, I was sometimes scared of my teachers for the power they wielded over my grades. It never occurred to me that someone would actually try to assault a teacher, but there are about thirty children to one teacher. It’s more than a possibility: for many battered teachers, it’s a fact.

If students have a problem with their teachers, they should go to a higher power. If that one higher power doesn’t react, they should go higher and higher or at least go to the media or police about abuses of power.

When I was being bullied by girls in my high school, my P.E. Teacher refused to step in. It was only when I went to my counselor that the girls were spoken to and the endless taunts and attacks stopped. If my counselor hadn’t been such a blessing in such a dark time, if he had refused to help, I would have gone to the principal or even higher, to the chair of education.

There is no reason to resort to violence to solve a dispute, especially in the classroom. While I don’t consider the classroom to be a sacred place, it is undeniable that classrooms, and the teachers in them, form the basis for academic success, and thus, success in life.

Violence is the weapon of cowards. Words are the ultimate defense. Respect should be pervasive in the classroom atmosphere so that learning can thrive without conflict.

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