Monday, April 16, 2012

Last night.. somehow, we ended up watching Las Vegas Jailhouse. I couldn't help but parallel the attitudes and lack of respect for officers displayed by many of the incoming inmates with the attitudes and lack of respect for teachers many students exhibit. I wondered if we spent more time and effort at younger ages teaching respect for authority would we have fewer incarcerated adults.

I know that the people portrayed on the show are in that facility because they did something wrong. I realize that fact alone separates them from students in a public school.

However, I also know if we as educators, had the same powers to separate mouthy, disrespectful, uncooperative students from the rest of the population, afforded those officers, we would have fewer problems. If when a student refuses to comply with the smallest request, such as get out a book and writing utensil, if then, we could remove them from the classroom until they became compliant, I wonder if more of them would choose to be a student?

I was amazed and impressed by the patience and respect shown by officers towards disrespectful inmates despite the rude and often violent outbursts they were enduring. I was sympathetic towards their efforts to de-escalate situations before they got out of control.

Are our students inmates? NO! Of course not... but I couldn't help be see some of the similarities we see in our hard core cases with their insistence on being right, on getting the last word in every discussion, and their refusal to comply with the smallest, simplest requests.

Do I want all my students to be compliant little robots, all marching along perfect and quiet? In reality, no...

But I do wonder if we tried harder in schools to create students/citizens who follow the rules and respect authority, if we could reduce the number of eventual incarcerations. If schools had the authority to demand compliance from students, to enforce consequences for not following the rules, would we nip the process in the bud before the mold for these people is made?

It was an interesting half hour of TV, giving me much to think about. I like to think by caring about students, by consistently and fairly enforcing expectations I can mold all students who walk through my classroom doors to become better people. In reality, I often see the opposite in a few of them, and worry about where they will end up someday. I've had my share of students over the years end up in jail or prison, and when I hear of this, I look back to their days in middle school and wonder how we would have stopped that train before it got so far off track.

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