I corrected it briefly, but that’s a very small misbehavior and transgression for some of my kids. I teach self-contained ELA middle schoolers in Baltimore City — and here’s an article documenting a lot of much more serious incidents I have had to deal with — and that’s only half of it.

Anyways, I appreciate the thoughtful comment, Betty. The role of color in respect are things I think about a lot when I’m not in the classroom, because it’s chaotic fight or flight at that point, whether it’s breaking up fights or continuously correcting behaviors.

I think there’s an interesting juxtaposition and disillusionment at play for a lot of teachers in inner city schools. You go into the profession to teach content and be compassionate and supportive for your kids. And then you get into the system and become shocked at how much a school system in our nation’s most underserved communities runs its schools like prisons, from police officers in school, metal detectors, punitive disciplinary policies, etc. But you’re also tormented because you don’t know if there’s a better way — because I have seen how terrible my classroom can be when there’s a breakdown of law and order. Sometimes I try to justify being strict, firm, and maybe even punitive by thinking that these kids need tough love, but I don’t really believe that. It seems like we’re constantly in a survival mode where we have to avoid a major incident or altercation — and I just don’t know, as a first year teacher thrown into such a tough environment, if there’s a better way.

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