Wednesday, July 15, 2009

today: the lesson

I talk quite often about teacher stress. Recently I have posted about bullying and death. And now this.

Obviously there is no way that murderously attacking someone (if that is what happened here, we always have to take into account the fact that everyone is innocent until proven guilty by law) is a correct response in any situation, especially in loco parentis.

But the surprise is that this kind of thing does not happen more often. In a profession which suffers epidemic levels of stress illness, meltdowns that result in violence are seemingly rare. Without having any recourse to statistics, I imagine that in wider society they are not as rare.

Teachers often put up with intense levels of violence, threats and abuse. Perhaps not in every classroom but if there are even one or two pupils prone to violent behaviour it can induce immeasurable and protracted problems.

In ten years of teaching (admittedly in challenging inner city schools) I have been punched, kicked, scratched, bitten, shoved from behind, pushed downstairs, headbutted (broken arm), run into (another broken arm), shoved over (broken glasses and sprained knee), stabbed with pins and had furniture thrown at me.

This is just the actual assaults and violence. We can add to this the theft of property, sabotage of classroom work, vandalism of property, threats to my home, stones thrown at the car, threats to damage and/or steal my car, violent encounters with parents, verbal abuse and threats issued in places like supermarkets, pubs and on the streets, as well as an almost constant strain of verbal abuse in the classroom and around the school.

I lost my temper twice. Once I took it out on a table, slamming it to the floor and breaking the top from the base. Another time I took a five minute time out.

But I ended up quitting - caught in a spiral of stress illness depression, panic attacks and disillusion. What might happen if I and my colleagues didn't routinely internalise the violence?

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