When most people think about a day in the life of a teacher, they picture a classroom full of students actively participating in activities, getting grading done over a quiet planning hour, and having the summer off to relax. While this is certainly how teaching is often portrayed in the movies and on TV, the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth for teachers today.
From the constant interruptions and outbursts to stacks of paperwork, state mandated testing, department meetings, behavioral conferences, and the professional development required to renew their teaching license every few years. Teachers never seem to enjoy classes that run smoothly, the planning hour they were promised, or the actual summer break they thought they’d have.
Today teachers are dealing with an ominous threat they never could have imagined — their own students.
It’s becoming more commonplace for teachers to have their supplies stolen, their rooms trashed in violent outbursts and for fights to take place either in the classroom or on school grounds. Add to that, students having sexual encounters at school have become more commonplace.
And shockingly, verbal and physical assaults against teachers have been on a steady climb for years with more and more teachers leaving the profession for their own mental and physical well being.
In a recent survey of 3,403 teachers, 25% had been physically abused, 20% had received threats, and 37% reported verbal insults, disrespectful language, and sexual advances from students. And to make it worse, many teachers admit they never report assaults because they feel that they won’t be supported by their districts if they do.
So where are all of these challenging students coming from?
A quick look at the numbers can tell you exactly what students today face and why these challenges are carrying over into the classroom causing such unconscionable behaviors.
- 1.5 million school-aged children in the United States have experienced homelessness in the past 3 years
- 30 million students qualify for free and reduced lunch
- 24% of white, 42% of Hispanic, and 64% of black students come from single-parent homes
- 7.9 million children have been part of child abuse investigations with 91.4% of victims being abused by 1 or more parent
- 2.08 million students between the ages of 12-17 have used drugs in the last month and 86% of students know someone who smokes, drinks, or uses drugs at school
- 1 in 6 children in the US have a mental illness
- 90% of kids play video games and 90% of popular video games portray violence
What this tells us is that today’s students face a lot of intense challenges that greatly affect their ability to focus, learn, and show appropriate behaviors at school. Parents play a huge role in their learning and behaviors. Many parents are absent when it comes to teaching their kids how to act and how to be respectful. Many of these parents weren’t taught when they were children so they are ill equipped to teach. Many children are raised in single parent homes where the parent is working and not always available when the child needs them. They aren’t there for the coaching and comfort these kids need to feel safe and secure. Studies show parents with higher education themselves are much more likely to be involved in their child’s education which gives these kids an advantage in school and in life. The fact that court decisions and federal laws have tied administrators’ hands when it comes to dealing with negative behaviors from students when they happen just adds fuel to the fire. Since there are virtually no consequences, students are far more likely to continue acting out. For some, it’s a cry for help, for others it’s a confirmation that they are the boss and can do as they please. For all, it’s a tragedy because these events generally lead to a future filled with anger, hostility and violence.