I typically don’t discuss anything negative about my career as a high school English teacher. Funny stuff? You bet. Inspirational topics? No problem. But those things that could be viewed as “airing dirty laundry?” Nope–won’t write about it.
I suspect the topic I’m about to address, however, is not unique to my place of work. I’m willing to bet a lot of schools suffer the issue I’m about to explore.
We had a fight at the school today. I’m sorry to say this is not all that unusual lately. Though I wasn’t involved with it in any way, the effects of the fight were felt throughout the building. I heard students talking about the fight gleefully, as though they watched some kind of live entertainment. I saw students in the hall reenacting the fight as they smiled and laughed.
This upset me.
Look, kids get into fights. Kids like watching fights. It breaks up the monotony of the day, because no matter how fun we try to make school–school is school. Anything exciting and dramatic is always welcomed by the students as respite. None of this is new in the history of public education.
But when I see students taking joy in each other’s discord, when I see them celebrating their peers’ violence, it makes my heart ache.
Our school tries to teach social skills. Some of our staff go above and beyond in working tirelessly to help kids bond and form communities. Our entire staff buys into building relationships with the students. We’re trying. We’re all trying. I bet your school is trying, too.
But try as we might, this is an issue that’s difficult to overcome. I wish we could get the kids who like to fight–as well as the kids who like to watch fights–I wish we could get them to see the value in supporting each other, to realize that building each other up is so much more productive than tearing each other down. I wish they knew that, once they leave our school, no one out there is going to do them any favors. They’ll have to rely on themselves.
I wish they felt like they could also rely on each other.
Look, this is hard to write about. I hope it’s coming across as intended. I’m not trying to criticize my school, and I’m certainly not trying to belittle our students. And most of our students do support one another. But those kids who take pleasure in fighting, starting fights, and watching fights … I worry about those kids and what kind of a future they have in store for them. I want the best for all of our students.
As teachers, we have to keep pushing social skills. We have to keep building kids up. We have to keep creating communities within our school. We have to keep helping kids find their niche.
All I ask is that the community outside our school walls do the same. Help us reinforce the power of education. Help us show kids that love and kindness is always the answer. Help us teach kids that we are always stronger when we stand together, not apart.
A better tomorrow can only begin when we work for a better today.
(Did you enjoy this article? Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)