After my nine-month internship in a fifth grade classroom, I was not offered a contract to teach full time and had to substitute teach for the next two years.
A ten-year old called Oscar (not his real name) was the reason. It was May 1976, and Ms. Stepp was gone. Instead, a sub was in the room. I was the student teacher. Oscar had an anger issue. He could blow with the force of a five-hundred pound, roadside bomb.
On that particular day, for no reason, Oscar started to use a thick-black marker to draw Xs across the pages in the history textbook used for Yorbita’s fifth grade. As he finished marking a page, he tore it out and tossed it on the floor.
Another teacher’s experience.
The substitute teacher said to stop. Oscar ignored her. Oscar kept marking the large, thick X and tearing the pages out. The students sitting near him knew he was capable of flying into a rage and attacking them so they started to slide their desks away until he was an isolated island.
Since I had been in the class as a student teacher since September, I thought Oscar might listen to me. I knelt on one knee at eye level and calmly asked him to stop. He did not make eye contact as he marked another page.
I asked him to hand me the book he was systematically destroying page by page.
Oscar was on a behavior modification contract. When he lost control, he was supposed to leave the classroom and walk home.
The teacher was to call the mother and let her know Oscar was on his way. When Oscar reached home, he was to be isolated in his room until he calmed down. Once calm, he could return to school.
I reached for the thirty-five dollar textbook. He yanked it out of my reach, and his face bloated with anger. “That’s my book,” he said. “Don’t touch it.”
I asked him to come to the office with me. He refused. I went to the phone and called, but the principal was not available.
What I did next was the reason why the principal did not recommend me for a full-time position in the district the next school year.
My next move was to pick Oscar up and carry him to the office.
He fought all the way.
It was like trying to hold onto a live fifty-thousand volt wire. Like a giant anaconda, Oscar twisted, turned, and slugged me in the torso. He knocked my glasses off.
When we reached the office, I called his mother.
On the way back to class, I was fortunate enough to find my glasses undamaged. Later, the principal told me that I shouldn’t have touched Oscar, and that I wasn’t ready to teach full time.
As I was finishing this post, I remembered reading the trauma of joblessness in a Blog about Education and Class. The author wrote, “I’ve read and heard little about how school are helping children to understand what is happening to their parents, how they’re trying to articulate for children the reasons for becoming educated in uncertain times, how they are teaching children to be deeply proud of struggling parents.”
When are most Americans going to wake up and realize that the schools have been so burdened with “powerless parenting” that teachers can’t do the job of teaching reading, writing and arithmetic?
Instead, teachers spend far too much time dealing with the Oscars of the world.
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