Saturday, May 15, 2010

Houston, we have a problem

Here's a riddle for you:

What do the Houston Chronicle and Houston Nutt have in common? As of this minute in time, they are the only things Houston that Google finds more interesting than Houston Teacher Beats Student.

Houston Teacher Beats Student!

Holy Headlines, Batman! What could be more delicious than a teacher, the epitome of noble trustworthiness, completely losing her shit on tape? We're gobbling it up, salivating all over our front row seats as a human being self-destructs before our very eyes. Boom! One minute, a highly respected and effective educator, the next minute, a horrible monster, the target of international ire and disgust.

Maybe you haven't seen the video yet. Maybe you can't bring yourself to watch, to see a child brutalized by a trusted adult. I understand. It is gut-wrenching. Don't watch if don't think you can stand it. But I hope you'll listen.

From what I've read, the victim, 13-year-old Isaiah Johnson, was making fun of a mentally challenged girl in his classroom. The girl became angry and threatened to hit him if he didn't stop. Isaiah provoked her and encouraged the fight. And the teacher, Sherri Davis, snapped. “You want to hit a girl? Hit me!” But by this point, her thought processes were choked off by rage. She was reacting, not thinking, propelled entirely by her reptilian brain—her fight or flight response.

People are quick to say that teachers should be patient, should be in control at all times. And of course, in a perfect world, that would always be the case. But Sherri Davis doesn't live in a perfect world. She lives in the real world, where real children cause real stress. And in one horrible moment, she lost her head. All logical thought was gone, replaced by irrational, animal instinct. You want to believe a teacher is immune, but we're not. Sometimes we snap.

I'm not excusing her behavior. She has been fired and justly so. A teacher has to learn coping mechanisms to handle the stress of the classroom. One teacher I know says you should always wear clothes with deep pockets, and shove your hands way down in them the minute you start to feel anger. Another uses the STAR treatment: Stop, Take a deep breath, And Relax. Jim Fay, of Love and Logic, encourages teachers to adopt a special empathy phrase to call up when blood pressure begins to rise. “Oooh, I wish you hadn't done that,” one might say to the child who is misbehaving. It's not designed to remind the student of his misdoing, but to stall the teacher (or parent) just long enough to get back into thinking mode.

But Sherri Davis wasn't thinking, and she'll pay for her one minute lapse for the rest of her life.

It bothers me to see an adult lose control in such a brutal way. It does. But what bothers me a whole lot more are the abusers who carefully choreograph their cruelty. The adults who put great thought and planning into the pain and humiliation they inflict on children. Adults like the parents, teachers and principal of Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi. Last month, they put their narrow-minded little heads together to hatch a clever plan to discriminate against a handful of students. In order to protect their children from the discomfort of interacting with the weird kids, the lesbians and the learning disabled, they staged a decoy prom for seven losers and a secret prom for everybody else, the normal kids, who will no doubt follow in their bigoted parents' footsteps, growing up to spew hate for another generation to come. Normal kids like the girl who told Constance McMillan, her lesbian classmate, “I don't know why you come to this school because no one likes your gay ass anyways.”

I'm probably in the minority, but I'll put my kid in a classroom with a teacher who would kick a bully's ass rather than kiss it any day. And I think the administrators and teachers involved in the Itawamba secret prom scandal should suffer every drop of the same shame and punishment Sherri Davis will.



Anonymous said...

I have to believe there is something better in store for that teacher who lost it -and those prom planners live in their own hell
Diane M

Soozietoone said...

The video has mysteriously disappeared from the blog. I think teachers should have deep pockets in which they carry soap in socks to deal with bullies. I hear it doesn't leave a mark.