having spent years as a religious school educator, i had the opportunity to experience a wide range of students and personalities. i was blessed being able to teach children with disabilities, children of average intelligence and some that were highly intelligent.
within that mix, however, there were disruptive students. for a number of years, i taught with my mother. recently, i spoke to my mom. despite it being about 35 years ago since we taught together, we fondly recalled one child. the disrupter-in-chief. he set the standard for disruption. if i handed out an award for the disruptive student in a classroom, the trophy would be named after him. we both recalled him as being difficult. he was not, however, mean or bad in any sense.
while attending religious school, there was one student, who was in my class, who disrupted classes for many years. frankly, most of the class couldn’t stand him. he made our classes insufferable. it got to the point that i did not want to attend the classes. he really made it that miserable.
a funny thing happened with these two individuals.
for my student, i am constantly reminded of him. the reason being is that everywhere i see his name. he became a success in the real estate business. when i walk in commercial areas, i see real estate listing of prime properties with his name on it. i couldn’t be happier for him. while he was disruptive, my mother and i shared some fondness toward him. he is certainly a memorable individual.
for my classmate, he became a religious leader. the religious school he once terrorized became a place of his occupation. on a personal level, i could not bear to become a member of the religious institution he worked at. this was due to the pain and suffering i endured from him. i felt that i did not have to subject myself to him any further. life is short and i could not put this angst aside.
these two memories lend themselves to a complicated element in education. first, the notion that disruptive children have potential. second, the notion that teachers and classmates hold quite different feelings toward disruptive students.
as the teacher, i was happy to see that this disruptive child grow into a successful adult. i actually would embrace meeting him and spending time with him.
as a classmate, my emotions are to the contrary. i do not wish to be bothered with my disruptive classmate. i have no desire to have any further involvement with this individual.
why is there this disparity? why can a person who in the capacity of a teacher forgive and yet as a classmate not?
it would be fair to say that, as a student, i felt robbed over my time as a student. i was in a confined space to learn and was deprived by the classmates’ conduct.
as a teacher, it was different. i was compensated for my time engaged in managing this difficult student. i earned battle pay.
as an educator, it is important to taken a broader view of disciplinary struggles. educators must take account for the impact of the disruption on the other students. too often, teachers have tunnel vision and think about themselves and the disruptive child. the needs of the other students are secondary. the impact on those students may be more consequential than imagined. failure to consider the fellow students may cause a number of students to become disinterested in the education process.
this notion can be taken outside of the educational process. government dealing with disruptive forces in society impacts others. the residents of a community where the disruption occurs must be considered at the forefront. thus, when police withdraw from areas subject to riots and looting, there is tremendous harm placed upon the residents. these residents’ lives must be considered and valued in the decision making processes of leaders.
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