Why Don’t Teachers Intervene?
Meyer makes an excellent point in her research; there are a multitude of reasons as to why teachers do not intervene in gender harassment situations. Meyers cites evidence from “not feeling supported by their administrators and believing that oftentimes the discipline meted out for instances of sexual or homophobic harassment was not sufficient” (7) to feeling “great pressure from their administration to cover the required amounts of curricular material and the stresses placed on them by large classes and demanding course loads caused them to ignore certain behaviors.”(8) So, it seems as though many teacher would like a stronger and more supportive administration to help them intervene in these scenarios.
Educators and staff persons also “felt that their teacher education programs did not sufficiently prepare them to address incidents of harassment or bullying.” (9) Not only did these teachers feel inadequate in their preparation, but they also felt they couldn’t pursue additional professional development because “since they were encouraged to do professional development primarily in their area of instruction.” (9) To me, this is a complete disservice to those teachers; this type of training could be another tool for the proverbial teacher toolbox. As Welsch pointed out in his last article, it is kind of useless for a teacher to lecture about everything they know seeing we can look up information so quickly on the internet. As much as I agree content professional development is important, so are social and behavioral techniques as well.
Again, thinking about Welsch, my four year college degree did not prepare me for what I would encounter in the classroom. He mentioned how students need to be asked questions, given hands on scenarios, and real-life problems to figure out. Besides perhaps three undergraduate education courses, sometimes I ask myself, “what skills did my $56,000 education truly get me that I couldn’t have learned in a hands-on training program?” Even student teaching didn’t really prepare me – I started halfway through January (when all the classroom norms and protocols were established). So, wouldn’t intervention strategies these teachers that Meyers was studying be more beneficial than more and more content?
… And Then They Came For Me
I took one special education course in college, but it was my two years at Sargent Rehabilitation Center where I learned skills to aid students with severe and profound special needs. I have spent the past three years working in home-based therapeutic services (HBTS) with a teenager that goes to Meeting Street School. I learned behavior modification skills and interaction techniques that I was not taught in the four walls of a classroom. The special education population is my favorite group of kids to work with; every year I request to teach an inclusion class. So when Meyers mentions that teachers’ “personal experiences with discrimination and marginalization that made them particularly sensitive to these issues in schools” (17), I can'thelp but whole-heartedly agree. In my classroom, students are not allowed to say the word retarded because of my past history working in special education. Every year I always explain to my students why that word is inappropriate, and the use of the word actually does dwindle in my classroom (and when I shoot the kids a dirty look for saying that word, they instantly apologize and change their original statement.)
Common Sense? Thanks, Thomas Paine!
As Meyers focuses on the issues of gender and sexuality, maybe we all need to use our own common sense skills when dealing with these issues in our classrooms. Why isn’t a social justice course mandated for ALL undergraduates in college (really, this could extend to business courses, public relations, and any major that directly deals with people.) I would much rather have taken a course like this in the University of Rhode Island education program than “educational measurements” – a course I learned nothing relative to my career, but I remember it because it was my only B- in college…