Friday, April 17, 2009

"Anger Management" Times at Moultrie Middle

The P & C's article about the knife-wielding thirteen-year-old at Moultrie Middle [Teacher Avoids Knifing] provides crumbs for thought but hardly the big picture of teacher Jennifer Robinovitz's classroom or even of her previous problems with this particular student.

Whatever the reason the boy brought the knife to school, these facts are clear. The teacher provoked the attack by "insisting" he take a test. In other words, she was doing her job.

Why do I think that this was not the first time that the student's behavior disrupted learning in her classroom? The reporter neglected to get any background on his previous behavior, but it is not much of a stretch of the imagination to assume that his "attending anger management classes" was not voluntary. That fact alone suggests a long history of outbursts in the classroom.

One only has to read the comments posted by CCSD teachers in the recent discipline survey to understand that this incident was most likely an escalation in an ongoing war between a disturbed student and a teacher trying her best to meet his needs while educating an entire class. Otherwise, why would one incident in which no one was harmed have produced charges of "assault with intent to kill, disturbing school and a weapons law violation."

There's a larger story here. I wrote about some of it in my post of March 28th. Consider some of the following from CCSD's teachers:
  • The abuse of IEP and 504 documents has created a Teflon shield for the students who often drain each school of multiple resources. Many times these students receive little discipline and are readmitted when other offenders without 504 or IEP documentation would have received instant suspension and/or expulsion. At a given point, accountability and responsibility have to occur.
  • The majority of the students at my school are wonderful. We have a few that have been bullying other kids for several years, and other kids are terrified of them. It is only a handful, but nothing seems to be done to these bullies no matter how often the teachers write referrals. It seems that the zero-tolerance for bullies has gone by the way side in an order to not rock the boat, and this is extremely sad for the kids that are terrified to come to school each day.
  • There are too many students who are getting too many chances. Sure these students should have rights, but what about everybody who suffers because of them.
  • There are several students in each classroom that can disrupt the entire class. If the students were put into another setting to address their behavior issues, the rest of the class would be free to learn. Usually at our school it will be 2 or 3 per class that stop instruction constantly lessening the material that can be covered and reiterated for the students who want to learn.
  • Some students seem to be persistent offenders but we have not tracked offenses properly in order to document the intervention steps that create behavioral changes or eventual removal. Several behaviorally disordered mainstreamed students enjoy protections that encourage continuous non compliance w/ rules. What ever happened to earning one's way out of a self-contained setting or returning to that setting as the best least restrictive environment aimed at promoting educational goals and gains. Why do we continue to rationalize that the federal protections that certain students have are rights that override other student’s right to learn. Put them in the setting that protects theirs and others needs.
  • I feel that there are many children that have serious anger, mental, emotional and behavioral issues that are not addressed and are left for the regular classroom teacher to deal with. These issues often take up a lot of the teacher’s time and takes away from instructional time for the students that come to school to learn. PBIS is a great program but it often does not work for the major behavior problems.
Kudos to Jennifer Robinovitz for her fast thinking. Anyone who teaches in middle school is racking up brownie points in heaven! Here's what she reports about herself.
Masters in Special Education
Trenton State, College of NJ
Bachelors in Education
University of Delaware

This is my first year at Moultrie Middle School! I recently moved here with my family from Rumson, New Jersey. I have taught in the public school system of NJ for 14 years before moving to Mount Pleasant in 2007. I have worked with students of varying ages, grades, and disabilities. I currently work on the 7th grade team at here at Moultrie.
A Jersey girl. I might have known.


Anonymous said...

As Dr. Phil would say, How's that Positive Reinforcement Plan working for you now?

Anonymous said...

Leadership really needs to explain themselves in this case, the student had been previously suspended for a physical altercation with this teacher and other students and Moultrie Middle decided to stick him back in her class over her objections.

Babbie said...

As the late, great Paul Harvey would have said, "And now the rest of the story!"

Anonymous said...

Please don't forget, this is a 13 year old child we are talking about, not an adult.

Anonymous said...

We wont forget its a 13 year old child but dont forget he pulled a knife not a crayon.

Anonymous said...

I've read the posts related to this situation over at the P&C and now here. Wow, it makes me very sad that our society has become such that we no longer have tolerance or understanding for a kid who obviously made a very poor judgment call. We don't know the situation here. We know the teacher's side of the story, but what about his and his parents' side of the story. That's something that we don't know. How was he treated in the past at this school and by his teachers? Did he and this teacher have an ongoing personality conflict? Obviously. Children, especially those with disabilities, aren't perfect and teachers aren't perfect. Nor are all teachers, even those with advanced degrees, cut out for dealing with and educating children that require a certain level of extra care and understanding. I'm not defending this child, but there's obviously more to this situation than we know. A question that we should ask is what was going on at the school to cause a kid to bring in his father's pocketknife. A flippant remark about crayons doesn't help anyone. Hopefully, lessons have been learned by all and this kid and his parents can find a better environment with a school and teachers that are better prepared to deal with children that need compassion and understanding.

Anonymous said...

Your attitude regarding this youngster is the reason we have jails full of misunderstood individuals, you sound like the typical parent that take their children's word as gospel and that the teachers are lying. You are right you dont know the details behind this incident but I dont see how you can rationalize the knife pulling.

Anonymous said...

I love that first posting. This is what happens when you have people who aren't parents making decisions for our children. Common sense is tossed to the wind.

Anonymous said...

In fact, I love you quoting Dr. Phil so much, I want to know who you are. We could be BEST FRIENDS!