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Solutions for Unruly Classrooms

May 16, 2004

There exists a simple and effective remedy to the problem of rampant "lack of discipline" described in your May 13 editorial, "Teachers Need Upper Hand." Grant teachers the authority to peremptorily remove disruptive students from their classes.

Just as attorneys are able to exclude jurors from serving at trials, teachers should be able to permanently remove students whose behavior is so disruptive that it makes teaching impossible. When I suggested this to one of my more insightful students, he commented, "But that would change the nature of society." I replied, "Exactly."

Gov. Terminator, are you listening? Let's say "Hasta la vista" to the small percentage of students and their enabling parents who destroy the classroom learning environment.

Fred Siegel

Science teacher

Venice High School

*

After working in the film business for many years, I took a job as a substitute teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Very quickly I was given a long-term assignment at a good school in the San Fernando Valley. Usually I enjoyed the students, and my administrators routinely called me a natural. My evaluations were superb. As a voracious student of history myself, I knew the subject matter I was teaching.

As is to be expected with more than 35 students in a classroom, there were problems. Over time I came to realize that the system for dealing with those problems was ineffective, counterproductive and just plain stupid. Expectations for teacher performance were ridiculous and unreachable, while expectations for students were so low as to be a joke. When parents were involved (which was rare), some were supportive but most were apathetic or openly antagonistic. Most administrators, while good people, seemed more worried about test scores and career advancement than supporting a genuine learning environment. The only punishment for errant students was suspension. Strange but true -- when a student broke the rules he or she got a day off.

The buck stopped with no one. Teachers blamed students. Parents blamed teachers. Administrators meted out ineffective discipline, blamed teachers for a lack of classroom management skills and moved on. In my experience, parents were never held to account for anything.

I threw in the towel and returned to the film business. It is a saner environment to work in.

John Smart

Los Angeles

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