Consider, if you will, the picture: Students running around choking other students. Students throwing things at the teacher. Kids fist fighting in the hallways. Teenagers screaming at the top of their lungs and running out of the room when the teacher approaches. They are out of control.

I don’t know if the doves are crying, but teachers certainly are.

These outrageous behaviors aren’t unique or rare. They have increased since the pandemic, and teachers don’t know if they can take it any longer. Some aren’t. They refuse to put themselves or other students in harm’s way. They no longer will tolerate in-your-face disrespect. Teachers are quitting. They are retiring early. THEY ARE RUNNING AWAY…..  And FAST.  In fact, new survey data shows one in four teachers were thinking of quitting at the end of the 20-21 school year. Who can blame us?

Why is this happening?

  • Student traumaStudents have not had a normal school year for two whole years, now. Without the social support of the school system, the stress and anxiety in students have accelerated to a breaking point. Explosive behavior in and outside of the classroom is how students communicate that they are not ok. And they are not.
  • Increase in screen time – The pandemic left many children home alone with their devices. Annette Rothman, a veteran PNR in child and adolescent psychiatry in Reno, indicated that “kids are spending around 90 hours a week on their devices, contributing to a myriad of problems, which include a lack of social and communication skills, along with anxiety and depression.” iPhones are raising our kids.
  • Parents modeling disrespect – Many parents have taken to social media to express anger that teachers are teaching more than just the curriculum. Unfortunately, teaching only the curriculum and not addressing social skills is a tad bit difficult when we have kids hiding under tables, threatening other students with a pair of scissors and calling the teacher a “B.” Respect for teachers needs to be modeled, and the opposite is happening. Kids see their parents criticizing and attacking teachers, and they are now doing the same.

Whatever the reasons for the increase in out-of-control behavior from students, parents and administration expect teachers once again to provide the solutions. The number one reason for teachers going into education is to have an impact on children. When teachers feel that they are failing, it pushes them out the door even faster.

No, the lack of control is not our fault

How are teachers handling this? For one, new teachers are feeling as though they are ineffective because they are unfairly judged for possessing poor management skills when they cannot correct these out-of-control behaviors overnight.

But it’s not just the new teachers having problems with behavior management issues.

In a response to a Facebook post about a student physically hurting a teacher, Lisa F., a fifth-grade teacher in New York, echoed the same sentiment saying, “In my 30 years of teaching I have never seen behaviors this bad. I can’t take it much longer.”

These behaviors didn’t develop overnight and therefore cannot be corrected instantly. Principals frequently blame teachers as a method of avoiding and postponing action. They do absolutely nothing to solve the issues themselves.

“No one seems to care”

Anne B. who teaches kindergarten in California says, “It is traumatic for other students in the classroom to witness another student verbally and physically attacking the teacher and other students, but no one seems to care.”

When do we have a zero-tolerance policy for students hitting teachers and other students? Many times, administrators send students right back into the classroom without any type of intervention or consequence. What is this saying to other students that are watching all of this happen?

Often, teachers go out of their way to help a problematic child. They provide them with special rewards and jobs. The problem is the one child that is getting all of the special attention is robbing the others of it.

What are the solutions?

Teachers need help or there won’t be any teachers left. Districts must set aside funding for more mental health professionals in every school. Teachers need to stop being blamed and guilt-tripped into believing that if they were more skillful or had more knowledge, students would not be acting out. This is unfair and untrue.

Administrators need to have zero-tolerance policies for violent outbursts and step in and advise parents of their options for mental and behavioral help for their children. There needs to be money set aside for additional aides for the out-of-control students who prevent their classmates from getting a quality education.

We cannot continue to put band-aids on gaping wounds. Eight weeks of documenting behavior in order to get a behavioral IEP is too long in the case of extreme behaviors. Unions need to step in and offer assistance and demand environments in which teachers can teach effectively and maintain control. A hybrid learning scenario might be necessary for students who jeopardize the learning of all the other children in a classroom. 

Standing up and walking out

Finally, teachers are standing up for themselves, not allowing physical and mental abuse from students or parents. This needs to continue. Teachers need to unite with unions and each other to demand safe and respectful working environments.

Unfortunately, standing up may also mean walking away from classrooms and communities that need us. It’s a sacrifice many of us may have to make if things don’t change.

Students are Out of Control This Year, and Teachers Aren’t Having It!