Disqus

Friday, November 09, 2012

Teacher Versus Student; All's Well That Ends Well

Very interesting story from our friends at The Stranger Slog:

According to the police report, a female student at Nathan Hale High School walked into the classroom "asking for some note cards" when she was allegedly struck with a 500-page copy of Homer's The Odyssey around 9:00 a.m. on November 1. By way of explanation, the teacher reportedly told police, "I was in a dramatic moment of teaching and when I was interrupt[ed], I wanted to show the students how important that moment was." 

It's unclear who called the cops—most likely an employee of the school. When police arrived, the girl told them that after interrupting the man's class, "he yelled at her to get out of his classroom." According to the police report, she "thought the [teacher] was joking at first and again asked for some note cards." The teacher "again yelled for her to get out," at which point, the girl "realized the [teacher] was not joking and asked him why he was being so rude."

This pissed him off even more, according to the girl. He reportedly yelled, "Get out!" and then allegedly threw the 500-page book at her, "striking her in the hand," the report states. In his defense, the teacher told police that he wasn't mad when he threw the book—and he didn't mean to strike her, just to throw it in her general direction for "dramatic effect." According to the police report, the teacher said that his kids know that "this is the way I am." The good news is the girl's hand wasn't injured by The Odyssey.

The report states that the two apologized to each other later that same day, with the girl admitting that "she should have known better than to interrupt the [teacher]'s class." 

This teacher was wrong, wrong, wrong to throw the book (with intention to hit her or not).

BUT

I have been in classrooms where kids think it's okay to roam around and completely disregard what the teacher is saying.  This girl could have done this before and it was his last straw.   And, to tell him that HE was being rude when she interrupted the class is hard to fathom.  Who tells their teacher that he/she is being rude?

I don't believe him when he says "I wasn't mad" with the yelling, etc. - he was mad.

I suspect I know which teacher this is and yes, he takes his teaching seriously.  

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

c'mon - none of was there. if there was a top notch recording of incident system, we'd see that a huge % of incidents are caused by a small % of kids highly skilled in blaming everyone but themselves, with complete support from home.
none of us were there

Really?

Anonymous said...

That idiot student deserved to have a book thrown at her. Totally on side of teacher. Kids need to show some respect.

Mag mom

Patrick said...

Kids do need to show some respect, but the teacher is supposed to be the grownup in the room.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are supposed to throw erasers, not books. Books don't create an clowd of chalk dust and leave residue on the clothes.

What? No Catholic school alums in here? WSDWG

Anonymous said...

This Catholic school alum would not have lived to tell the story of being so rude to a teacher. Had I escaped the nun's wrath, my parents would have finished things.

K-12 Catholic School Alum
...and proud of it.

Tonestaple said...

I really would love to know this brat's parents' reaction. I wonder if they thought their precious spawn had been wronged, or if they grounded her and took away all her toys for the next six months. I know which way I would bet.

And like the other grown-ups here, if I had done such a thing when I was in high school, my parents would have done worse than grounding.

Anonymous said...

Those kids are lucky to have a teacher with a 500-page copy of the Odyssey. At least she wasn't struck by Discovery Math!

-I Support This Teacher's Action

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would echo that if I had talked back to a teacher like this in high school, I definitely would have feared the wrath of the teacher, the principal AND my mother.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

My algebra teacher threw a desk once when I was in eighth grade back in the mid-1980s, my youngest brother had her in the mid-1990s, she retired around 2000. She also threw staplers. My algebra II teacher threw chalk and erasers both. It takes a special kind of student to provoke such behavior, don't you think?
-just a witness, not a provoker

Anonymous said...

+1 for "I support..."

Not really; teachers should have the self control not to throw stuff in the classroom. But super that he had the unabridged copy available. That is what my son was supposed to read in Freshman English, but his teacher went on maternity leave and the sub switched to having the kids read only selections from an abridged version.

Patrick said...

That's really the puzzling thing. The Odyssey is not that long a book. The Loeb edition, with Greek and English in parallel on facing pages, fits in a pocket. Maybe if the edition thrown had lots and lots of notes and big print.

Anonymous said...

I expect that teenagers are still developing self control. I expect adults to already have self control.

If a student had thrown that book at the teacher, would an apology be enough to clear it up? Would security be called? Suspension?


Would the teacher throw the book at an annoying or rude adult?

If we want students to use respectful behavior then we adults should model it.

-expect more from adults

Anonymous said...

The Fagles translation is 560 pages and is a great one for high schoolers -- very energetic and approachable language. I loved it!

Anonymous said...

Why was the student interrupting a class in progress for note cards? And not leaving when asked? Yes, I know, adults shouldn't throw books, but he did, and she still didn't get the message. If one of my sons had done this, I'd tell them to be grateful it wasn't a bigger book, and not to interrupt a teacher again unless it was not a drill.

Mr. White

Anonymous said...

Cannot believe the commenters who feel this action by a teacher was justified. There are many kids who get spanked, beaten or have things thrown at them at their homes and school is supposed to be a safe and idealistic environment where such things are not allowed by anyone, teacher or student. This teacher should be treated as a student would be and suspended for the same amount of time as a student would be for fighting.
Do we need the DOJ to monitor excessive force in our city's schools as well as in the police department?
There are procedures for dealing with disruptive students and throwing things is not one of them.

Angry

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Taliban thought young Malala was being rude so they shot her in the head.
If this guy, Greenfield, I believe, can't control himself he should get into another line of work or move to Texas to teach. Maybe he can be in charge of paddling young women like the vice principal In the Springston school who put welts on a girl in September. This is not appropriate behavior in any way.

Furious

Anonymous said...

And one more thing. " All's well that end well", what the heck does that mean? I don't know how it works in your home but we discourage throwing things at each other when we are angry. Like we taught our kids in pre- school: use your words!

Really PO'd

Melissa Westbrook said...

Really, I said all's well because no one was arrested and the parties involved apologized to each other and accepted the apology.

I'm pretty sure the teacher faces discipline from both the principal and district so no one is getting off scot-free.

I personally do not excuse the behavior on either side (as I said in my post).

Anonymous said...

as a nathan hale student, i support this teacher. it is common knowledge not to interrupt his class while he is teaching a lesson. i have never had him as an instructor, and even i know that. i also know that he is one of the most gifted and talented teachers we have in our language arts department. when a teacher has only 1 hour to explain something as complex as the odyssey, it is imperative to protect that time to provide adequate teaching to the students in the class. for that hour, those students are the teacher's highest priority, and he expects himself to be theirs. it is a high standard that we have at hale. students are given a lot of freedom, and with that freedom comes the expectation and trust that the students will be responsible, as well as respectful other teacher's and peer's time. so, when this specific student interrupted his class TWICE in a row for something as insignificant as notecards, she violated those expectations that accompany freedom. especially responsibility. more importantly, this teacher was protecting his time that was given to the students learning the odyssey, not a student who wanted some notecards. with this teacher gone, a sizable portion of the students in his class have given up on learning the odyssey. i know this because they are all my friends. us students at nathan hale are given the gift of excellent teachers, this teacher in specific being one of them. we miss him dearly, and hope he comes back soon.

Anonymous said...

OK Melissa,
Let's just parse this out a bit more. A rude, even insolent student. A teacher who brooks no interruptions.
The problem is a man yelling at and throwing things at a young woman. This is just not acceptable. At anytime, anyplace, in Seattle Public Schools. The student may be at fault but she should be dealt with in a non-abusive fashion, even if she herself is being abusive. My kid is studying the district 6th grade social studies curriculum and learning about Hammarabi'a laws. They are discussing the fairness of an eye for an eye and the whole host of misogynistic ideas of early civilization. I'm not comparing stoning a women to death for adultery to book throwing, but I would like to see this incident become a learning experience for parents, students and teachers. To demonstrate how far we have progressed here in Seattle and other enlightened places and how very far we have to go, not just in other parts of the world and the US, but even here.
This whole thing just makes my blood boil.

Really riled

Anonymous said...

OMG Nathan student
I won't comment on your lack of proper punctuation and capitalization or your novel grammatical usage. I respect individual styles. However, you, while criticizing the student and glorifying the teacher, have failed to address the fundamental issue of physical aggression towards a female student by a male teacher. Do you feel that such attacks are always justified or only in this case since the Odyssey is so important. Granted, it is a book about men and their bravery and their faithful wives who are rewarded for their virtue, and our civilization admires the principles of ancient Greece, although the slavery part and the paternalism are currently in disrepute, maybe the teacher was just giving an example of how it used to be.
I also like to ask Nathan student how many teachers have thrown books at him or his friends and can he picture in his mind a female LA teacher throwing a book at a male student?
I am seriously impressed that any student even reads this blog, I thought kids had much better things to do.

Really

The Real Arnold said...

The teacher should have been arrested for assault.

Anonymous said...

Read it again, this student was not beaten or killed. There were no threats, teacher did not throw a desk, it was a book thrown to make his point.

There is no evidence the teacher lost his temper. The book didn't hit her head or body, only part of her hand. She's not a vulnerable preschooler, and he's not an authoritarian monster. Do you think at any time this student felt her life or safety was genuinely threatened? It's ridiculous to suggest it's an assault.

I'm glad it ended well and that everyone involved learned from the experience.

-I Still Support This Teacher's Action

Unknown said...

Well, Real Arnold, apparently the student and her parents didn't press charges. Again, I'm sure the district/principal will hand out punishment because AGAIN, what the teacher did was wrong.

Kit said...

I really can't believe that some of you think this is justified. A teacher should never lose their cool. I'm sure there are lots of kids who violate rules, are rude, and are disrespectful of other the teacher and other students' time. You still can't throw an object in their direction for dramatic effect.

Anonymous said...

You know Melissa,
I respect and appreciate your work. We know you think it was wrong but please elaborate. Why is it wrong for this event to have happened? The man on young woman aspect in particular, I'd like your opinion. Is it worse than if it had been a young man? Would Mr Greenfield have even thrown a book at a male student? I would like your opinion.

Really

Melissa Westbrook said...

Really, I think I said what I think.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to put thou on the spot. The comments stating that this is OK just make me a little crazy.

Really bummed

Anonymous said...

Just let it go, Really mad person. You live in a fantasy world where school is a magical place that doesn't have conflict. Come on, kids get shot outside of schools, teachers have sex with students, drugs are everywhere, drop-outs, gangs - you name it. It's a microcosm of the real world and it gets real and sometimes real ugly. So the guy flipped out a little, he's only a human being. Ever been around high school kids all day? T'aint easy and it ain't always easy to keep your cool.
And the misogyny angle is a bit extreme too. I mean statistically one in four women have been sexually assaulted so there is a 75% chance she hadn't been molested by a man and won't suffer any trauma at all from the incident.

Realist

Anonymous said...

I would try to get my daughter to leave a boyfriend who yelled & threw things at her, I would work to persuade her to quit a job where the boss treated her this way & I would pull her out of a class where the teacher treated any student like this. I do not think that any wonderful personal characteristics would compensate for such treatment.


I hope I have taught my children never to use their authority, or size, or monetary/social standing to treat someone else as though they are less valuable.


I am surprised at the number of commenters who support the teacher's behavior.

We all deal with rude people, who cut us off in traffic or text during a meeting or come late for dinner. Do you throw things at them?

-expect more from adults

Thomas said...

I think I'd pull my kid from this man's class. Not a healthy learning environment. Some kids are really sensitive to displays of aggression. As an adult it sounds like a situation with a high squirm factor. Who called the cops anyways? A student or a school employee? Apparently some people on scene thought it rose to that level of seriousness. If teachers have a disruptive student they need to call security. Don't know the teacher, but sounds like he needs to reevaluate his attitude and change his behavior.
I've worked with a number of teachers in my days as a volunteer and I've seen a few ytellers. Many more were amazing teachers who Never loose it, even a little, and it seems the cool and collected ones have the best behaved kids. They have many control techniques but none involve raising the voice or, god forbid, throwing things. To me they are almost inhuman in their patience, but I think they are born to teach.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, it was horrible, uncalled for, wrong,wrong, wrong,

BUT...

She basically was asking for it.

Incredulous

Anonymous said...

"All's well that ends well"
This mans career is tarnished. Who knows about the female student,or other students in class. No one was arrested? That's a pretty low bar for "wellness".
It reminds me of the explosion of outrage when Mr Mas commented on, I believe it was Cheryl Chow's mention at a school board meeting. He made comments felt by many to be homophobic or rude. He "doubled down" and then sorta apologized. This situation seem cut and dried. The man threw a book at a student. He broke the rules. He did a bad thing. He is an employee of the district, of us, indirectly, and he should be disciplined.
Flamer

Anonymous said...

Wow. This thread is hugely revealing of this blog's basic readership. Protect the teachers at ALL costs. If they assault students? Well, probably the little brats deserved it. This is exactly the sort of reason that has propelled ed reform and gotten us charter schools.

We need to remember. The people with the right, actually, the obligation, to be in school are the students (no, not the teachers). All students. And that includes ones that disrupt class. The job of the teacher is to teach all students. Not just the ones they like, or who are compliant. If you don't like that obligation, there's a stack of resumes a mile deep for your teaching post. If you don't like that, well, go teach at the Catholic school that K-12 Catholic Alum attended. Your salary would be 1/2 your current one, and there'd be no union to run to for other heinous transgressions you might commit. But, you'd get to throw the book.

No doubt this guy will go running to the union for protection. If it were my kid, I'd press chargers.

-parent

Anonymous said...

this teacher was protecting his time that was given to the students learning the odyssey, not a student who wanted some notecards.

That's exactly the problem, Nathan Hale student. Time isn't the only thing given to this teacher. Students are given to him as well. This teacher was given the gift of students, and he abused that gift. Teachers are supposed to teach all students in subject matter as well as personal development. We expect more of our teachers than our students. Students are learning. Teachers are adults. And while it's great that some students are more developmed socially and emotionally than others, it doesn't mean that we give up on students because we don't like where they are in their own personal development.

-parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Where they are in their own personal development?"

Parent, there are times when kids - all kids - misbehave or break rules. It could be immaturity, it could be oppositional fever, it could be anything.

Again, I do NOT let this teacher off the hook. I hope he has consequences and I hope the parents of this girl tell him how they feel.

However, if every time a child misbehaves at school, we ponder where he/she is on the "personal development", it's going to be a long school year.

William said...

the "buts" and the "howevers" are a not so subtle way of saying the young woman is at least partially to blame for the teachers action. That is patently ridiculous and I'm starting to wonder what gives. Whatever the student did, unless the teacher was acting in self defense from an attack on his person, he and he alone is to blame. He violated his terms of employment. I am disheartened to to keep reading how he was provoked and how naughty the student had been. You may know policy, Melissa, but you apparently don't know the law. hurry up and add a new topic so this thread will get off the front page and stop bothering you.

Anonymous said...

However, if every time a child misbehaves at school, we ponder where he/she is on the "personal development", it's going to be a long school year.

Well, then you better get out your clocks. Have you been in any school lately? Right! Students misbehave, they fail to regulate their emotions, they have socially immature responses, they mouth off, they forget their notecards, their pencils, their homework etc. They exercise poor judgement. Those are all things they are still LEARNING. Those are all things that teachers must include in their teaching, with direct instruction, modeling, and with a positive environment designed to teach it.

On the other hand, teachers are adults. They are NOT still learning those things. They should have mastered them by the time they are hired. They should, at a minimum, be modeling good behavior. How does this gem of a teacher expect to teach students to regulate emotions if he goes around throwing books at students? Does he expect people should give him respect and be compliant "just because"? Respect is earned. Regulation is taught and modeled.

Please! Nix the excuses!

I'm sure every parent who thinks "those other" kids deserve the book, would be outraged if it happened to their sweet little deserving dears.

-parent

Anonymous said...

PS. Consequences are certainly part of a well reasoned instructional strategy. Unfortunately, lots of people think it's the only teaching strategy. And, consequences are only worthwhile as a teaching tool if they actually work. Do you think this student will behave differently because some teacher threw a book at her when she went rummaging around for a notecard? I would think the teacher's response could actually be reinforcing and may encourage even more of the same behavior!

-parent

Backscratcher said...

Seattle teacher here.

I was raised in the day of spankings, slaps on the back of the head and in high school, beatings with paddles and kicks in the butt.

It didn't work then and it sure doesn't work now.

Angry behavior towards students only begets more angry behavior from the students.

Teachers used to be taught you needed to yell at the students once in a while just to keep them in line. Also wrong. Yelling just makes everybody unhappy and consequently misbehave even more.

If you want calm, thoughtful, respectful students then you have to model being calm, thoughtful and respectful.

Of course, there is a place for showing passion through drama. But this was somebody who was angry because they were interrupted. There are so many better ways to handle that.

Anonymous said...

There are a few issues being discussed here, and I would like to disseminate them, and weigh in.

On the teacher:
1) The teacher shouldn't have thrown a book at the student. I don't think anyone agrees that throwing objects at anyone out of anger is a good idea. The fact that he hit the student's hand speaks more about his lack aim than his lack of judgement.
2) The teacher does have the right to lose his patience with a student. He can even yell. Teachers are human, and to ask them to have to suppress their emotions for every single moment is unfair.

On the student:
3) The student interrupted a class asking for supplies she should have. This was not an emergency, and she was wrong to do so.
3.5) Also, what class was she supposed to be in when this occurred? Was she skipping class? If she was given a pass, that teacher should share in the blame.
4) The student was rude to the teacher and defied authority. She should have left when she was told to. ONE person is in charge, and that is teacher.

On individual beliefs:
5) Some people think anger an dramatics are not effective or appropriate in the classroom. I disagree, but there is a line that shouldn't be crossed. This teacher is near the line.
6) Some have taken a misogynist view. I find this to be irrelevant. It is a teacher/student issue, and gender is not a factor.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't sign the first one. Please delete it.

There are a few issues being discussed here, and I would like to disseminate them, and weigh in.

On the teacher:
1) The teacher shouldn't have thrown a book at the student. I don't think anyone agrees that throwing objects at anyone out of anger is a good idea. The fact that he hit the student's hand speaks more about his lack aim than his lack of judgement.
2) The teacher does have the right to lose his patience with a student. He can even yell. Teachers are human, and to ask them to have to suppress their emotions for every single moment is unfair.

On the student:
3) The student interrupted a class asking for supplies she should have. This was not an emergency, and she was wrong to do so.
3.5) Also, what class was she supposed to be in when this occurred? Was she skipping class? If she was given a pass, that teacher should share in the blame.
4) The student was rude to the teacher and defied authority. She should have left when she was told to. ONE person is in charge, and that is teacher.

On individual beliefs:
5) Some people think anger an dramatics are not effective or appropriate in the classroom. I disagree, but there is a line that shouldn't be crossed. This teacher is near the line.
6) Some have taken a misogynist view. I find this to be irrelevant. It is a teacher/student issue, and gender is not a factor.

-Another Stat

Jan said...

Good points all, Another Stat. May reason and cool heads prevail here.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Sad display of 'humanity' here. Assault is assault. Violence against another, outside of self-defense, is generally unlawful and entirely immoral.
(Or translated for my catholic friends: Wrath is one of the cardinal sins.)

And
Let me ask: What if this was a janitor who threw something and struck a student? A bus driver?
A cop?
A random stranger on the Metro?
A homeless guy at an off-ramp?
A politician?

We'd all raise holy hell.

p.s. Dear Incredulous, "She basically was asking for it." Ah yes, how quaint and empathic of you. Quick bit of advice; much like blaming the WWII NAZIs for anything going on today, this little gem, when toted out, has only the effect of proving how painfully wrong your argument must be. Bravo
i.e. She's asking for it ONLY when she actually literally ASKS for it. 5

N.SeattleParent


Unknown said...

Thanks to Blogger for like this great post. We want Male Teacher in Primary School.But may be Male are not Interested to do Job in Primary School.