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Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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Violence in Schools
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Read This First: "5 Hurt In School Stabbing"

(This will be a good indication of how we plan to structure the blog. If we're discussing the issue as a result of an article we've read, a picture we've seen, or a video we've watched, we'll link to it at the outset of our post.)

Full disclosure- my best friend, who is also a friend of Jon's, and another close friend of ours are alumni of St. Joseph's. We do know a bit about the school itself and the fairly affluent suburban neighbourhood in which it is located. However, since we know next to nothing about the incident today, we won't be going into much detail about the stabbings in Mississauga. Instead, we will be using it as a jumping-off point to a broader discussion on the issue of the safety of teachers in particular.

This is something I've considered a lot in theory, but don't actually know much about. I've never worked with high-risk students; my own high school did not need metal detectors or a frequent police presence. I've been through two bomb threats in school, but both turned out to be pranks and I was only aware of the situation in the second instance. In short, I'm not qualified to do anything more than speculate about this issue, and I hope that Jon or our commenters will be able to provide a more informed opinion.

The vast majority of teachers (I hope) go into this profession to make a difference with kids. Even when they're strict, they're acting in the best interest of their students. Yes, there are bad apples, but let's assume for the sake of argument that when I say "teachers," I mean "dedicated teachers." A teacher in a circumstance like the one at St. Joseph's is just trying to look out for the safety of her students, and she gets stabbed in the hand for her trouble.

So what I want to ask is, how far should a teacher go to protect his or her students? What kind of precautions can a teacher take to prevent something like this happening in his or her classroom? And at what point has a situation gone too far for a teacher to intervene?

I think, at least in my case, if there were students in danger I probably wouldn't be thinking about myself. But in that moment, as you're lunging to prevent the stabbing of a child under your watch, shouldn't you think about yourself? Many teachers go above and beyond, sacrificing their evenings to coach sports, their lunch hour to supervising debate teams, their weekends to grading essays-- sacrificing their safety seems like too much.

And yet I still think I would step in, just like the teacher did today. Luckily for her, there were other teachers around to help break up the fight. Sadly, a lot of teachers haven't been so fortunate, and have been seriously injured or killed by their students. If only these kids (and I do speak of a small minority here) would see their teachers as more than just people who stand in the way of their freedom, and recognize how hard they work to support their students.

It just doesn't seem fair.

So what do we do? Do we train teachers in self-defense and conflict resolution? Do we install metal detectors in an otherwise peaceful school? Do we sit the kids down in a dreaded assembly and explain why violence is wrong? Does any of that even work?

It's pretty obvious that I'm all questions and no answers right now. That's exactly why we created this blog-- to start a dialogue, whether it's an issue we're experts on or something that utterly baffles us. We want to know what you think.


(Another note on our blog's format: When Jon reads this post, he'll reply above with a response to what I've written. You can comment on one or both of our posts, and we may very well post again in response to your comment. We want Class Dismissed to reflect as many opinions and voices as possible, as well as to capture our own growth and evolution as teachers)

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