The Breaking Point

Jose Vilson Education

Today, I found out that, allegedly, a teacher physically assaulted a few students in his classroom. Just hearing that ring off my ear made me jump out of my Rockwells. What the hell just happened there? Then again, I look at his situation and say, “Wow, I feel like I saw this coming a long time ago.”

Which brings me to this question …

What happens when you’re just about ready to quit? Not to say that I am at this point and time, but how does one get to the point where they literally lose their minds in a really tight situation?

Usually, demeanor-wise, I try to stay calm as water … and about as unpredictable, too. After all, if the kids get a whiff that you’re not going to do anything, then they find ways to get under your skin and break your psyche. It’s almost sadistic in a way, but some kids take pride in breaking their authority figures down. A few of my kids even quipped, “I can’t believe Mr. Vilson hasn’t left yet; last year we made 2 teachers leave in the first three months.”

That’s a feather in my cap if I’ve ever heard one. Unfortunately, though, what that means is that less patient and caring teachers than myself, and there are quite a few, eventually find a breaking point where they either quit altogether or act completely irrational.

The first time I ever found that point happened sometime around April of my first teaching year. I broke down and almost didn’t make it home, I was so distraught. I eventually found the resolve to come back (5 hours of writing and playing video games did the trick). Even then, that was the most extreme case in which I felt the kids in my homeroom weren’t doing what they were supposed to, and I almost quit that very moment.

I can’t say the same for others, though. What happens when a teacher physically abuses a student? Were there signs before that that there was a sense of support for the teacher amongst his peers, teachers, and administrators? Were there tell-tale signs in the kids’ demeanor that might have given off that he or she was a potential threat to the kids’ safety and education? I often think about what could have led that teacher to get to the point where that sort of incident happened.

This is not to say that there isn’t a shared responsibility in all of these situations, or that there’s not this “innocent till proven guilty” clause, but we as educators need to think more critically about proactive solutions instead of reactive solutions. Maybe we need to intervene when we see the teacher wiping away their face for some reason, or when we see that first verbal lashing the teacher gives the kid, or when their language is that of a teacher who’s more concerned about their next check than their next class.

Most vital to our success, though, is when we reach that breaking point, we need to reflect on what our next action is, before that next one as our teacher is our last …