DSM: Watching My Back


Dana Matthew Bennis (dbennis@umich.edu)
Sat, 10 Feb 2001 11:52:47 -0500


Hello everyone,

        I am student teaching at the moment, teaching 5th-8th graders in music.
I would like to ask for your advice and input . . . This morning my
cooperating teacher (the teacher with whom I am working during my student
teaching) called me and asked me what happened yesterday with a student who
I was helping after school. This boy has become attached to me, talking
to me a great deal - I think perhaps he does not have a lot of
communication with his family or friends, so I think it is great that he
has me to talk to. And I enjoy talking to him and getting to know him.
Yesterday he told me his Mom was picking him up late from school and that
he told her he could maybe get some help from me after school (he plays
flute). So I said, sure - I was free and I enjoy getting to know the kids
better. So we played and talked for about an hour until his Mom came.
    
        My cooperating teacher called me just now and asked me what happened with
him, and I told her we played a few songs and talked for a while. She then
told me that although she doesn't think this is happening with this boy,
there have been instances in the past when kids have stalked (her word)
teachers with phone calls, emails, etc. And that sometimes a threat
towards the teacher can result - it had happened to her, she said, and she
knows that it has happened to many other teachers as well. She told me
that I need to watch my back and be careful, always making sure that if I
will be working with a student one-on-one (or with a couple students but no
other adults in the room) that I clear it with the principal and the
student's parents. Legally, she said, I am not supposed to work with a
child without another adult present.

        I understand the precautions, and they make sense - I intend to follow
them. But I don't like it. I'm not sure what specifically I don't like,
but I do not like having to second-guess myself or the child, or to wonder
if its "OK" to work one-on-one with a child. The door to the room we were
working in was not closed, and others were nearby in other rooms. I
understand that, and I of course don't intend to close doors and be far
from other people when I am with a child. When it comes down to it, what
I don't like about this is the implication that I should be wary about
becoming closer with the kids and being an important part of their lives.

        I am wondering if anyone has comments on this. Does this sort of thing
happen sometimes at Sudbury schools ("stalking" or threats)? If it would
violate privacy, I understand not mentioning it. But it seems to me that
if children are always treated with respect, as they always are at SM
schools, then they will respect everyone else including the adults, and
that "stalking" incidents and threats would occur much less often. I am
being naive?

I appreciate your help and comments,
Dana



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