I am a teacher struggling to discipline disadvantaged children and feel unsupported by the school administrators - please help me.
The questioner's philosophy
I wish to commend you in living for these high ideals. However it is important to realize that, in seeking to express these ideals, you will find powerful challenges and difficulties. It is in learning to master these challenges and difficulties that you will find fulfillment in the latter part of your career as a teacher.
In our parents' generation discipline was administered through the rod, cane or strap. Young people obeyed authority figures and teachers because they were terrified of that authority. Today we live in a different age. Such practices have fallen out of favor - and rightly so. However a question is being asked of teachers as a result. That question is - how can I discipline the children in my care? The answer is that today teachers and parents need to discipline children through love.
This requires a totally different approach to managing a classroom than in earlier times. Teachers are often unprepared in their training for this new approach. Their difficulties are further compounded when they have, under their care, children from unruly ill disciplined homes, for then the teacher must provide the role of parent as well as educator - a role that may even be undermined by the very parents whose duties they are attempting to supplement and reinforce.
Furthermore the education system itself is often working against the teacher, because the education authorities place a high emphasis on the gaining and granting of academic awards, achieved through the mass assimilation of facts and figures. In among all this mess, as you term it, is the harassed teacher with his students in from of him, who he knows need to learn vital life skills, the means of self discipline and have the example of inspiring people from among their community whom they can admire and seek to emulate. The enlightened teacher knows what is needed and knows that if the pupil leaves school confused about discerning right from wrong, has poor relationship skills and no purpose in life, then that student will be a menace to himself and society.
Teachers in this position often protest that they are not up to the task of saving these children. They claim it is not their place to provide such a level of care. However it is their special calling to take up such a role and if it is in their heart to engage in this vital challenge, then they must find a way - the very future cohesiveness of society and the happiness of the pupils in their care depends on them.
Now to address your particular case and the concerns you expressed in your question. I am sensing from your question that the main problem you have is a lack of support. You feel very alone and unsupported in your role as teacher and educator. You feel you are not receiving the support you need and deserve from the administrators. I would also add that this problem may well exist in another school were you to succeed in effecting a transfer. Therefore I suggest three lines of action designed to upgrade your personal skills and create a more effective support network.
First point of action
I know you feel you may have tried everything with the authorities in your school for your needs to be heard and supported, but I want you to try again - but before you do I want you to go on a course on interpersonal communication skills to help you communicate your needs to the relevant authorities, (see further help and resources below). This can only help your needs be understood by management.
Second point of action
As well as improving your interpersonal communication skills I suggest you develop life coaching skills particularly suited to coaching the young. Developing these skills will help you teach through coaching, which for distressed unruly children can be very effective. My wife uses this approach as a year head in her school, when dealing with discipline problems and also used this approach when she was responsible for teaching the disadvantaged children in her school.
Third point of action
As well as seeking to further your level of support from the administrators by improving your interpersonal skills, I suggest you seek sources of support outside the formal school system. An excellent service I know of is the Education in Human Values Program, instigated by my spiritual teacher and guide Sai Baba in India. It has since spread right around the world and I am nearly sure it is available in California. This program is designed to support teachers in instilling needed human values and self discipline in the minds and hearts of the young. It would be an ideal form of support for you since it is offered at no cost by trained facilitators who have the teachers and children's best interests at heart.
By upgrading your communication skills to create a more supportive relationship with the administrators, developing coaching skills and bringing them to the classroom and by nurturing support outside the class room provided by external organizations which exist to support the teacher, you could find your job transformed and may even discover that, like Christ, you are able to work miracles among the young people in your care!
Further Help and Resources
You may be able to find an appropriate interpersonal communications course locally, and you can also learn valuable lessons in interpersonal communication from Peter Shepherd's Communication and Relationships Course. If you want to go on a face to face coaching program to upgrade your coaching skills, I suggest you contact the International Coach Federation, the professional body for life coaches. To receive lots of practical help and support in the classroom at no cost contact the American branch of the Education in Human Values program.
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