Is this something I should be concerned about?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by a teacher, Oct 26, 2016.

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  1. a teacher

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    I was wondering how I should handle this situation.
    I had students recently do a stream-of-consciousness writing activity where I gave them a sentence starter and they were to write without stopping for a given period of time to create a story, then pass it on to the next student to add to it, and so on.
    I was looking at one of them today and it described a situation where someone is running away from something in fear by driving a car and runs over somebody by accident in the road. Then they look to see who it is and (they name me!). The next two people continue the story and mention me again.

    At first I found it disturbing, but then thought they were probably trying to be funny or silly, as that was sort of the nature of the assignment. But I don't know how to handle it. If I confront the students, it could get worse because word might get around that there is something that students could do to rattle me. If I say nothing, I will wonder what their mentality was. If I took it to admin I think it would look bad, like I have a lot of problems. What do you all think? By the way, the kids who wrote this are real nice, doing well in class and we have no issues. They are not kids I would be concerned would want to harm or do anything malicious to anyone.
     
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  3. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Did you give them the prompt about someone driving a car and hitting someone accidentally or is that where they took it and ran with it? Either way it's kind of a morbid, jacked up prompt. If the kids came up with it, they were probably like "Ooh let's put Mr/Miss X in there, that'd be funny," but still... And it could get worse regardless if YOU DON'T address it because what if next time they write about shooting one of their classmates? Or some kid's house burning down... I would say if the prompt isn't controlled, BY YOU, you almost open yourself up to this. I get you want the kids to free - write, but yeah, sometimes they NEED restrictions and boundaries too.
     
  4. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    I agree with leaborb: making sure that there are boundaries in the future will be important. For now, perhaps it would be a good opportunity to talk - even if generically - about appropriate use of people (names, pictures, etc...) in artistic work (whether writing, photography, sketches, etc...)? I'd bet that most of them that age still aren't aware of those boundaries, and I'd argue that it's an important life skill that would seem centered around your elective.
     
  5. a teacher

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    The sentence starter had nothing to do with violence but suggested a scary story. But I've done this for years and never gotten that kind of response. That is not the issue. I just feel offended because I wonder what they would think of me that they would have no problem imagining me run over by a car. Maybe it's just bad teenager judgment. But handling it is tricky. I mean, what would I even say to that?
     
  6. a teacher

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    Again, I am not concerned about boundaries with writing here, as this was a bit of a fluke. I am concerned with their intentions and mentality. I mean, they knew I would read it. Did they not think it would be offensive? But I don't want to make a huge issue out of it by seeming upset. I also wonder if there's anything they could say that would appease me.
     
  7. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Well ask yourself, "Am I upset by this?" If yes, you NEED to have a convo with the kids (regardless of how you think it may make you look), if not, let it go (wouldn't recommend.) Sometimes you just have to do & say what you need to and not worry about what the kids may say or think of you. If you present it from the perspective of, "I read this and am concerned," vs. "This made me sad and I cried myself to sleep about it," I don't think the kids' opinion of you will change much. It also depends on the relationship you've built with the kids. I was able to have "real" talks with my kids, in a serious manner, and they knew what was up.
    And think about the messages you're sending (or NOT) to the kids? What if student A had written about student B in that way? Would it be OK? You'd read it and have a convo, right?
    It's NOT OK, and it needs to be addressed in a very matter of fact way. The kids will do any say things to "rattle" you regardless, but you want to set those limits. And you won't know what their mentality was unless you ask them. We can't tell you what the kids may or may have not been thinking... We can only offer conjecture. Depending on the kids it may have been innocent, OR, it could have been malicious. "We hate our teacher this much!"
     
  8. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    For what reason do you want to be "appeased"? Are you worried about how students are thinking of you, or are you worried about making sure that they're making appropriate choices (i.e. working on those life skills)? If you make it personal, then perhaps it will show them that they can get a rise out of you, and it may/may not be something they learn from. If you make it a teaching point, then perhaps they'll learn from the situation. Personally, while it's a lower age group, I address these kinds of situations with sharing with them my true feelings, generalize it to how others might feel if they chose to do that, and then talk about more appropriate boundaries, sharing why those are important. Different at secondary, sure, but I'm sure you could do something similar / at a bit higher of a level.

    And secondly, it's a perfect time for a teaching point like that. Just because a teacher's class might line up and walk between specialists quietly for the first 6 years of a teacher's career, doesn't mean that if it isn't happening/working with their 7th class, that the teacher shouldn't utilize good pedagogy to help that class be successful.
     
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  9. a teacher

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    You guys are putting a lot of emphasis on teaching moments, but this to me is personal. That's what matters, not acting like a teaching robot. I think because it bothers me I will take the kid who wrote the first paragraph, ask him who the other writers were, call them all outside in the hall and....and what? What do i say? "This concerns me..." seems too impersonal.
     
  10. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    At first I found it disturbing, but then thought they were probably trying to be funny or silly, as that was sort of the nature of the assignment. But I don't know how to handle it. If I confront the students, it could get worse because word might get around that there is something that students could do to rattle me. If I say nothing, I will wonder what their mentality was. If I took it to admin I think it would look bad, like I have a lot of problems. What do you all think? By the way, the kids who wrote this are real nice, doing well in class and we have no issues. They are not kids I would be concerned would want to harm or do anything malicious to anyone.

    You asked for our opinions. We gave them. And we're not "teaching robots," we just realize that everything you do (or don't) sends a message and the tone for the class. You seem to be double talking; you either want to talk with the students about it or you don't. If you do, ask them. If not, don't. If you do pull them, you have to ask yourself, "How upset am I?" Because that will dictate how you address it and what you say. You claim to not want to appear "rattled" so you shouldn't present it to them as if you are offended or concerned, but then say you are. Which is it?

    I would say, "Guys I read this and was concerned about the part of ME being run over by a car. " (That's what happened, right? )And there's no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed or worry about how it will change their opinion of you. It shouldn't. And you can TRY to probe into their intentions "Why did you write this?" but you may not get a sincere answer anyway, or the shoulder shrug, or "It was funny," or "We don't know," or if they're bold and brash, "Because we don't like you." But if they're nice kids, that probably won't be the response. You won't know unless you talk to them. Are you afraid at what their responses might be? That seems like part of your hesitation.

    And truthfully if MY students had written a story using me in a violent situation, I wouldn't be trying to play detective to figure out the motive. I'd get right up there, story in hand, and say, "This is NOT ok! I don't think so!"
    I grab the bull right by the horns.
     
  11. substeacher

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    If I were you, I'd probably wait until I was passing back graded papers, and then when I got to theirs, I'd laugh and jokingly say, "Very funny. Killing off the teacher in your story. But seriously, guys, that's not an appropriate subject to write about in school. Try to keep that in mind in the future." That way, you've made it clear that you weren't rattled while still maintaining that this wasn't acceptable. That's assuming that what they wrote wasn't too gruesome, of course, which is my impression considering that you describe them as generally good kids.
     
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  12. a teacher

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    Hang on a minute. I like that last thing you wrote: "I don't think so". What did you mean by that?
     
  13. Leaborb192

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    HAHA You have to know me. I have a very no - nonsense , Judge Judy- esque, attitude when it comes to management.
    I'm not mincing words about what may or may not be "ok," I leave NO DOUBT in my kids' minds what the line is. Talking about violence in school isn't OK (and your tolerance may be different. I once had kids writing about "vanquishing a ghost hand," it got" violent "-- I thought it was a good story, but the other teacher didn't appreciate it)anyway, even still, violence involving REAL people (i.e. me, the classmates, family, etc.) is DEFINITELY NOT OK!
     
  14. MissCeliaB

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    If the assignment was to write a scary story, there are several horror novels and movies that start with a hit and run. It could have started like that, then your kids were trying to one-up each other by including you in the mix . I wouldn't worry.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
  15. mathmagic

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    We're all professional teachers. Our job is to teach. I'm not a teaching robot: exactly the opposite, really. My thought process throughout the day is: how can I help students grow/learn and be in such an environment, not whether my feelings were hurt by a comment or not.

    I've had negative comments mentioned and some I'm-not-sure-if-I'm-comfortable-with-it kind of moments like you're describing. Sometimes I'll ignore it, sometimes I'll address it honestly and share with them the results of their actions (how it affected me, but directed towards helping them learn, not making myself feel better), but

    If you want to pull those students aside, then just explain to them the choice, why that choice wasn't the wisest choice (i.e. the effects of their choice - and here you could describe what it led you to think), and a better choice in the future (i.e. ask before using someone in that way...or if you're avoiding any gruesome events...that they choose to write a story without going that route). Professional, to-the-point, and focused around their actions.
     
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  16. a teacher

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    I like that and I am the same way. I am no-nonsense and I want to read them the riot act!
     
  17. a teacher

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    What does that mean?
     
  18. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    [​IMG]
     
  19. a teacher

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    Yes, but it was personal to me. That's what you are ignoring here. It matters that I feel better. That I know they don't have malicious feelings. Since it was a hurtful and offensive thing, I couldn't care less about teachable moments. That's really quite absurd to me.
     
  20. a teacher

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    One of the problems is the group that wrote on the paper is now back in separate seats in different parts of the room. When I pass the paper back it has to go to the original writer. Plus with that approach I would never give them an opportunity to respond and to then get a clue as to their intentions. Or does it not matter?
     
  21. mathmagic

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    I'm not ignoring it's personal, if you read it carefully. But sorry, your feelings are hurt? Okay, then share with them how it made you feel when they did that. That's not ignoring your feelings. That's using those feelings in a productive way. That's a part of sharing what the result of the actions were. If you choose to only worry about yourself in this situation, then I'll be frank, and say that you need a thicker skin. (note, I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but in a realistic -- this is part of our job -- way).

    Honestly...
    upload_2016-10-26_19-16-8.jpeg ...or at least don't stew over it personally so much. I have a pretty thin skin, and I don't even worry about some negative comments I hear - I just move on, am honest with the student and try to help them learn to make a better choice, and then the situation is done.

    Just imagine if you were a prison guard...you'd hear all sorts of things yelled at you!
     
  22. a teacher

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    This is definitely good advice. But here's what is tricky: work with me here if you can:
    I want to read them the riot act for doing something so stupid, yet at the same time find out what they were thinking, in case they respond in a way that tips me off that they were either trying to be silly or have animosity. At the same time I don't want them thinking "hey, now we know if we write something about this teacher, they will be ticked off. Cool! Let's share this with others!"
     
  23. a teacher

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    How about saying something like, "How would you feel if someone wrote something like that about your mother?"
    The trouble is also that I don't want to look vulnerable. This is dang tricky!
     
  24. mathmagic

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    That's why the three pronged approach of thinking about what the situation was, what happened as a result of that (where you can insert your feelings to some extent), and better approaches in the future to avoid hurting others is a better approach than approaching it purely emotionally.

    You still address the situation, you still have them see the error in their ways, but you don't let them see that it's going to phase you. Emotion should play into it, but without that structure and focus less on the emotion (and thus the reaction they could always get out of you) and more on what they need to do differently, they'll keep doing it I'd imagine. Again, the focus is around their (not the most wisely chosen) actions instead of your emotion...even though the latter is an important part of the discussion.
     
  25. a teacher

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    Yeah, but my instinct is to tell them how stupid they were (if they don't laugh when approached and don't show they were just kidding around).
     
  26. mathmagic

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    I'd avoid specifically using you, or their mother, as examples. While including some personal-ness so they see the result of the action is okay, this turns the focus on the emotions/personal nature, instead of on the actions themselves (they'll just get riled up...I'd say you'd want to keep things calm and to-the-point). That being said, I think bringing up examples of how certain words being used / stories being written / pictures being drawn could affect others -- here's where you could even bring up real-world examples of authors/artists and what they have to follow, and the consequences of if they aren't careful with what they write/draw/etc...
     
  27. mathmagic

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    I'm sure many customer service agents have similar thoughts. If they did though, they could easily get fired.

    As adults, and especially as teachers, we need to learn to avoid our instinct and make sure we make a choice that will shift the situation in as positive and productive a way as possible. In this profession, in any profession, in our daily lives.

    (My instinct is also to eat tons and tons of sweets because it all looks so good. I have to eat them...well...with at least a tiny bit of moderation :p )
     
  28. a teacher

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    How do you make it a non-personal conversation about feelings?
     
  29. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    :banghead:
    You're parsing words again.
    Fine - productive conversation about feelings. I said many times that there's some personal aspect to it, but it can't be the main focus.
    But either way, it's seriously parsing over the words, instead of the actual situation/solution. You're better than this.
     
  30. a teacher

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    So I guess everyone agrees this doesn't need to be taken to admin.
     
  31. SpecialPreskoo

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    Just go on and teach the next lesson.
     
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  32. substeacher

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    Well, if it matters to you, then I guess it's fair to say that their intentions matter. Personally, it wouldn't matter to me because I've heard worse and also believe that they were in all likeliness just being silly. Now, that may not be the case, but it's how I would interpret the situation.

    If you did decide to use a variation of my approach, you could always address the class as a whole before you pass the papers back by saying something like, "I really enjoyed reading your stories. They were very creative. I got a good laugh out of the one where a few of you decided to kill me off. But on a serious note, I do need to address that it's not appropriate to use any means of violence in a school writing assignment. While I found the humor in that particular story, please keep in mind that everyone wouldn't and that such stories won't be tolerated in the future."

    You still wouldn't get a clue to their intentions like you desire, but at least you could bring up the matter in a lighthearted way that still let's them (and others) know what the expectation is.
     
  33. a teacher

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    You mean ignore the whole thing? I shouldn't hold them accountable for writing about how I was run over by a car, and when the driver saw it was me they didn't care and just kept going? They shouldn't have their heads chewed off for that crap?
     
  34. a teacher

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    Well again, they won't have that assignment again so a lesson in what's appropriate doesn't matter. And I do want to know their intentions. I'm hoping when I corner them about it they will laugh at each other and show me they saw it as a joke. I can tolerate a joke made in bad taste. What I can't tolerate is the idea that a few little jerks have so little appreciation for their teacher that they wouldn't think twice if he/she were physically injured. I'm still not sure what I'll say but I am leaning towards the judge judy approach of telling them off.
     
  35. substeacher

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    Well, if that approach accomplishes your objective, then go for it. My main objective would probably be to reinforce appropriate school/classroom behavior, but what matters most is you getting what you need out of this. It is, after all, happening to you and not me.
     
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  36. a teacher

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    I'm hoping I will be in a better mood after talking to them. I really couldn't care less about a lesson in appropriate school behavior. I just want to get out of this mood.
     
  37. a teacher

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    The former. The latter is less important in this instance.
     
  38. a teacher

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    What???
     
  39. swansong1

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    My personal opinion...give it a rest and take it as a joke, like it probably was. Laugh it off, kids that age are very morbid anyways and they take any opportunity to express it. Look at all the violent video games they play...killing and death do not affect them the same way it may affect you.
    When I read your original post, that's exactly what I thought...they were making a joke...at your expense.
    This would be a wonderful opportunity to show them you are actually a real person...reply like another poster said...make it a joke and just tell them to be a little more appropriate next time...end of matter.
     
  40. MrsC

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    I tell my students that if they are going to use a real person in their story, they must ask permission and let the person know their role in the story. In this case, "a_teacher, I want to put you in my story. You are going to be hit by a car and run over. Is that okay?" No permission; make a different choice.

    I, personally, wouldn't make a big deal about it, I may make a comment, when handing back the paper, "Too bad you killed me off, I had a great activity planned for next week and now you won't know what it is." Then again, I wouldn't take their choice of story line as a personal attack. You've been given good advice about ways to handle the situation; you need to do what makes sense for you.

    From experience, most students tend to equate "scary" with "violent". I always have a discussion about the difference and give the following advice--if their story was a movie, and it needed to be rated or have a warning because of violence, it isn't appropriate for school.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
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  41. MissCeliaB

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    Sorry. I got autocorrected . I edited it.
     
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