In keeping with my group’s theme of sticky situations, I thought I’d just write a blog on my experiences with students drinking/chewing in the classroom, and how we as teachers should handle this kind of behavior.
From second grade until halfway through my sophomore year of high school, I attended a very small Christian school that was incredibly strict (no hugging permitted between males and females, and even on the high school bus, boys sat on one side, girls on the other). And let me tell you, there sure as hell was never any drinking/drugs allowed anywhere near school premises. If any of the teachers or school officials found out a student engaged in such activities even on the weekends, they were in for a serious lecture, and a warning that if it happened again, they could be expelled indefinitely.
Halfway through sophomore year, after being in a class with the same six students since second grade, I decided I was fed up with the ridiculous regulations and old familiar faces, and moved to my first public school, Legacy High School. Never in a million years could I have prepared for such a switch. It was almost like culture shock. To say that these two high schools were vastly different would be a ginormous understatement. For years, I wasn’t allowed to do most things, even outside of school, so you can imagine my surprise when my classmates sitting next to me were passing around vodka in water bottles and a lovely old Gatorade bottle filled with a brown liquid that reeked like hell. Took a little while, but I eventually realized the Gatorade bottle was being used for spitting since apparently quite a few students like to enjoy some chew during lecture.
The fact that students would come to school drunk, and even drink/chew in the classroom, bothered me; but not near as much as how this behavior was handled by the teachers. The teachers always knew. And in every class, the teachers always ignored it. Not once did a student ever even receive a warning. They would watch the bottles go around the room, but act completely ignorant to the situation. Some of them just seemed not to care, and then some of them almost seemed afraid to actually discipline a student.
I think both of these schools’ approaches to handling students and alcohol were completely wrong. You can’t threaten a student with expulsion for activities they engage in outside of school, on their own time. You also can’t watch this kind of behavior occurring in your own classroom, and turn the other way. What kind of lesson is that teaching students? That the school environment is a place where anything goes, and there are no consequences to inappropriate actions? That’s ridiculous. If there is an individual or group drinking/chewing in the classroom, they should be approached immediately. They should be pulled out into the hall or somewhere private, and talked to one on one about the reasons why this behavior is unacceptable. I would probably then give them detention, and a warning that they will be kicked out of class next time this behavior occurs, and there will be a sit down meeting with me, the principal, and their parents. If the behavior still occurs, then there could be the possibility of suspension or expulsion.
We as teachers not only take the role of educator, but also role model. And part of being a good role model is knowing when it’s time to step up, and discipline students who are acting out of line. Inappropriate behavior should never be ignored or avoided. We are there to teach these kids after all, and that includes not only lecture and text book material, but also proper behavior and how to act in society.