Out of the Closet

The math class was off to its usual slow start. Mr. Peterson, a quiet and unassertive teacher, began taking roll. It was difficult to discern what he was saying as his monotone voice drifted in the air. Simultaneously, an immature 15 year old girl was taking charge of the class with her antics. The classroom was her stage and entertaining the troops, at the expense of dear old Mr. Peterson, was her obsession. There was a reason this child, and many children like her, saved her inappropriate behavior for school.

She was adopted as a baby to parents who never grasped unconditional love. They would remind her how lucky she was to be living under their roof. Her childhood was filled with harsh reprimands, unreasonable punishments and physical beatings. She lived in constant emotional turmoil, never being good enough for her parents’ approval. At the age of 15, her only joy in life was to elicit laughter from her peers. This adolescent’s hijinks would throw into disarray any classroom whose teacher was not up to the task of handling her outbursts. She used this as an escape from the reality of a childhood filled with sadness. Unfortunately her over active sense of humor gained approval from her peers which only fed her insatiable appetite to amuse. This day, as with so many before, would present Mr. Peterson with its usual challenge of maintaining his classroom decorum.

He asked her nicely, several times, to “settle down.” Her co-conspirators, while not openly participating in her foolishness, laughed at her boisterous behavior. This young punk of a girl manipulated the classroom to her fancy, thriving on disrupting any academic work.

Mr. Peterson became more frustrated. He was not capable of raising his voice, as he was a kind, gentle man who just wanted to instruct a math concept. But his red face belied his false sense of composure. The 15 year old continued to destroy his plans for completing the assignment in a timely manner. Engaged in her frivolity, she was startled when Mr. Peterson sauntered behind her. He gently placed his hands on her arm and quietly said, “Come with me.” The girl immediately enjoyed the new attention she garnered from her snickering peers. With Mr. Peterson’s hands gently guiding her, she arose from her seat as he led the way to his coat closet. This was hilarity! The students were enjoying the scene and the young girl was in the height of her element. Mr. Peterson calmly opened the closet door, escorted the girl into the 4’ x 4’ closet and closed the door behind him. He calmly said, “You can come out when you are ready to learn.”

The darkness obscured everything in front of her, with the exception of a thin line of light between the door and the wall. The class quieted down, not a giggle was heard as Mr. Peterson began his instruction. How desperate was he to ask her to stay in his closet so he could teach? Why would it take this kind of episode for the young girl to finally stop and question her actions?

I do not remember the remainder of the class, as I stood humbly in the pitch-black closet. I wish from that day forward, I altered my foolish ways, became an outstanding student, and had success because of it. I did not. But I started to make a gradual change, which would not see fruition until my adulthood. My grades were above average in high school and only a little better in college. I used the excuse my parents’ hurtful home life determined my inability to succeed in school. It was a long transition, but I eventually made a metamorphic change from a lazy, entitled 15 year old to a productive and successful master teacher. Teaching came naturally when working with children, who found it difficult to settle into the discipline of learning. I related well to those rambunctious kids, as they mirrored my childhood behavior. The probability of their inappropriate behavior was symptomatic of something more serious, perhaps relating to their home life. What I needed at the age of 15 were teachers’ intolerance of my actions and ineptness in preparing my school work. What I received, for the most part, were teachers who allowed my unhinged conduct, while glancing at the clock, thanking God, they only had to put up with me 40 more minutes. I believe the same may be said about today’s classrooms.

Placing today’s rude child in a coat closet would prove disastrous for job security, and rightfully so. Whereas many of today’s inexperienced teachers would never contemplate the coat closet as a form of discipline, these teachers do create their own virtual closet when they allow poor behavior to take place in the learning environment. Ignoring a disruptive child and allowing him to manipulate the classroom is cloistering him from achieving, as well as prohibiting the educational discourse of the other students.

What is your philosophy in classroom management? How are your rules articulated to your students? Any and all ideas would be awesome!

2 Replies to “Out of the Closet”

  1. We just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the hard work and effort you’ve been putting in lately. Keep up the amazing job, you’re doing great!

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