Last night I was forwarded some information about a breaking news story. A 10 year old boy with autism was being bullied in his classroom by his teachers. You can read the story or watch the video here: http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/news/local_news/nj-father-records-teachers-bullying-his-autistic-child. In response, the boy’s father, Stuart Chaifetz, made a YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfkscHt96R0) expressing his opinions, calling for a public apology, and hoping this incident will start a wide-spread conversation about bullying. His video already has over 3 million views; his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NoMoreTeacherBullies) has over 35,000 “likes.”
Mr. Chaifetz, I am sorry as a public educator and as a person with a disability that your son was treated like this in a classroom. As I thought about your story today, I am reminded of what I am called to do as a teacher. Here are my professional and personal priorities, in this order:
1. I am called to love my students. Bell Hooks, contributor to the book The Heart of Learning: Spirituality in Education writes, “So think first about how you can love your students. Do this even before you think about how you’re going to teach them. Think: How can I love these [students]…that I see in the classroom? What practice of compassion can I bring to the moment that is so fine-tuned that I can accomplish in one day that which might ordinarily take weeks, months or years to do?” (p. 125, 1999).
2. I am called to see my students. Sometimes students feel neglected and excluded from their peers and the social community that exists within the school environment. As teachers, I believe we are obligated to see our students, perceive their needs, and assure them that they are valuable, precious members of the human race. Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard.
3. I am called to teach my students. Tax payers give sacrificially to support the local school system. I must teach the children in my community to the best of my ability—not just because I am paid to do it, but also because I am strongly convicted of the value of investing my life fully into the next generation. If we want to raise children to become compassionate and competent, we must model this behavior ourselves.
Glazer, S. (Ed). (1999). The heart of learning: Spirituality in education. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc.