Monday, December 22, 2014

Freedom of Speech


No, the schools where I work are not in session. I write about my previous week, so while we're all on winter break, I still have some subbing stories to share...

8th grade English. It was the beginning of the period, and I was trying to get them settled. The group at the front of the room let me know that one of their tablemates was sitting in the wrong seat.

Which I already knew. There was a boy in Ana's seat. Now I knew where he was supposed to be.

Deon first tried to convince me that the teacher had switched his seat. When I insisted he move, he took it out on his tablemates...

"Snitches."

Deon was one of those students. You know what I mean? Perhaps not. Politely, I'll call him a student that I need to "keep an eye on". While I tried to settle the class, he did everything in his power to undermine my work. He'd get up to "sharpen his pencil" or "get a tissue". He needed  to "use the restroom" while I was in the middle of giving the class instruction. Which meant I'd have to stop, leaving the whole class hanging while I dealt with him.

Then when the class was supposed to work independently, he found reasons to get up and talk to other students. Or talked to other students while he was in his seat.

When the subject of names in my note came up, Deon naturally asked. Of course he was listed. He wanted to know why.

Oh, so many reasons. Where to begin? Well, might as well begin at the beginning--the first offense. The "snitches" comment (and the not-being-in-assigned-seat-and-lying-about-it).

"But I can say that! My history teacher told us about the First Amendment. I have freedom of speech. I can say what I want."

Um, sure, sort of. But this wasn't opinion. This was a threat. I could be wrong about this (I probably am), but I don't think that name-calling is protected speech. Especially not in a classroom. And the term "snitches" usually implies something is going to happen ("snitches get stitches").

Of course, he took issue with my assessment. Arguing that it wasn't a threat. Arguing I couldn't name him in my note just for that. (If only that was his only offense. And the First Amendment goes both ways.)

And now I had him for arguing with me and disrupting class again (this wasn't a conversation just between us two. No. Deon managed to make this a discussion that everyone heard).

10 comments:

  1. Yes, First Amendment goes both ways, and a teacher should always be respected, even if disagreed with. By the way, I love your pic on the right above. Don't remember seeing it before, but maybe I'm just behind on noticing things.

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    1. You're not behind on noticing things. I just changed my profile pic this weekend.

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  2. There are some kids who just have to challenge the teacher to, I don't know, show how tough they are, I guess. He must not have learned much about the first amendment because it says that the government can't interfere with free speech. It doesn't mean freedom from consequences of say, mouthing off in a classroom.

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  3. See, I'd tell Deon that if he didn't sit down and shut up and do his work then he could take himself off to the office. You can do that can't you? I mean, when I was in school, that's what would've happened to us. And then our parents would've been called. Ugh. You must have the patience of a saint.

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  4. Funny how some students just learn those things that they think will help them (i.e. Deon and his rights under the 1st amendment) but fail to learn the rest of things that will save them from not getting their names of notes written back to the teacher about your subbing day.

    betty

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  5. Firstly I love your new photo! Secondly, the First Amendment might cause teachers some problems I think. No freedom of speech in Australia. I don't know if it's a good or bad thing :)

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    1. Thanks.

      And not really. While on the one hand, Deon can technically say what he wants, the First Amendment is really more about not allowing the government to quash open dialog. Deon can still be punished for threatening his fellow classmates.

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  6. Sounds like someone needs a lesson in slander!

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    1. Oh, he needs all sorts of lessons. (Or do you mean me? I try not to lie in my notes. But written would make it libel, wouldn't it?)

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  7. I love your new photo too. It's also been fun to see pictures of the classrooms. What you have to put up with is amazing. Well at least it changes. I wonder how his regular teachers manage to deal with him day after day without going nuts...

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