Short Take: Teacher of the Flies

Having had friends and acquaintances who taught in schools around New York City, stories vary widely about how students and teachers treat each other. Some offer gushing stories of student effort and appreciation. Most, however, offer some variation of this anonymous teacher’s take.

I am a math teacher at a middle school in Flushing, Queens, and two months ago, I was helping one of my students work out an arithmetic problem when he called me a “f–kin’ asshole.” When I asked for an apology, he shoved a chair at me and stormed out.

Five minutes later, an administrator brought the student back to class. She informed me that she had called his parents and that he could return.

And what did I do? I went on teaching.

When a story like this is raised, the reaction is often to rationalize why students treat a teacher this way. If teachers fail to show respect for their students, the student will return the favor, they say.

If I tell a student to put away her phone, the conversation usually goes something like this:

Student: “Leave me the f–k alone.”

Me: “I’m going to call your parents.”

Student: “I don’t give a crap. My parents will just agree with me.”

Then maybe she’ll throw a desk across the room for good measure.

Are the teachers not sufficiently engaging or are the students so bold as to not care? Even if this reflects a small percentage of students, how do the students who desire to learn overcome the disruption?

In our world of unicorns riding on rainbows, all ills are the product of external causes, and all students live blameless lives since they are merely the outcome of systemic failure. Whether that’s true is of dubious relevance in the day-to-day survival in a classroom. What’s a teacher to do when a kid tells her to “Leave me the f–k alone”? What’s a student to do when she wants to get into Harvard plus be capable of doing subtraction?

A teacher can take a few moments, depending on the willingness of a recalcitrant student to listen, to explain intersectionality and the value of education to the student’s future career prospects.

Every now and then, it works.

But try explaining life to the kid who repeatedly got reprimanded this year — mostly for sexual harassment.

And all he got was a string of in-house suspensions.

Discipline isn’t in vogue these days, although some schools manage to do the job of instilling an appreciation in education in their students where others fail miserably. Why this is so varies and can be hard to explain, as there are many moving parts from the parents’ perspective toward education to the culture students bring into the classroom. And the teacher’s ability to gain the respect of students.

But these lil’ angels who are oppressed by society and not responsible for the misery their futures hold aren’t doing themselves any favors either. And we’re not doing them any favors by excusing this behavior. There are some bourgeois values that are worth retaining, despite the  tears of the passionate, and discipline in schools and respect for teachers are among them.

18 thoughts on “Short Take: Teacher of the Flies

  1. Richard Kopf


    Oh, no! You used the words “bourgeois values.” No trigger warning either.

    You are going to get “Waxed.” Middlebury College should invite you to speak just so you can be stoned by the brave students and faculty.

    I am giving up my paid subscription to Simple Justice in protest. You have finally gone too far in pushing the bourgeois notion of educational rigor.

    When the green new deal arrives shortly, a guaranteed annual income will make it such that middle and high school students don’t need to learn. So, teachers should get used to the idea of not teaching.

    All the best, shitlord.


  2. B. McLeod

    “Get into Harvard PLUS be capable of doing subtraction”??? That seems like an awful lot to expect, but I suppose if they make clear that it is a DEMAND, and not a request, they are already halfway there.

  3. CLS

    There is a method of child rearing known as “Respectful Parenting” that may be a cause of this idiocy. Without going into too much detail, it involves treating each child like you would an individual adult, with their own needs and desires, and working with children cooperatively to make sure everyone’s needs are met.

    The problem with this nonsense is that children are actually not adults. They are children, and need authority figures in their lives teaching them how to act and behave so they eventually become well-developed adults.

    If insisting my kids behave and treat their elders and betters constitutes “bourgeois values,” screw it. Sign me up.

    1. SHG Post author

      We used to just take them behind the woodshed, but then that Dr. Spock showed up and ruined everything.


        Beat me to it.

        Also, back when people of our cohort went to school, Principals could use the board of education across the seat of learning.

  4. John Barleycorn

    The NY Post eh… Who knew you could be such a flirty aggregator?

    I am impressed…. but why no classroom/hallway chaos YouTube vids where all that is missing is Mean Gene Okerlund doing post and pre match interviews? The recent Oakland School Board meeting after the strike “resolution” is also worth checking out.

    P.S. Don’t forget to tell all your teacher friends that dry-cleaning to remove blood, phlegm, and spit as well as costume repairs for damage sustained in the ring are fully deductible.

    I also happen to know two tax attorneys who are looking to take it to the mat pro bono with the IRS concerning the defined limit caps when it comes to educators select vs primary ring wardrobes as well as any accessories the educators personally deem necessary in the course of their professional duties even if they happen to use those accessories at home.

      1. John Barleycorn

        Don’t you worry esteemed one, you’ll come around one of these years…

        I have been devising a plan to expand Dave’s (who has been doing an excellent job BTW) perceptions of “acceptable” that is gonna slip right under your throw rug.

        Might take a few years but I think It will probably all come together in under a decade.

        But first thing I gots-to-do is figure out a way to get him cello, after that it should be no problem with the trombone and then, the way I figure it the oboe fingering chart will come natural to him and then all we will need is a few of your back page readers who have been hiding their voice to step up and it should be a slam dunk.

  5. wilbur

    Glenn Ford.
    Vic Morrow.
    Teacher kicks hoodlum’s ass in Blackboard Jungle. A great scene on Vimeo of said ass-kicking.
    That’s how they handled it in the 50s.
    At least in the movies.

  6. Losingtrader

    That new career path you’ve been looking for is clearly teaching public school. If the retorts you provide here are any example, we could make a fortune with YouTube videos of your classroom verbal altercations.

    1. SHG Post author

      Oddly, students don’t take well to criticism these days. They are all special and entitled to do as they please.

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