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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teachers are quitting because of classroom chaos

Soft discipline policies make teachers' jobs much harder, writes Daniel Buck, who's taught in a variety of schools. A friend quit after being threatened by a student; the administration did nothing. "At one particularly unruly school, I lost track of how many teachers up and left mid-year; they put their keys on their desks and walked out the doors."

Almost half of teachers said they're considering leaving their jobs because of school climate and safety issues, according to a National Education Association poll last year, Buck writes.

In his first year of teaching, "every day was chaos," he recalls. "I still remember one student laughing at me after I asked him to sit down." It wasn't just his inexperience. A veteran teacher across the hall quit "and checked into a mental hospital because of the verbal abuse she suffered from students."

The drive to end suspensions and expulsions has backfired, Buck writes. "We have countless case studies — from cities like Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh to entire states like Illinois and California — that demonstrate the necessity of discipline." Soft approaches such as “positive behavior interventions and supports” (PBIS) or “restorative justice” allow misbehavior, bullying and classroom disruptions to flourish.

It takes an emotional toll on teachers -- and it means more paperwork and more meetings with administrators and parents, he writes. "And of course, none of this touches on the lost learning, academic mediocrity, and emotional harm that chaotic environments inflict upon students."

Here's a Brookings survey on school discipline policies.

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