How Bad Can it Get?

One thing I've always wondered is how bad can a classroom get - really?

Take all of the factors that go into producing a poorly managed classroom: a inexperienced, frightened teacher; a lack of materials; no administrative support; violent, angry students who are raised in drug-infested neighborhoods. What would happen? How bad could it really get? Would you realistically have fights in class every day? Would you have shootings in class? What do the worst classrooms in the country look like?

I'm inspired to think about this because of how movies and television often portray our failing schools' failing classrooms. You often see students hanging out in corners listening to music, gambling, throwing things at each other and the teacher, holding knives, using explatives every other word. But is it really like this? Does it really get this bad in some areas? I've taught in and been to some REALLY underachieving schools in the inner-city. Places where over nintey percent of the student body lived in desperate poverty, but I have never seen anything that comes close to the classroom presented in these movies and television. So I'm often skeptical that it actually gets that bad.

There's an episode in the fourth season of the HBO series, The Wire, in which a student gets out of her seat to slash another student across the face with a razor blade in the middle of class. An administrator (or maybe it was another teacher) has to save the new teacher who was assigned to that classroom by coming in and slapping the razor out of the girl's hand and calling security. Since the show is supposedly based on stories from real people who've been in such situations in Baltimore, the first thing I thought was, "No way! That did not just happen!" It's not that I don't think such a situation could never happen. We all know horrific violence can happen at any school (just think Columbine). But does that kind of stuff really happen on a day-to-day basis at many of our nation's innner-city schools?

I sure hope not.


  1. a teacher at my old school had kids set fire to her trash cans during class time...twice. They also stole her hearing aids off her desk more than once (she took them out for some reason during class, despite the fact that she was profoundly deaf)


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