“You can’t do anything to me!”

A 6 year old screamed that at me on Wednesday when I got on to him for running around a classroom, jumping on furniture, and yelling. His classroom was three rooms away from mine and I heard the commotion. That boy spent the rest of the day in my classroom holding my hand as I taught my class. I even walked the boy to his seat in the bus at the end of the day. The next day, I opened the newspaper and read on the second page that a district here in my city was dismissing a teacher who had taught for 15 years because he had physical contact with his students. The article goes on to say that the district strictly forbids any physical force unless the child is threatening others or themself.

Well, the alarms started going off in my head because this is one of my nightmares that I have; to be accused of inappropriate contact with a student. (Are female teachers as worried about this?) The article does go on to say that this teacher is only “accused” at this moment so nothing is proven. However, I know that I will never see an article with as big of a headline that says this teacher is innocent. His reputation now is permanently tarnished whether he deserves it or not.

The student who told me that I couldn’t do anything to him was not yet hurting others or himself but he was out of control. He could have jumped on someone or tripped over a desk and cracked his head open. It seemed like a good idea at the time to hold his hand to help him be in control of his body. Did I make a bad judgment call? I didn’t use any physical force but I did make physical contact. Would someone else make that distinction?

I don’t condone any physical abuse on a student and I know that every accusation of that should be taken seriously and investigated. However, I do feel that it should be done privately until all facts have been taken into account to protect the reputations of everyone involved.

I have been brought to my principal’s office twice this year to answer questions about “touching” my students. One boy thought I had tackled him and his parents were rightfully upset. However, the incident occurred during a game of kickball. I was teaching the students to stand off of the baselines between bases to not get ran over. I turned around to run the line and the boy was right behind me. I knocked him down pretty hard. I tried to catch him so he wouldn’t get hurt but ended up dragging him till I could stop myself. The issue was quickly cleared up and I do appreciate the parents’ willingness to listen and not jump to conclusions. It did disturb me though that this boy easily mistook accidental contact during a sport as inappropriate. Does this boy spend all of his time playing video games? Does he do anything with his dad, uncles, or older friends? Why did it upset this boy so much that I ran into him?

The second time I was in my principal’s office was because one of my students complained that I touched him. I had no defense because I did exactly what he said I did. I had tapped him in the forehead when I wanted him to focus on the lesson. I had used my fingers to keep his chin up when I was talking to him so he would look me in the face. (I expect all of my students to look me in the face when I am talking to them. When they can’t do it, I rest my hand under their chin to remind them.)I had patted him on the head when he wasn’t facing the right way during a class performance. These were the issues he complained about but I had also touched him other times. I had put my arm around his shoulders when he had a great day. I gave him high fives in the classroom when he got answers right. The parent was not satisfied with the explanation and that is their right. I will no longer have ANY physical contact with this student.

The physical strategies I did with this boy are things that I do for all of my students. I think it is very important for a young child to have physical affirmation and contact with others. I’m worried that children are spending so much time playing video games and computer games or watching TV, that they will become physically disassociated with others. The news is always telling stories about physical abuse and it has given kids the belief that physical contact is bad and you can’t “touch” them. Is this really the direction we need to go in? I grew up in a small town. I was used to everyone in the town being able to discipline me. A neighbor spanked us when we threw rocks that broke her window. A friend’s parent slapped me across the face when I said a bad word. It did not bother me that these people were not my parents. I needed to be disciplined both times. They did call my mom and I did get in trouble again. There’s a popular story called “It Takes a Village” that I think is very appropriate for this day and age. It shows that most people a child runs into wants the best for them and wants to protect them. Kids these days (I can’t believe I’m now old enough to start a sentence with that phrase!) seem to be under the impression that most adults are bad and their parents are the only ones who can touch them. Is that right? Is physical contact inappropriate and taboo now? Should I go to work everyday and pretend there is a bubble around me and the kids can’t enter? Do I push them away when they run to my crying because they are hurt or when they jump on my lap when they are scared? If I  don’t want to be a headline in the newspaper one day, what should I do?

 

Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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