My wife and I were both high school teachers. As we looked at the mug shot of James Alex Fields and listened about his fascination with Hitler from his former teacher, we both thought, “I had my share of kids like that”.
In fact, teachers have had, or will have EVERY extremist there ever has been, is now, or will be in the future.
Sometimes they simply adopted the extreme views of a parent. But most suffer from ESP – Estrangement, Shame and Powerlessness. They’re estranged from other kids and teachers, and from what goes on in schools. They’ve had a lifetime of being told that they didn’t live up to others expectations. That’s the formula for shame. They also feel powerless, in part from having so much done to them, but more so from not being able to get their lives to turn out as they’d like, and see other kids lives play out. So much of their behavior that teachers don’t like is their attempt to get or demonstrate they have power to compensate for this powerlessness. This all starts early, sometimes before they come to school.
Birds of a feather flock together. These kids seem to find each other. It’s why we get gangs. ESP leads to the anger we so often see, and what makes them susceptible to radicalization.
More often than not, teachers, other students and school discipline only add to their estrangement, shame and powerlessness.
We have got to do a better job with these kids. We’ve got to help them feel less estranged, and connected and accepted if possible. We’ve got to teach and encourage them to have Unconditional Self Acceptance instead of trying to shame them into compliance. It would help for us to have Unconditional Other Acceptance for them, and let them know it, and encourage other students to do the same. We’ve got to stop provoking futile power struggles, and instead empower them. That may seem antithetical, but it’s needed.
At the very least, if we can’t make them better, we’ve got to stop making them worse.