breaking point

It's true, says one teenager -- teachers are being pushed over the edge by the savagery of their students.

By Nishat Kurwa

Published August 6, 1997 7:24PM (EDT)

As a teacher's pet all through high school, I sympathized
every day with my teachers, many of whom started out with idealistic
expectations but were never able to come into a classroom and just teach.
I never understood why kids in my classes could not give the teachers the
basic respect they needed to do their job.

In "187," I recognized those teachers in Samuel L. Jackson's Trevor Garfield, a
caring teacher who wants to help but continually gets rejected, until his
frustration turns into a desire for vengeance.

Students in today's schools have way more power than the teachers
do. The most a teacher can do is get a student in trouble academically,
while the students who are stirring things up have already so lost their
way that they don't care, and will resort to using savage tactics on those
they perceive to be holding them down.

By the time a decent high school teacher gets to them, the most
troubled kids are so bitter from years of neglect that they can't -- or don't
want to -- believe that anyone cares about helping them. The wall of
frustration that has been built up on both sides must be broken down before
any teaching can be done, a process that is so long and emotionally
draining that both teachers and students usually give up before any real
work can be done.

In most movies about frustrated teachers in inner-city schools, the
teacher is ultimately able to reach out to those students he deems diamonds
in the rough, getting through to them with innovative teaching and
one-on-one attention until his caring is reciprocated. In "187," the
opposite happens: Garfield gets so fed up that he decides the only way to
get respect is to resort to his students' methods.

I've seen both teachers and students get abused for a really long
time, and I hate to say it, but in my eyes it happens to teachers more.
It's easy to see how a teacher could be driven to violence: The good ones
watch the ideals they seek to instill get shot down every day in the faces
of those they want to inspire.

Nishat Kurwa

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