Abdulkarim Talib I can’t think of a teacher, full time or substitute, who gets compensated adequately for the work they do with today’s school-aged students. Many students without any family structure are placed with scores of other aimless, mischievous students and the teacher has to sort that out? I bet there isn’t one NC state legislator who would last ONE week in that environment for the money teachers/subs get.
Chuck Wallace Thank you for writing this Ms. Saulsby! More black and brown faces need to acknowledge these challenges and work toward improvement. White folks can’t acknowledge the problem for fear of calls of racism. Keep up the good work!
Kathy Epperson Maybe now the community can start a real dialogue about what’s going on in the school system. For some reason those of us that work in the schools are not listened to or are too afraid to speak out. I’m retired from WCPSS as of today so I’d be more than happy to speak out.
Beth Blackwell Swartz As an elementary school teacher, I DO greet the students at the door each day! I believe this is so important! For some students, we may be the 1st person who speaks to that child!
Never miss a local story.
Jamila Smith Simpson Before we start blaming the kids, I’d really love for someone to interview them about their experiences. I feel like we are getting worse and worse at empathy. I’m very disappointed in this article, the quote about students of color and the anxiousness people have to blame the Black community (not Pam but posters).
Marty O’Sullivan As an educator who is retiring in one day (because it’s my time, not because of the students or low pay), we DO CARE about “these” students!! Are you kidding? We are often the only ones who care. But students with needs, mainly poverty and all that goes with it, far outnumber teachers and any resources a school system can offer.
Fran Hobbs I grew up in foster care & group homes so it isn’t about experiences and empathy. Right is right and wrong is wrong. They have to be taught that!!! Hello!!
Michael Robinson The root of the problem is lack of discipline. With this comes lack of respect. For many of these students they are not interested in learning, only carrying out their version of fun. Vocational or military school should be looked at as an alternative for some students.
Mariah Matheson I do wish there was more info on their backgrounds and their experiences. There was a wonderful article about how teachers can better help kids who have experienced trauma before they end up in a remedial classroom.
Kathy Epperson When you correct a student, or ask him or her to put their phone away, they just need to put their phone away. Most do it. What we get way too often is “Get the eff away from me, you don’t know me!”
Roy Swygert Accept this for what it is, the truth. This is what teachers face every day, disrespect, foul language, lack of desire to perform academically and disinterest. No one is picking on these students. A village is not going to change this behavior. Teaching and training begin at home. Until we send Black children to school with a desire to learn and ready to respect their teachers, fellow students and school administrators, this won’t be the last article of this type. One of these articles could be written every day of every school year.
Gusella Mariam You say “Black children” but until we send ALL children to school with a desire to learn and ready to respect their teachers, fellow students and school administrators.
Elaine T. Cole Students try substitute teachers. They may or may not do the same with their regular teacher. When I substituted, kids of all races tried. You’re not with the same group every day, so whatever you do to counteract the behavior may never work, because there is no consistency. However, students need to stay engaged in order to cut down on their negative behavior. They also need to see that their teacher is interested in them, has a passion for the work they do, and is not a whiner. For those with the preconceptions that all black and brown kids who misbehave come from low income, unstructured and dysfunctional families, you aren’t even in the right ball park. That’s like saying all white kids can, want to and do learn. It’s a fallacy.
Francine Bless My school district has implemented PBIS at all our schools - positive behavior, intervention and support. It doesn’t fix everything but it has helped. We identify our at-risk students for both behaviors and academics. Our school developed a STARS program - we will be:
There and Ready
We’ve been working on this program for 5 years and we continue to adjust annually - it’s based on positive reinforcement and logical consequences. It’s fair and equitable for ALL students - expectations are clearly defined. With that being said, teaching today is not what it was when I started 38 years ago. The pressure and demands are staggering.
Veronica Richardson It is completely the way they are segregated by government. I wish the NAACP would focus on THAT instead of the voter ID issue. People need an ID for education and jobs, so why are they focused on fighting against having one! They should be fighting for them to gain IDs and for the government to stop segregated housing.
Barb Allan Hollandsworth I substitute taught for 8 years in New Hanover Co. and I agree it takes a village, with POSITIVE role models. We first need to make sure these kids are getting their basic needs met, like having food, appropriate clothing and shelter. We need to develop a safe place where they can feel they belong and are cared about, 24/7. We need more teachers and other school staff of color and to pay all educators much better. As the adults, it is our responsibility to help guide kids to showing them their true potential!
Diane Judge With successful model schools like Kipp Academy and Urban Prep Academy, whose graduates for the last seven years have all been accepted to four-year colleges, why can’t area schools duplicate these successes so our kids can achieve? Why aren’t parents demanding it? When education leaders know what works, yet do nothing to bring this to their own schools, it is unfair to blame it all on the kids. As a retired teacher, I feel your pain, Pam. But the lost boys you encounter were molded by the malpractice and neglect of their parents and educators. When will we all see the light?
Jean Longobardi Scaraglino I have been a TA in Wake for almost 15 years and have a witnessed this downward spiral of respect for educators whether they are teachers, subs or TAs. I must say it is not just children of color - but all children who are not treated with and taught respect at home. There appears to be less and less support for the teachers caught in this situation. This has pushed me closer and closer to seeking employment elsewhere or just retiring early!
Tami Gambelin Wesendunk My husband runs the alternative learning center at a Wake county school. He actually finds what he does very rewarding, but has also experienced some of the same frustrations as Pam. Usually those students that are so disruptive and disrespectful also act that way towards their parent (he’s seen it in meetings). If that’s the case, there’s not much that can be done. He does what Pam now does, focuses on the the positive things. Luckily they outweigh the bad.
Jennie Lou Oliver Robinson I am a substitute after being a full-time teacher in elementary school. I retired several years ago and come back as a “sub” about 18 months ago. I volunteer my extra time in the school I taught in. They are a 70+% free and reduced lunch school. I give my time to help those who come to school with baggage they didn’t create. I know what it’s like to have the target on your back when you walk into a classroom. I also know that I have the training to help and I know I have made a difference. To me the problem is respect. These children are not being taught this! They are not given respect so they do not give it return!
Hal Tarleton I read the column and agreed with her perspective, but I was surprised that she didn’t mention the issue at the heart of the problems she sees in the classroom: a lack of effective parenting. Parents should teach their children to respect teachers, pursue learning and practice self-discipline. Schools can’t do it or at least can’t do it alone.
Jacqueline Foushee I find this article disturbing but true. It begins in the home, nurturing, respect, structure and love. I have heard so many stories where the parents curse, scream and have little time or patience to bring these children up in an environment that allows the child to experience a healthy childhood. I’ve also heard of how the Social Service system is understaffed and overworked, which affects the provisional care that these families in need of guidance and help need. These children suffer due to inadequacies in the home environment and parenting. These problems go unnoticed until they attend school and again the system fails them. They are labeled, pushed aside and given little hope to escape the downward spiral of defeat that their environment provides them. Instead of encouragement and nurturing, they are mimicked and abandoned, leading to a life of hopelessness and crime for far too many. Keep “hope alive” – hope does not live in a home of defeat. The school system and their parenting fails them. Their present and future looks bleak to a child caught up in a situation they cannot began to comprehend. The legal system seems to benefit from crime by incarceration. Society in general has failed these children. These children need emotional stability to withstand the pressures of life that no child should experience.
Sherry Green Work in kindergarten and see it already with them. Sometimes parents don’t instill the positive usefulness of a solid education. It is a place for their children to spend their days and get fed. Hope we can turn this around before it gets worse.
Nia Wilson Another article about how wrong black and brown children are. In any other aspect of life, if there was an example where there was a majority of anything that wasn’t working, we would evaluate the situation surrounding the circumstances and try to adjust it. But not with our kids. They are just all wrong. That is not scientifically possible. Society gives up on our children the day they are born (or at least the moment they are less cute), and they can feel it. How many of these babies received their first suspension in preschool (nothing like being a 3-year-old throwaway). The best thing we can do is admit that this world DOES NOT love lil black boys and do something about that. Let’s look at the poison in the lake instead of trying to cure all the sick fish.
Charles Miller For the past thirteen years I have been a substitute teacher in Wake County mostly at Apex High School. I have found that most of the students have been respectful and courteous. I had the advantage of 40+ years of experience
Phil Lowe Yet we have politicians in this state that do not appreciate Teachers and what they do.. My ex wife taught for one year and felt the same as you Pam and left the profession after her first year.
Llewellyn W. Jones Thank you Pam for being brave enough to sub and brave enough to speak up about what you experienced. Our elected officials should have to do this for a week, especially our Legislators. This is not a problem that schools can fix!! It is a sign of the continued deterioration of our society in general.
Lisa V. Hall Oh, I guess she will get an award for bringing this to light because it’s fuel for Whites to assume all Blacks/Brown faces are bad. Sigh.....she already knows the conditions in which they live/raised so if you’re not cut out for it go find another cushy job elsewhere.
Abdulkarim Talib Her approach is pro-active not that of burying her head in the sand and ignoring the problem. As a black woman writing what she does is done at the risk of the ridicule you seem to want to put on her.
Lisa V. Hall Some kids don’t have the luxury of having both parents home when they get off the bus. So when I say how they were raised several factors can ensue. I’m sure whatever your bigoted minds were thinking is not what I’m referencing. Parents working 2 jobs or more, poor nutrition which leads to bad decision-making etc. So to hell with singling out kids of color when she could’ve taken the advice from the pastor to share with her colleagues opposed to the media in such a manner as she did to inflame & debase a particular group that is already disenfranchised. No innocent move there.
Eli Keller Black, yellow, white, whatever. So what I’m understanding here is kids raised in unfavorable circumstances are the reason they are rude & misbehave. OK, then, but why by God their nerve using the ‘N’ word then not getting expelled for it? The way I see it is There is NO excuse PERIOD!
Scott Eason It may not seem so at the moment, but you will run across someone in the future that you have impacted in a positive way and they will thank you for the contribution you made in their life.
Pattie LeSueur What is the culture of the school that accepts/ tolerates that kind of disrespect from students?
Crystal Felice Yeah, try being a full time teacher dealing with it every day. Yet, teachers are supposed to fix it.
Brian Bunn The black family has been destroyed by liberal policies over the last 50 years. That is at the root of this. Start there.
Jim Craig It starts with parenting. Behaviors/Respect starts at home.
Carl Collie That is why teachers leave the profession in huge numbers, it is not about how much money they don’t make. If you had to deal with that atmosphere for 200 academic days you would leave to. This is also why I get annoyed when we compare our system to the education star of the moment, Finland. I guarantee Finalnd doesn’t deal with these kinds of issues, hence their test scores are so much better and their teachers are much more satisfied with their jobs. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the problem, however nobody wants to tackle the real issues. Until education becomes a priority in their homes and neighborhoods, these young men have no hope of a promising future.
Kristin Augustine Christensen I’ve never understood the don’t tell me what to do attitude. I tried to help some see another way, but succeeded only with a few. I sought the resources of 100 Black Men of Wake County who were helpful, but even they were rejected by some. I never gave up, even though some continued to “get on my last nerve.”
Mary Prentis Jones You make many good points about issues that are rarely part of the discussion on educational reform, accountability or teacher retention/shortages. I suspect this is because there are no good answers. As a 30-year plus middle school teacher, I want to add that it is certainly not all boys or children of color that present these attitudes. Economic class certainly plays into it. Also, Curriculum Assistance (CA) is not designed for behavior problems, but for students with disabilities. I suspect that Cross Curriculum Resources is not a behavioral intervention, either. I give you great credit for ‘hanging in’, being concerned and for speaking up. It makes it very hard to teach, particularly if you have students for less than an hour a day, without an assistant and have to spend time dealing with these attitudes and behaviors (and no, you can’t just put them out or send them to the office – a common misperception). You try your hardest to build relationships with students and their families, but are often continually rejected. But you keep trying and reach a few... and those make it worth it.
Tom Eller A very honest, personal optic of the classroom. I admire Ms. Saulsby for trying to make a difference, too often we identify problems but don’t do anything to solve them! Once we understand that these kids are the problem.....not “racist” teachers, not overzealous resource officers, and not a lack of funding, then we can move forward with a solution!
Dawn Ellzey Blagrove I substitute taught in Wake County for almost a year. I think is is inaccurate and unfair to say that most of the troubled children are brown and black. It’s simply not an accurate statement. I taught in classes with no brown or black faces that were as difficult to manage as any other classroom. However, the behavior of those children is categorized and discussed differently. This article is part of the problem creating the school to prison pipeline and disproportionate suspension rates in Wake County. Children who disrupt class and are disrespectful come in all shades. Not acknowledging that is feeding into the systemic racism that permitted our education system. Shame!
Jason Lane Sorry but I know teachers who have spent 15 plus years teaching in wake county and they will tell you time and time again the same thing Pam said! You just didn’t spend your 1 year at the schools they did! Teachers are leaving left and right because of this issue! But we don’t want to hurts someone’s feelings!
Jean Longobardi Scaraglino Ah, yes, agreed. Don’t dare hurt a student’s feelings - even when they are totally wrong and out of control and the parents are just as bad! OH yes lets turn the other cheek and just acknowledge them when they decide to make a good choice and praise them to the hills(sarcasm) Where did this strategy even come from - it doesn’t work.
Shea Neville I can appreciate the platform Ms. Saulsby has but we already have 1 million articles telling us how bad our kids are. So, your 6 months of substitute experience will carry a little more weight because of your media resources (which is a bad thing). You see, what we cannot tell is whether you were an effective substitute or not. We do not know if the teacher you were subbing for was an effective teacher. We do not know the climate of the school and its impact on the kids. For all we know, these could have been “A” students.
Bob Katrin This country is in denial about the beleaguered state of young African-American males and the problem will only go on and on and NOTHING will be done. For a start we should offer reparations and stop wasting trillions of dollars on meaningless wars that make military contractors rich. We should use the money to “fix” this country. But no, all “we” accomplish is meaningless fighting, posing and rhetoric of left vs. right while this nation plunges on in its dangerous downward trajectory based on corruption and greed based capitalism. I don’t see any answer because we’re hell- bent on self-destruction. Kudos to Pam Saulsby for having the courage to talk about this problem with honesty and clarity.
We’ll periodically share here excerpts of comments posted on opinion pieces either on our website or on The N&O Facebook page to expand the reach of the content of our community conversations.
What The June 12 Point of View “On the disturbing job of substitute teaching” by Pam Saulsby
Excerpt “I accepted the reality that students, and particularly these students, will test a “guest teacher.” So I shifted my focus to helping those who wanted my help. If I could hear, “Thank you, Miss Saulsby, here you go. I finished my assignment,” my work was done. I admit I lowered my expectations dramatically, but that was reality. It disappoints me, saddens me, even angers me when I think about the paths these young lives will take. Some obstacles are a given for them, and others they create themselves.”