In preparation for this issue’s P@nel.Edu column, Christian Altena, Justin Cook, Rebecca DeSmith, and I (John Walcott) sat down together via video conference to discuss our thoughts about “when teaching gets tough.” I began by asking the panelists to give specific examples of difficult teaching situations and how they handled them.
What I did not know as we met together is that one of our group, Rebecca, along with her school, is in the middle of a situation that certainly fits the theme “when the teaching gets tough,” but that also goes much deeper than a bad day in the classroom or office. As our conversation continued, we were not sure where it might lead or whether we would end up sharing it with the CEJ readers.
Ultimately, however, we decided that this conversation should be shared. Our desire is that by sharing with our readers not only some specific examples and responses but also a glimpse at what it means to be in community, to share our joys and sorrows, to pursue right relationships, and to think deeply about how complex and tragic situations affect our lives, schools, and communities, we can grow in our understanding of who we are as educators and of the places God has called us to.
In response to my introduction, Rebecca initiated our conversation.
Rebecca: To begin, I just have to get this out there because Sioux Center Christian School has been dealing with a very difficult situation in the past few months. I know this is a sensitive issue, but I do want to share it with you.
The topic of this discussion is “When the Teaching Gets Tough,” and the teaching has been really tough at our school in the last couple of months. Maybe you’ve heard about it. We had a fifth-grade teacher at our school, one of those teachers whom students loved; he was the athletic director and a coach. About the middle of October, it was discovered that he had been abusing young boys in grades 5–8 for several years. We have documentation in the last four years of 146 accounts of abuse to boys in 5th through 8th grade. This was devastating to our school. He was fired immediately with the first allegation, but since the first student came forward, we’ve had additional students talk to abuse reporters and police officers about his inappropriate behavior.
This has devastated students, parents, teachers, and our whole school community. There are former students in high school who were abused by him who are trying to figure out how to deal with that abuse. The ripple effects are countless in our community right now. There has been a lot of publicity, as you can imagine.
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