Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Rex Roland A Loser?

It's amazing that they let guys like this in the classroom. Rex Roland is a sixth grade teacher in Buncombe County, N.C. Students who do well get encouraging notes on their schoolwork. Patty Clement, whose daughter is in Roland's class turned in some work that Roland deemed to be below standard. He wrote "loser" on the paper. After this happened a few times, Ms. Clement spoke to the school authorities. She was assured that Mr. Roland would stop using the word.

Recently, however, Roland was back to his old tricks. He returned a recent paper to the girl with the notation
"minus 20% for being a loser". The mother of the girl complained yet again, demanding that the teacher be suspended. It turns out that Rex Roland is popular and that a lot of children and parents were upset that Ms. Clement and her daughter were rocking the boat. Now, according to the Citizen Times, Mr. Roland is suspended pending the outcome of an investigation

Now, the Buncombe County 6th grader has been staying home from school. She has been getting angry Facebook and text messages threatening her and showering her with obscene insults WLOS notes as follows some of the disgusting messages received by the Buncombe County girl.

"Messages sent to the 11-year-old call her a “freak.” Some use gay slurs, others use obscenities. One says the 6th grader did a "bad thing" and for that she must be punished. Another message says “I hope you grow up to work third shift at McDonalds because the strip joint turned you down.”

Some threats were serious enough that the girl and her family fear for their safety. The school now finds itself in the national spotlight.

Rex Roland has taught his class very well. It is readily apparent that name calling is quite OK in his classroom. The hostile barbs that he dealt out daily to kids in his class are now being mirrored and magnified by students who are expressing their displeasure through name calling as well. Somehow this conflict spilled out of the school conference room and made its way into the school yard. What did Roland say to his class about the prior reprimand? He knows he is a popular teacher. What effect does it have on his class to find out that he is at odds with a particular student.

I had a job years ago working with children with learning disabilities. One of the children laughed at a joke I made and said I was "crazy" . I did not take offense. But my supervisor reminded me that I had to be careful, because according to state regulations , if I were to have called the boy "crazy" or "nuts" I would have been brought up on abuse charges. The common sense reason for this is that the words of an authority figure carry far more weight than do those of a child. When an adult labels a child, it is very hard for the child not to feel shaped and defined by it.

I took a course required in my agency on abuse regulations. Therefore my supervisor's words were common sense. I was always careful to keep any aggressive edge out of my jokes with students.

I am sure that Rex Roland has a degree in education. He probably also has a few credits in psychology. He surely must know about the power of suggestion and derogatory labels. "Loser", "dummy" and "knucklehead" do not describe behavior . They have know use at all in a learning environment.

Rex Roland's students probably feel they are defending a friend when they attack the little girl who complained about him. He may well be good at imparting factual knowledge. But his record in teaching social behavior is another matter.

Roland's students think he is a cool guy. I think Roland himself thinks he is a cool guy. But I doubt that Roland's students will have the same high opinion of him in 10 or 20 years.

Buncombe County is now a very divided and angry community, all because Rex Roland would not curb his language. Rex Roland is a loser.

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