and obscenities. The assistant principalrninvariably appeared at my door to quietrnthe class. How, I wondered, could I havernbeen so stupid as to have thought that Jrnwas responsible for my students’ fears?rnI pleaded with the youngsters to givernme a chance to help them. I pointed outrnthat additional unacceptable behaviorrnwould lead to their removal from familyrnand friends, but my words fell on deafrnears. The school administrators suggestedrnthat I detain my students after schoolrnfor several days. I did, but to no avail.rnMy next step was to meet with otherrnteachers, some of whom had been teachingrnsocially maladjusted vouths for manyrnyears. The advice I received floored me.rnOne teacher suggested that I catch a culpritrnin the act, and “beat the crap out ofrnhim in front of the other students.” Onlyrnthen could I expect to earn the respect ofrnmy students, for this was the only languagernthey understood. The other teachersrnnodded in agreement.rnThe very next morning, as I was escortingrnmy class up to our classroom —an activitvrnI dreaded, for it accentuated my inabilityrnto control my students —a fellowrnteacher whispered to me, “Watch FredrnBarnes.” The message did not register atrnonce. To be sure, Fred was the tallestrnand the strongest in the class. He was alsornthe most sullen, and students fromrnother classes invariably lowered their eyesrnwhenever he passed. But his behavior inrnour classroom did not appear to be differentrnfrom that of the others. By the timernthe students were seated, however, thernadvice had taken hold.rnAfter taking attendance, I approachedrnthe chalkboard at an angle that permittedrnme to see Fred’s image reflected in a glassrnpanel in the door. Almost immediately, Irnsaw him point to students seated at thernopposite side of the room, and a barragernensued. This cleared up an importantrnpoint. It was not their teacher my studentsrnfeared, but Fred Barnes.rnI summarily directed Fred to accompanyrnme out of the room. Without thernslightest hesitation, Fred swaggered outrnwith me. I led the boy to the far end ofrnthe hall, well out of sight and hearing ofrnthe rest of the class. I then positionedrnhim in a corner in order to block his escapernand said angrily, “You’re going torncut out all that garbage, or I’ll make yournwish you were never born. Do you understandrnme?”rnFred’s first reaction was to glare back atrnme. As I waited for his reply, I soon detectedrna clenching of his fists. As he startedrnto raise them, I employed a defensiverntactic which I had been taught at the policernacademy and had used on many occasions.rnFred Barnes was instantly on hisrnway down to the floor like a sack of potatoes.rnWhen I repeated my question, hernthen replied, “Yeah . . . O.K.”rnAs we walked back to the classroom, Irnwas devastated. I had never condonedrnthe use of corporal punishment, despiternthe fact that my colleagues did. For me,rnsuch reliance on physical force perpetuatedrnthe very syndrome that was playingrnhavoc with my students’ lives.rnWhen we entered the classroom, thernother pupils quickly determined whichrnof us had gotten the better in the altercation.rnOne didn’t have to be a genius to dornso: Fred’s clothes were soiled, mine werernnot. I approached the chalkboard and, inrnbold strokes, wrote my name across thernface of it. Then I announced that theyrnwere going to pretend that this precisernmoment marked the beginning of thernschool year. I spelled out the school’srngoals and then articulated some of myrnown. First and foremost, they wouldrnhave to trust me and one another. Theyrncould feel free to express whatever theyrnfelt without fear of reprisal. For that purpose,rnI would set aside one 45-minute periodrneach day. I expressed the hope thatrnthey would enjoy coming to school andrnthat they could acquire the skills thatrnwould enable them to return to theirrnneighborhood schools. Their fixed attentionrnwas gratifying indeed.rnI determined that most of my studentsrnlived in deprivation and uncertainty. Irnmade my classroom as attractive as Irncould with plants and posters. I promotedrna sense of security by establishing arnstructured environment. Every moriringrnupon their arrival, I would have my studentsrnread aloud the list of activities thatrnhad been planned for the day aird therntime allotted for each activity. They werernalways aware of where they were andrnwhat was expected of them.rnIt soon became clear that the use ofrnregular textbooks was anathema to myrnstudents, for it reminded them of past failures.rnConsequently, I prepared my ownrnmaterials. Students’ names always appearedrnin reading and math lessons, andrnoften their experiences were central tornthe activity being studied.rnI needed help running off the materials.rnWhen I asked for volunteers, everyrnstudent raised his hand, although itrnmeant coming to school early. I chosernFred Barnes because the boy had beenrnfeeling low. Following that eventful altercation,rnword had spread that “Mr.rnRoberts, the new teacher, is one meanrnson-of-a-b . He knocked Fred Barnesrnon his a—.” The selection of Fred was myrnway of restoring some measure of dignityrnto the boy’s shattered image. The expressionsrnon the faces of the rest of the classrnshowed that they understood.rnStudents’ desks were arranged in a semi-rncircle in order to promote socialization,rnand the change proved effective,rnparticularly during rap sessions. The formatrnhad to be altered during reading andrnmath sessions because of the students’rnvarying degree of competency. After discussingrnthe problem, the students themselvesrnsuggested that several levels inrnmath and reading be established. Afterrnseveral months of implementing thatrnpractice, I did not discern a single expressionrnof resentment from any student.rnAcademic improvement occurred almostrnfrom the outset, and in some cases it wasrnphenomenal. And with their improvementrnin deportment, I identified severalrnyoungsters who might be able to return torntheir neighborhood schools the next vear.rnI spent many hours preparing materialsrnthat would sustain my students’ interest.rnFor example, for a group social studiesrnlesson dealing with transportation, Irndistributed copies of My Weekly Reader.rnI had removed all references identifyingrnthe material as being on a fourth-gradernlevel. The lead story dealt with the introductionrnof a fast-speed underground conveyerrnbelt that expedited the movementrnof mail from the General Post Office tornlocal branches throughout New YorkrnCih’. I then passed around a letter I hadrnrecentiy received from a friend in Los Angeles.rnAfter reading it to my students, Irnasked how they thought the letter hadrnbeen delivered. One student stated that arnmail carrier had taken it from the boxrnwhere it had been posted and had personallyrndelivered it to the building wherernI lived. The bov had no conception thatrnLos Angeles was 3,000 miles away. Anotherrnstudent believed that a mail carrierrnfrom Los Angeles had used his “Jeep” torndeliver the letter. I asked for a show ofrnhands from those who had sent or receivedrnmail in the past. Not a singlernhand was raised. I also learned that, exceptrnfor coming and going to school,rnnone of them had ventured more than arnquarter of a mile from home. I decidedrnto do something about this. I obtainedrnpermission to take my class to the boroughrnGeneral Post Office.rn46/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn