BRONX, N.Y. — Last year, they were rookie teachers at the Pelham Lab High School in the Bronx. By the end of the school year, they’d had enough.
Totally disillusioned, they both quit. They contacted PIX11 News to tell their story, provided we conceal their identities. They both spoke about having dreamed of being a teacher, getting degrees in Education and the excitement they felt before starting their jobs last fall.
What happened to their dreams? Reality got in the way. One of the teachers, who we’ll call Ray, says “I was struck with an object the first day of school. I’ve been hit in the face. I’ve had objects thrown at me. I’ve been generally verbally and physically abused from day one.”
The second teacher, we’ll call her Susan, had a similar experience. “There were kids in my class that were so misbehaved and crazy, running around, screaming at me, cursing at me. The first day that I kicked them out of my class, I was told that I was not allowed to do that. They got brought back to my class and their behavior didn’t change. Ray and Susan both complain of getting no support from the school Principal, Jason Wagner. “He doesn’t care about teachers. He doesn’t care as long as he looks good and the school looks good and there’s nothing on paper or there’s no points against him,” says Susan.
Ray says none of the other administrators do anything to deal with the misbehavior because they are afraid of Principal Wagner. “He uses bullying , intimidation and harassment techniques against everyone.” They both complain “ there’s no disciplinary action against the students whatsoever. All the burden is placed on the teachers.” Susan says the teachers have no power. “You know, 20 plus staples in a cup of coffee, zero punishment. Zero punishment for the door being knocked down. I’ve been pushed by kids, cursed out on a weekly basis. Nothing I can do about it.”
Pelham Lab High School at 3000 East Tremont Ave., is one of six schools that share the Lehman Educational Complex. Pelham has 211 students, 95 percent minority. A spokesman for the Department of Education says “Nothing is more important than the safety of all students and staff. These claims are not an accurate depiction of the disciplinary practices taking place at the school. Principal Wagner has protocols in place to report and address incidents.”
But both teachers we spoke with say the behavior problems at the school are so severe that it makes it extremely difficult to do any actual teaching. While these two teachers have given up their dreams of being educators, they say it’s the students that are the real losers.