Even regular teacher Corey Washington feels like a baby sitter in the Murphey Middle School class that tormented a substitute teacher last week.
But at 6 feet, 5 inches tall and 230 pounds, Mr. Washington is in a better position to bring order to the sixth-grade class than a shorter, disabled man with severe physical handicaps. Mr. Washington said he was shocked at what happened last week when he was absent with a cold and the school system called in Frederick Jones, 46, who lives in a personal care home.
"We had them write apology letters," Mr. Washington said this week. "Some of the hardened ones wouldn't, but the good-natured ones wrote letters."
On Tuesday, Mr. Washington tried to visit the substitute at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where Mr. Jones sought treatment after the experience. The teacher wanted to apologize personally for the bad experience with his class. But hospital officials told him Mr. Jones had been released, he said.
Last week, police say, a sixth-grade class of 22 pupils was out of control and Mr. Jones reacted by warning children he had a gun. The pupils complained to school police, but District Attorney Danny Craig declined to file charges, saying Mr. Jones was simply trying to bring order to chaos and didn't have a gun.
Mr. Washington said many of the children come from the Southside projects, a poor environment where parental guidance is lacking.
"I can see how he would have problems with these kids. It's the home environment," he said. "I'm going to crack down on them somehow."
Mr. Washington said it is impossible to control the class for long stretches, but he has found a way to teach for short spurts: He identifies the ringleader, makes an example of him or her, "and the others will fall in line," he said.
Mr. Washington began teaching two years ago, but this is his first year without a mentor. After this school year, he will have to reapply for his job or find a new one.
After six years on the needs-improvement list, Murphey Middle is becoming a charter school, which requires a new principal and a change in staff.
But the teacher says he will try to move to the high school level.
"It's getting to where they expect the middle school teachers to be an extended baby sitter," Mr. Washington said. "I didn't really go to school for this."
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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