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What would you tell this teacher?

How do teachers teach if they can't keep their classes under control?

We'd like to hear your ideas.

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Teachers in both urban and suburban schools across America complain about unruly students gaining the upper hand in classrooms. Some go so far as to say that students essentially govern many schools - in large part because teachers won't take a tough stand on discipline, or feel they can't because of lack of support from administrators or parents.

In the wake of the shootings in Littleton, Colo., the daily interactions of adults and students are under scrutiny. The concern goes beyond metal detectors or bans on trench coats. What's preoccupying many is the loss of civility, be that polite greetings or refraining from sarcasm or threats.

We received the following note last week from a Massachusetts teacher looking for advice:

"I teach in an urban school system where students enter our high school from six feeder schools. The level of ability varies greatly, with most students performing below grade level in reading, writing, and general knowledge. I am a fairly new teacher, two years ... and find disheartening the amount of time spent on behavior management on a daily basis.... I am considering leaving the profession unless I can figure out some way to make an impact."

This teacher gave us permission to print his query. We hope you'll share specific advice, along with perceptions about the nature and extent of the problem. We'll print a selection of responses.

* Please send your ideas to Amelia Newcomb at or One Norway St., Boston, Mass. 02115.

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