Educator hopes to prevent violence in class


Southeast / Virginia 61 Views

Natalie Hagler, a third-year doctoral candidate in the UF College of Education, is developing a class about cultural awareness that could deter students from violence.

An expelled student fatally shot 17 former classmates and teachers in a Parkland school on Valentine's Day. Since then, discussions of violence and safety have dominated the country.

This isn’t the first time in American history students have been afraid to go to school. Violence was standard during racial integration, and Native American and Mexican students have often faced violent words and actions, said Natalie Hagler, a third-year doctoral candidate in the College of Education at the University of Florida.

“There are students who have been facing these fears their whole lives,” Hagler said in an interview Friday.

Often, changes in school safety protocols have been in reaction to shootings or other crises, she said.

In the College of Education, she’s developed a course, “Effective Teaching and Classroom Management,” to inform student-teachers how to be culturally aware in their classrooms and how to create caring classroom communities. This, she said, could prevent students from turning to violence.

“We are responsible for helping our children manage this really complicated world we live in by preparing them to examine the hierarchy that devalues marginalized students,” Hagler said.

“Effective Teaching and Classroom Management” discusses material that could prevent school shootings by bridging together cultural differences to holistically take care of students. This includes students of different races, ethnicities, sexes, genders and abilities.

“We cannot continue to silo our mission of cultural diversity,” Hagler said.

To do this, teachers must connect what they teach — in math, reading, any subject — to human behavior. While teaching is a universal practice, schools nationally and globally have different contexts.

That includes teachers themselves, and Hagler wants them to learn how to center themselves emotionally.

“Teachers are humans,” she said. “We have fear and bias and our own history.”

The process, she said, is to look at motivation in oneself and unpack beliefs and biases. Then, connect that with classrooms and student relationships.

“None of that is blame,” Hagler said. “It’s examine, reflect and move forward.”

“It’s supposed to be like therapy,” she added. “I needed it to.”

Seeing children and adults alike marching to seek change is inspiring, but teachers can also have a difference in how they approach their students, she said.

“What we can do everyday in our classroom, that’s what can change,” she said.