It’s uncommon, though certainly not unheard of, for people to have serious breakdowns in the workplace. But when the person who loses it is a teacher, prompting students to flee his classroom in fear, the world tends to notice.
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Donald Brian Wood, a veteran high school teacher in Nashville with 21 years of classroom experience, had a rather epic meltdown during his Algebra II class on Friday. A student chronicled the disturbing eruption on a cell phone, and a video of the incident quickly became a viral sensation on YouTube.
The video begins with what seems to be humorous, harmless banter as Wood tries to get his class to quiet down. Wood even appears to be smiling at the outset. The mood abruptly changes when Wood visibly snaps. He begins overturning tables, smashing furniture and throwing desks. Students become so panicked that they run from the classroom. Wood eventually breaks a window with a desk.
Wood, a father of five, has been placed on administrative leave, and his family said he’s receiving psychiatric treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Wood’s sister, Leanne Smith, issued a statement about the incident on Monday.
“My older brother, Brian Wood, had what appeared to be a nervous breakdown in his classroom while serving in his role as a math teacher at McGavock High School,” Smith said, reading the prepared statement at a press conference. “No one was physically harmed or injured, including him, and for that we are deeply grateful.”Video: Video shows teacher swear, toss chair (on this page)
Smith said her brother regrets his actions in the classroom.
“He expressed his passion and love for teaching and concern for his students,” she said, adding: “The lack of respect for authority in our society’s classrooms across the nation is one of the many consequences of the way public school teachers are forced to deal with their classrooms today.”
McGavock High School’s principal, Robbin Wall, told reporters that it’s fortunate no one was injured on Friday.
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“I’m not a doctor, but what we saw was a little bit of a nervous breakdown,” Wall told The Tennessean newspaper. “I understand he’s doing better now. It’s sad, he’s a very good man. Always positive and has good things to say. I’ve never seen him be negative or even use profanity, so it was far out of his normal pattern.”
The Tennessean reported that Wood’s performance evaluations characterize him as a knowledgeable teacher who sometimes had problems in his dealings with students and parents. A DuPont-Tyler Middle School administrator wrote in 1998 that Wood had “no rapport with students or parents” and had issues “accusing and being accused of inappropriate physical threats/contact.”
In 1999, a McGavock High School administrator wrote this in Wood’s evaluation: “The problem with Mr. Wood is not his knowledge of the subject, but the way students perceive him. Students try to ‘get’ Mr. Wood in an effort to gain stature with their peers.”
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