A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, June 08, 2007

Remember, we have to take everyone. That's the law.

Truthiness. I am going to use that word, because here is a lady who is full of truthiness.

As I listen to yet more garbage about unmotivated teachers being the reason for All Evil in America, there's this: Teachers don't leave kids behind.
Let me present you with a scenar io: Ms. Smith teaches a class of 27 students in a classroom designed for 20. Every desk is filled, and one can only pass through the aisles by turning sideways.

Most of the students want to learn or at least want to be successful, but there are five who have no interest in furthering their education. These students talk while the teacher is talking, throw things when her back is turned and sometimes when it isn't. They sing, dance, roam the classroom, try to trip one another, horseplay and generally make it difficult to conduct class in an orderly manner. In fact, these behaviors make it difficult for a teacher to conduct class at all.

Far from being the typical class-clowning of yesteryear, these behaviors are malicious and often willfully disrespectful. From the beginning of the year, Ms. Smith has been contacting their parents, assigning detention, referring them for in-school suspension, discussing their status with principals and counselors, yelling and basically doing everything she can to contain these students. Nothing works.

When these students fail the tests and are "left behind," whose fault is it? When a wayward student injures another with horseplay, who gets sued? There are no behavioral consequences that matter for many of today's students and there are some parents who do not have the ability or the desire to discipline their children; they simply cannot or will not parent.

They don't know why teachers would take time out of their increasingly busy schedules to call and slander their children. What's wrong with those teachers anyway?

As one of the swelling number of teachers leaving the profession, I can say that many of public education's detractors need to look in the mirror; your child may be the one contributing to his or her own status as "left behind."

Now, let me just say: NEVER yell. But other than that, yeah. A little cooperation here would be nice. And by the way, I want y'all to be aware of one thing: If kids are trying to bait you into losing it, be aware tht they have camera phones that shoot video, and they are just WAITING to post your out-of-context angry tirade all over YouTube.

And for your information: this year I had 17 parents tell me how they are their children's BEST FRIENDS! Hooray!



At 6/8/07, 5:56 AM, Blogger mrschili said...

How long before we start having cameras in the classroom, so that the students aren't the only ones with video evidence?

At 6/8/07, 9:57 AM, Blogger Jess said...

During my MBA studies, I noticed cameras in every classroom. I guess it's just a matter of time.

When I was a kid, I had friends with parents who did the "best friend" thing. When I was 13, I went to a slumber party at the house of one of these friends. When her mother made screwdrivers for the lot of us because "she'd rather her daughter learned about such things at home!" (um, yeah, but at 13?), it made me very uncomfortable.

So I told my mom about it. And my mom said the following: "There will be a time in your life when I hope to be your friend, but that time isn't now. Now, I need to be your parent, and being a parent comes with a lot more responsibility, and you're not going to like everything I say and do, but just know that I really am thinking of you and what's best for you." She promptly forbade me from going to any more slumber parties at that friend's house.

Today, my mom is also one of my very close friends, but that didn't happen until my mid- to late 20's. It was worth waiting for.

At 6/8/07, 7:28 PM, Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

Here's a letter to the editor of our local paper. It's in today's online edition, but I'm posting it here b/c you have to register. Kind of appalling.


As a former 17-year veteran of both of our school systems, I want to let everyone in on a little secret: Mentoring is not the answer to our teacher shortage, and it never will be (June 4 article, "Districts compete for best teachers").

Mentoring will not make a difference when a student can call you a stream of vile names, and you are the one who has to apologize. When parental demands to the principal make you the sacrificial lamb so the parents don't "go to the board." When students who do no work and have a "you can't make me" attitude fail, and you are asked to "be flexible" and change the grade to a passing one. When you spend 80 percent of your time dealing with disruptive students and only 20 percent actually doing what you have learned to do. When appreciation on any level is slow, infrequent or downright nonexistent. When requests for change fall on deaf ears and then the teacher is punished in subtle or not-so-subtle ways for "making waves." When the focus is on specific tests and not on learning your subject. When you have to lock your door during your planning period because a disgruntled student made threats against you, and the administration gave him a one-day suspension and then returned him to your class. When you then have to do a make-up lesson for that student when he returns from his one-day vacation at home.

Mentoring is a wonderful and very valuable tool, but any profession that loses 50 percent of its workforce within a five-year period or sooner has problems that can't be mentored away. You have to love teaching kids to enter the profession, but you don't have to stay in a job where conditions are deplorable and no one values you -- not the parents, the kids, or the administration.

At 6/9/07, 11:27 AM, Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Wow! This post (and comments) have said a mouthful. I've said it before and I'll say it again: when there are students who make it impossible (or even more difficult) for other kids to learn, teachers need the power to remove them from their classrooms. That might sound radical, but all I am requesting is that teachers be given the same authority in their classrooms that I had with my hockey teams for 33 years.

At 6/10/07, 11:52 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

I took video of one of my kids throwing a temper tantrum once; my digital camera has the video option, so it's nice and convenient. Never did end up showing it to his parents, but I still queue it up every now and again just to remind myself.

At 6/11/07, 7:12 PM, Blogger CrypticLife said...


Ha! You mean that seriously, don't you?

I find it odd. I would have thought teachers would be the first to oppose videotaped classrooms. A school in Kearny did in fact prohibit recording (after a student recorded a teacher proselytizing Christianity). I'm sure most parents would be thrilled to have even theoretical access to such logs.


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