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, November 07, 2008

Voting with my feet

I received back one of the very, very few referrals I write a year. This was in an after school activity in which a student I do not know was belligerent, rude, disrespectful, noncompliant, and insubordinate. Grossly insubordinate. Beyond a shadow of a doubt insubordinate. I handled this exchange by calmly repeating "You need to leave now. You might as well stop making it worse for yourself," repeatedly as said miscreant hollered and complained and vituperated all over my unmoved self. While the kids that were there to be helped gaped in disbelief and couldn't understand how I stayed so calm. Ah! A chance to teach! I explained that, when somebody says things to you you don't like, you consider the source. If that person's opinion doesn't matter to you, then who cares what they say?

But the kicker?

This kid received a talking to. That's it. IF there is another incident, he MAY lose his privilege to stay after school. "May."

So, you know, here's my philosophy: Life is short. I almost died a few years back, and I realize every day is a gift. Life is too short for me to be expected to put up with this kind of crap on my own darn time. During the school day, I may have to put up with this kind of disrespect and disregard from administrators, but not now. And yes, it is the administrator who demonstrated a total lack of respect for me as a colleague and a staff member. A kid's a kid, and kids need to be directed to correct behavior. Part of "loving our kids" and "being their advocates" is teaching them proper behavior. But the consequences for this incident were quite clearly spelled out, and they were not adhered to in the least.

So I quit the after school activity.

I quit for every other teacher who is trying to do this job. Some people depend on the extra money-- and they need better support than this. The kids trying to learn deserve better than this.

I did not quit in anger-- I'm not angry at anyone. But I am resolved-- it's time to say, "No more." And mean it. I was asked to reconsider. I did. Hmmm-- yep, still certain that I don't need this. So, adios.

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At 11/7/08, 5:50 PM, Blogger Cassy said...

Good for you. It's getting harder and harder, and worse when administration shows how inadequate and inconsiderate they can be. I quit the after school stuff as well - I did my time. I'll continue to give 100% during the schoolday, but I'm committed to not letting admin. take advantage of my goodwill after 3 pm.

At 11/7/08, 6:06 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

Stand firm. What is sad is that the kids who come for after school help are usually those who need it. BUT, there is online tutoring available, and other sources of help they can consult.

Administration knows not what they are losing. THAT is sad. They'll probably badger some newbie teacher into doing afterschool work.

I tend to not do too much after school stuff. The most I do is tell some students they have to come after school to make up work. In my many years of teaching, rarely has a kid come in after school seeking any real help.

At 11/7/08, 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What did you quit? Just the afterschool activity, right?

At 11/7/08, 8:07 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

Sadly, it takes quitting - and a lot of us to do it - to get any kind of recognition of the problem.

At 11/7/08, 10:22 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Yes-- just the afterschool activity. Still gainfully employed otherwise. No worries.

But damned if I'll do THAT again.

At 11/8/08, 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who asked you to reconsider? The clueless adminstrator who forced you to quit in the first place?

(If so, I can imagine how puzzled he/she was by your response- why would this teacher quit????*clueless look*)

Not that I'm bitter about less than competent administrators, or anything.

-Matt (entering my 6th year as teacher)

At 11/8/08, 4:37 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

A different administrator who runs the program, and a few of my colleagues.

At 11/9/08, 8:42 AM, Blogger Nic said...

Good for you. Maybe, if they have an ounce of common sense (a big IF, I know), they'll think twice about doing the same thing to the next teacher.

At 11/9/08, 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is a little different when you get that kind of disrespect during the regular work day. I had an administrator who, when we would write up a student, would send them back to class because, "the student said he didn't do it." That's taking the students word over the the teacher. Investigate, ask questions, sure, but just take the kid's word?

At 11/9/08, 3:22 PM, Anonymous dkzody said...

I want to add my resounding, GOOD FOR YOU, also.

Although I do not teach in our afterschool program, I have heard things I do not like. I am glad there are teachers out there who will stand up for themselves. As my kids would say, "you go, girl."

At 11/9/08, 5:16 PM, Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

We keep hearing about all these swell reform ideas that are supposed to transform public education--NCLB, merit pay, charter schools and vouchers to bring about more competition, more rigor, standards, testing, etc.. As long as the nonsense that you are referring to continues, public schools are never going to get much better. How hard can that be to figure out?

At 11/10/08, 7:39 AM, Anonymous Alex Bensky said...

Something similar happened to me when I was substituting in a suburban Detroit system part-time. I had been coming to the high school one or two days a week for two years and had never had to exclude a student from my classroom.

Toward the end of the second school year I did, and the vice-principal sent him back five minutes later. I stopped in to see her after school and politely offered that I had never had to do this before and perhaps she could consider that if I everhad to again.

Her reply: "I don't need you to tell me how to do my job, Mr. Bensky," and a week later the personnel office called me to say I would not be invited back to the system next year.

By that fall I had resumed full-time law practice so it made no practical difference, although I generally had enjoyed the kids. But Dennis is right; not a lot is going to be improved until teachers and students can be assured of an orderly classroom.

At 11/10/08, 5:11 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Ooooh, that was nice.

Scared Coworker keeps asking if I am afraid that somehow I will suffer retribution. See, the point is that the behavior guide was completely and outrageously ignored, so if anyone wants to go there with me, there's this thing called a "grievance." But I do not think that anyone is going to need to do that.

At 11/11/08, 4:12 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

I couldn't agree more with your decision. Hopefully, the administrator will learn something even if the kid didn't. But I'm not overly optimistic on that front. I expect no support during the day, but none for optional activities just lets you know exactly why they're optional.

A lot of administrators took their jobs to escape the classroom, where they were just as grotesquely incompetent as they are now.

At 11/11/08, 10:42 PM, Anonymous nathan said...

Voting with your feet... what a great way to put it. I had to do something similar only because of my administration's unwillingness to do anything about a colleague's tantrums due to his seniority. Isn't it alarming how some teachers can embody the worst attributes of our students?

At any rate, good for you. Someone needs to look after your best interests.

At 11/14/08, 10:38 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

You know, it's been a week now, and there's a spring in my step when the ol' final bell rings each day.

I am free! Like a bird! --One who doesn't have to tolerate knuckleheaded administrative decisions for the next 17 hours! Hooray!

And those guilt trips aimed at my head by several people who shall remain nameless? I refuse to buy a ticket.


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