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

Saturday, March 07, 2009


According to federal law, students have definite privacy rights. However, teachers who work with students are allowed to know information regarding student discipline and behavior. Somehow this second part gets lost a lot among many administrators. I believe that this tendency is extremely counterproductive if not potentially dangerous not just for the teacher involved but for other students.

Case in point: A class was discussing youth law issues, and the school behavior guidelines and district policies regarding the possession of weapons was exhaustively discussed. In the midst of several hypothetical scenarios, a student wanted to know what would happen if, upon coming to school, he realized that he had his weaponry and ammunition from a weekend hunting expedition still within his vehicle upon arriving at school. He (and twenty-two other students in the class) was told that he should approach the school resource officer and immediately let that officer know that weapons had inadvertently been brought to school, and the officer would then secure the weapons so that the student would not potentially face severe consequences for his oversight.

One week later, this same student was caught with weapons upon school property. Oh, and drugs, but that is neither here nor there. His teachers were informed that the young man was suspended but not why.

One week after that, the teacher involved in the discussion was informed about why exactly the young man was suspended. This teacher then informed the assistant principal about the conversation. Here is the assistant principal's response:

"Why didn't you tell me about this earlier?????"

Let's see, because the teacher had no idea why this kid was suspended. Because the AP failed to follow the law. Because the AP treated her staff as if they are not professionals who should be kept informed because she didn't trust them as professionals. Because if teachers reported every single conversation held in class, nothing else would ever get done. Because there is obviously an adversarial situation being created by the AP in regard to her staff, rather than a cooperative one.

Credit the teacher with gently pointing this out.

By the way, this same teacher was berated by another AP for not disclosing that a kid who lives in the teacher's neighborhood who was suspended was thrown a party by her mother in celebration of said suspension.

Until school administration works with the teachers rather than against the teachers, the school will never function well. Administrators need to value teachers as colleagues and acknowledge that teachers spend far more time during the day with the students and have all kinds of knowledge that could be a resource for the administrators in the effective discharge of their duties.

It just requires reciprocity and respect.

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At 3/9/09, 2:16 PM, Blogger EHT said...

I couldn't agree with your post more.
Many times I have had a student sitting in my room with a juvy ankle bracelet on, and I'm totally clueless as to why. Is the kid prone to physical violence? Will the kid go off on me if I happen to lay my hand on his/her shoulder?

Many times I find out after the fact certain key information that would help me to serve the student better.

In fact, come to think of it...most of the time I know more about the parents than I do the student.

At 3/9/09, 7:03 PM, Blogger Lightly Seasoned said...

Well, thank goodness my building is a rumor mill on meth... that's how I get my info.

The new boy who landed in my class a couple of weeks ago? Yes, helpful to know diagnoses and that he'd not been in school for a bit.

Even more helpful to know that he'd threatened and threw a desk at a teacher at the last place. See, then I would not have seated him right in front of me (within easy aim).

What can ya do.


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