Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Creating Monsters


I wrote this near the end of last school year. It went up on my Tumblr blog, which I'm not going to link to because it isn't about education. Yes, I was frustrated, not at the kids, but at a few of the parents. It is the parents who create the monsters.

Hello parents. How are your children doing in school? Does your child complain that their teacher picks on them? Does your precious flower always seem to get caught by the teacher doing things that other kids get away with - according to your precious flower? Are you convinced that the teacher has it out for your lovely snowflake, because you know - you are absolutely certain - that all of those other students are doing the same things and being ignored? Are you positive that you are the only parents who have to leave work and take time to shlep over to the school because your innocent babe is sitting in the principal’s office? Are you getting tired of the repetitive phone calls and demands to come to the school because it can’t be all and entirely your beloved jewel’s fault? Are you convinced that your tiny sweetness is (almost) never like this at home? Do you consistently let the teacher, the principal, and anyone else who will listen, know that you have no idea where this alleged misbehavior is coming from, and the school had better stop messing with your misunderstood genius?

Well guess what - being an elementary school teacher in an “urban” school district, I am qualified to tell you that you are full of shit. And you are creating a monster. Chances are that the teacher gave your snookums more chances than anyone should have to give an intelligent child to straighten out the idiot behavior. And your poopsie took advantage of the teacher’s not wanting to call you, in order to become a bigger, more disruptive, more self-serving idiot. Kids will do that, you know. They know what they can get away with. They also know if they will be punished and how severe the punishment will be. They are able to judge whether the upcoming (if it’s coming or if it’s just talk) punishment from mom (most likely) or dad (if there’s one around) is worth it compared to the fun they get to have cutting up in class and hampering everyone else’s education. Yes, your little chickadee has you, and the teacher, and the principal, and the entire system figured out. That few minutes of yelling, screaming, and scolding from you is worth it in exchange for a few days or weeks of goofing off, harassing students and teachers, throwing tantrums, and being a general nuisance. It’s small payment for some solid, long-lasting self-entertainment. Go ahead. Throw in a “whooppin’ ”. Who cares? Certainly not your puppy-dog-eyed sweetheart. Or sure, there will be crying and yelling along with some tears, but only for a few minutes. Once it’s over, it’s back to being an asshole. Because young Norbert or Norbertella knows that after one round ends, the next one begins. And that means it’s time for that next round of many more days or weeks of troublemaking fun.

And that’s for the young scholar whose parents pretend to care about education. If you really think that your miniature intellectual’s teacher has the time or the inclination to single out your kid, you are a dumbass. And you are creating a monster, who, because they will, thanks to you, develop no marketable skills, will want to live with you, in your house long into their 20s and 30s. They may even want to have you raise their children while they go out and party with money that they will demand from you. And you, idiot that you are, might not even then be able to figure out what went wrong.

Keep in mind that your child’s teacher wants your child to do well in school, if only for the simple, selfish reason that the more the students learn, and the better they do in school and on the dreaded standardized tests, the better the teacher looks. Then there are the teachers who want your wee beastie and the rest of the class to succeed because that’s why they went into teaching. Either way, success is better than failure, and it benefits everyone, especially your youthful, emotional cripple. And rather than battle teachers in order to protect your fragile, pampered babe from the emotional distress that comes with the continual concerted effort that one needs to build an education, it is in everyone’s best interest for you to side with the teacher. Release your child from their protective hothouse. Let your child grow up to be a productive member of society rather than a parasite on you and on all of us. Stop creating monsters and leeches. Stop increasing the dependent class. We’ve got enough of them. Allow your miniature Tasmanian devil the chance to grow as a human being. Let them develop the tools they need to win their own personal struggle. You owe them that.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself


            Back when I was a new, young, na├»ve teacher, I assumed that it was in the best interests of everyone involved; teachers, administrators, teachers’ colleges, publishing houses, and the government that students succeeded. Over the last 27 years, I’ve learned how wrong I was.
I don’t want to be wrong. I would rather think that everyone who says they are concerned with American education really was concerned with American education. But they’re not. They’re concerned with keeping their jobs, with making more money, and with establishing a reputation (which leads to more money and prestige). Whether they do it consciously or through rationalization, they’re invested in failure.
            It’s failure that brings in the big money from government and from charitable organizations. It’s failure that allows crusaders to crusade and bring out their NEW! and IMPROVED!! resources and curricula for school districts across the country to adopt (especially the “urban” districts with classrooms full of children being raised by single mothers, grandparents, foster parents, or nobody)*. It’s failure that allows each generation of “gurus” from Columbia Teacher College to ride to the rescue with this generation’s child-centered, research-based, data-driven method that the nation’s teachers must learn in order to insure this generation of students graduate with even lower skills and knowledge than the previous generation, which graduated with fewer skills and less knowledge than the previous generation, which, etc. Of course, that’s not how they phrase it. We’re supposed to ignore the reality of the past 80 or so years and concentrate on the soothing buzzwords; “child-centered”, “progressive”, “data-driven”, “researched-based”, “higher order thinking skills”, etc.
And even though each generation is less knowledgeable and less scholastically competent than the previous one, none of the Columbia College gurus, textbook publishers, or politicians are ever held accountable, nor do they pay any price for their failure. It’s the students who pay the biggest price, and it’s the teachers and administrators who are held accountable (sort of**).
It’s the teachers who are mandated to put the latest rehashed theories into practice by using the methods foisted on them by the teachers’ college. When these methods fail, as all of them have, the method must not be questioned. The method, after all, is flawless. It’s research based, for heaven’s sake! It can only be the teachers’ fault. They did something wrong. I was hounded and threatened once until I allowed a carpet to be put in my classroom because Lucy Calkins insists that the class be given mini-lessons on the carpet. How can they have a mini-lesson on the carpet when there is no carpet?
And then there are the new bureaucratic paper work requirements. We need data walls, written daily objectives for all to see, lesson plans with differentiation, depth of knowledge, 5 Ds (or something like that) and daily common core standards. All of this new and improved paperwork will, of course, lead to greater student achievement because . . . because . . . because we are told that it will.
I’ve been a teacher in a small “urban” school district for the past 27 years. In that time I, like every other teacher, have been subjected to everything that has come down the pike. Before things became completely regimented and tightly conformed, I was allowed to learn and teach a phonetic language arts program for a very limited number of years. My students actually learned to read and comprehend what they read. I was able to read Shakespeare with fourth and fifth graders. I will be writing about these experiences and about things that are happening today in “urban” education. Stay tuned. There is a lot to write about, and I will get to as much as I can as often as I can. Comments are welcome.

*Notice that I didn’t refer to “minority” children. Skin color and ethnicity have nothing to do with their academic struggles. They are struggling because of poor and selfish choices their parents made and continue to make. You bet I’ll have more to say about that.

** Yeah, accountability, another post