Friday, June 13, 2014

It's Those Stupid Teachers...

You go to a doctor. He says, "Stop smoking. It will kill you." You continue to smoke. You develop cancer. You return to the doctor and say, "How dare you! You failed me!"

You go to a mechanic. He says, "You need to change your oil." You decide that it's too much trouble to do that. Your car dies. You return to the mechanic and yell, "You messed up my car!"

I haven't lost my mind. I know these scenarios don't make sense, but it is EXACTLY the argument being made against teachers in our schools daily on any number of websites.

Earlier this month, a reporter took a picture of a prom program from Paul E. Robeson High School in Chicago which read, "This is ARE story." The jokes and condemnation began, and who was on the receiving end of most of that criticism? Those stupid, lazy, ill-educated, overpaid, irresponsible, incompetent, ridiculous TEACHERS, and their evil UNION too! Of course it's the TEACHERS! Who else could possibly be responsible for Chicago's problems?

I'm not defending that program. The error is ridiculous and egregious. It shouldn't have happened. But. Exactly how are teachers responsible for the condition of urban Chicago? I posed that question in response to an article today and was treated to an inarticulate and insulting response that I'm not allowed to respond to. The poster (who had a cat as his profile picture) took my well-reasoned argument and basically decided that all those failing students should join the army, since I personally had failed them all. Since the army doesn't take drop outs with discipline problems and I teach in Mississippi, not Chicago, I suppose it's better that I don't respond because you can't really fix that sort of reasoning, but that whole altercation has served to stir me up.

I take personal responsibility for my students. Ask any of the students I have taught or their parents. I work VERY hard to help them succeed, and I take every success and failure seriously and personally. There are a LOT of teachers like me out there. We work hard. We love the kids we teach. We believe in what we do. We KNOW we could make more money doing something else - and NO PEOPLE, WE DON'T WORK FROM 8-3 WITH THREE MONTHS OFF IN THE SUMMER.

I also acknowledge that there are BAD teachers. Lazy ones. They aren't the point of this rant, and if there is one in your child's school, there is a sure fire way to get rid of them: become involved. A lazy teacher will resign from a school where there is a strong culture because they can't stay there and be lazy. Easy? Easy.

The point of my rant is as follows: We, the teachers, have been screaming at the tops of our collective lungs that the system is flawed. We have been giving suggestions about improving it. We have begged for education to be FULLY FUNDED in Mississippi. We have pleaded our case concerning the inordinate amount of time spent on those lovely state-mandated tests. We have opined against the constantly changing state of said tests, and the fact that with each new administration, we are pushed to make sure "No Child (IS) Left Behind," as we "Race to the Top" and dig for the "Common Core." We have asked why the geniuses behind every one of these sure fixes have never bothered to teach a class or inhabit a classroom. We have wondered why politicians are making these calls based on their cronies opinions rather than asking the people who are working with the STUDENTS every day. We have warned that our kids need a more definite moral compass, and that the disappearing fabric of family life along with rampant poverty and lack of opportunity in certain communities is strangling our children. And how has the American public responded? You haven't.

Instead, you've argued over charter schools, voucher systems, and the "flavor of the month" quick fix. You've had personal and self-righteous conversations about why you chose public school, private school, or home school, always claiming that the option YOU chose is the best. And for your family, maybe it is! I have taught in public and private school. I have seen excellent home-schooling programs. It's all good, and it should all be working toward the goal of educating America's kids. It shouldn't be the smokescreen that allows the set up of a state-sanctioned class system. But guess what? That's what the constant bickering about voucher/charter/public/private/homeschooling is doing.

There's a simple bottom line: Failing families and parents produce failing kids that go to school. This produces failing schools, which in turn produces failing students, thereby perpetuating the failing community. What I'm describing is a cultural problem, and one that is going to require a cultural paradigm shift. A teacher can't fix it in 45 minutes a day (the average time a classroom teacher sees your kid in a high school.)

So why all the argument? Simply put, the current education debate is rooted in a document entitled "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants." It compares America's schools to those in Europe and Asia and finds our schools sorely lacking. It sets out some things that we need to do to compete with those regions, some of which have already been enacted, with ever more being enforced each year.

The fallacy of that (horribly written) document is that it is comparing apples (America's education system) with oranges (Europe/Asia). The "model education systems" it touts sort students into ability groups by the 2nd and 3rd grade. That's great for test results, but it isn't great for kids. It means that you decide who is going to be a doctor or engineer or mechanic or waitress by the time a kid is 10, and if your kid is a late bloomer? Sorry, it's blue collar for her.

Are you catching on yet? We are modeling after countries - trying to compete with countries - that have a rather static class system in place. Are you scared yet? You should be. It is counter to everything that America is founded upon. So why the massive buy-in? A little leg work will help you figure that out (who stands to gain from that class system), and I don't want to veer too far off point. So, back to the title...

This is not a teacher problem. It isn't even a school problem. It is a societal/cultural problem. PEOPLE! It isn't the teacher's responsibility to educate your kids. It's YOURS! It IS the teacher/government's responsibility to make an education available. It is YOUR responsibility to make sure that your kid avails himself/herself of that opportunity. It is YOUR responsibility to get involved and help your kid by making sure the cell phone is not in use at 2:30 am the night before the big test. (If they have a phone and you don't take it at night, they are probably on it at all hours of the night.)

My rant will end this way. My students and their parents know how I feel about my work. They know what I do to help them succeed. I'm not trying to defend myself here, because I don't feel the need. I am TERRIFIED that such an important issue has been dumbed down to the fault of the "stupid teachers" instead of placing the blame where it belongs: with each and every citizen who sees the problem and does nothing but defend their own political agenda. If you want to complain about a teacher, ask yourself first, "What have I done to make this different?" If you haven't done as much as you've griped, change that and you will change the world.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

Coppermines said...

nice blog, full of information and excitement....Good luck and God bless