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January 14, 2004

Absent Minds

The deck feels stacked against me as a teacher.

I'm prepared. I'm competent. I'm motivated. But it seems that I'm fighting against things I can't control to convey even the most basic education to a large percentage of kids. Indulge me as I bitch and moan:

1. Tardies/Absences: The amount is unbelievable. Case in point: today, my first period class started with five kids. I have sixteen on my roll. Over the course of the first hour, seven kids showed up tardy, each needing a quick explanation of what we're doing and interrupting by work with other students. Four were still absent by the end of the period.

2. New Students: The new semester started last week. I was shocked by the amount of new kids who appeared on my rolls: at least fifteen, with two or three in each class. Some had moved or transferred from another class, but most are repeating because of failure. After 18 weeks of class, how do I catch them up?

3. On Campus Suspension: I have a few kids who seem to live in our discipline class, OCS. I'm expected, every day, to supply them as well as others in OCS with work. They're expected to get an education by proxy, I guess.

4. Incorrigible Teens: No matter how many discipline problems I and other teachers have with students, they always seem to return to class. At what point do we declare a student unfit for the classroom so that others can learn?

5. Special Needs Students: Can I really be expected to work with a student who coats both arms with a magic marker and repeats "It's Mr. Crusty, it's Mr. Crusty" for ten minutes before withdrawing to a fetal position under his desk? I'm not kidding.

Keep all this in mind when you see the next round of standardized test scores. School is NOT what you remember. Kids are NOT like you were in school.

Posted by tat at January 14, 2004 10:10 AM

B, I can definately empathize. In the S-H-O-R-T time that I spent in the classroom as an instructor (I don't DARE call what I was doing "teaching"), I noticed a disinct difference in student intrest and behavior. The ironic thing is that I was "teaching" in a college prep high school. I was floored by the disregard that many of these students had for their futures. I've said it before, and I'll continue to shout it from on high, God Bless y'all! Teachers are truly angels in bullet-proof body armor.

Treasure the rare student gems that you have. Because, some days, that's ALL that you have!

- In Haliburton we Trust. Amen.


Posted by: Busta at January 14, 2004 04:51 PM

You said it Busta!

That sucks, Bryan. Are you still glad you went back into teaching? Is there light at the end of the tunnel knowing that you are probably helping at least a few of them?

My had is off to you guys. I don't know how you do it. Christ, you need summers off just to regain your sanity!

Posted by: Deb Taranik at January 14, 2004 09:37 PM

Bryan is right. Being a former public school teacher, I can completely empathize with him. I was very surprised to hear he returned to the classroom after he wrote me this LIFE CHANGING email from his corporate job on July 8, 2002. And I quote: "Working for a huge corporation is nothing compared to teaching. But, considering the work they do for such little compensation, teachers are suckers. No wonder half are gone after their first five years and half of those left are incompetent." I thought he, like myself, made a career changing decision.
I agree with Dr. Taranik-my hat is off to teachers. But I'm going to do more than take my hat off--I'm bringing my children home and doing it my dang self! Based on Bryan's description and my own experience, I see no other choice. Of course, that does NOTHING to help the families of all the children who have to contend with the distractions Bryan describes and will continue to experience. For that continual suffering, I can only say "thanks". (ugh-that sounds pitiful :( )

Posted by: Cassaundra Smith at January 15, 2004 12:16 PM

Did you ever think, when you were young, you would say things like: "it's not like when we were in school" or "If I have to come in there I'm going to whip everybody" etc. And yet here we are, saying it. Adult musings.

I could point to a lot of factors, but I think the single most important cause of what BD is describing is a general lack of respect for authority. It's good to question authority, but the rights without responsibility attitude that permiates our society has resulted in what is so capably being described.

If I say much more, I'll be accused of trying to impose my views so I'll just sit back and watch the decline with the rest of you.

Teachers are underpaid.
Thanks for your effort.

Posted by: Trickhorn at January 15, 2004 05:21 PM

I teach in an alternative school. To quote a great American, "I feel your pain".

My Take.

Kids have not changed since I was in high school (1986). I was drinking, having sex, and rebelling as much as I could get by with.

What has changed is HOW WE DEAL WITH KIDS

There are several reasons for this. (in my opinion)

1. Lack of Vocational Choices: Not everyone is cut out for college, so why do we teach like everyone is college-bound. Some kids have no desire to attend college, but they are limited in choices. When I was in school, we offered shop, auto mechanics, cosmotology, small engine repair, welding, etc..... My district no longer has such programs. As a result, kids get board and we know what board, unispired kids are capable of.....

2. Touchy-Feely Administrators: Back in my day the principal was a 20-year plus vet of the profession and usually an ex-football coach. He understood his job, was sympathetic to his staff, and did not tolerate troublemakers. If a kid caused trouble, then he was dealt with accordingly.

3. Liberal Judges: Too many lawyers and judges got involved in education. Do some research and see how often the judges sided with the students / parents over the schools. It began with dress codes. It used to be pretty standard. Short hair for boys, shirts tucked in, no earings. Girls couldn't wear skirts that were too short or shirts that were cut too low. Now, kids are encouraged to express their "individuality".

4. Parents: Parents cannot control their kids. Therefore they don't want anyone else to control them either. Truth is that we have some fucked up parents who have made our jobs harder. These parents are more interested in being buddies with their kids instead of being parents. We actually have parents who allow kids to drink , smoke dope and have sex at the house. Don't get me wrong, I did these things as a teen also, but my parents sure as hell didn't know about it or encourage it and Heaven help me if they ever found out. Like I said, KIDS HAVE NOT CHANGED. The way WE DEAL WITH THEM HAS CHANGED.

5. Educational Trends: Seems like there is some sort conspiracy out there to shove down every new educational "method" down out throats. We are told to "teach to the students learning style" but ignore that fact that some kids are not going to appreciate what you teach or how you teach anyway. Those who don't want to be in school in the first place don't give a shit how you teach. They would rather go out and learn auto mechanics from uncle Joe down the street.

Want to Fix Education?

-Get rid of the touchy / feely shit.

-Hold parents accountable for their kids.

-Bring dress codes and discipline back into the classroom.

-Pay teachers a decent salary. (If not, then at least provide quality state employee health insurance)

-Provide more options for kids who are not college bound. Teach work skills.

That's just my opinion (for now)

Posted by: dhays at January 15, 2004 10:02 PM

I've stated this under a d different thread also, but I believe that the schools have become part of one of the biggest conspiracies ever.

What, You might ask? To train good little employees. Schools and colleges are not much more that over-glorified employee training for huge corporations. "Get good grades so you can get a degree and get a good job."

Well what's a good job? Truth is, there are none. Any time you are building someone else's dream instead of your own, you're not going to truly be happy. There is not "job" big enough for the human spirit. Just Over Broke. That's what JOB stands for.

Now I know that this doesn't apply to every teacher. I know that both Bryan and Denise probably do WAY more than most teachers to foster their students imagination, but the system in general only prepares you to work for somebody else. Even business management school only teaches you how to RUN a business not how to START one. In 1900 only 10% of Americans had jobs, the rest were self-employed. Now 90% of Americans have jobs.

Now, you're lucky if your cost of living increases keep up with inflation. Did you know that most people's retirement will only provide 1/3 to 1/2 of their pre-retiement income. If you're not making it now, what makes you think that you'll make it then. Your car is always going to need repairs or need to be replaced. Your house is always going to need repairs and maintenence. And you've always got to pay property taxes. The house that you live in is NOT an asset. Never will be. It's always, always going to take money from your account. An asset is something that puts money in your account. The house you live in is a liablilty.

But, we've somehow all been brainwashed that the best thing to do is get a "good" job, with a 401k, and everything will be okay. The average yearly income of persons over the age of 65 is $12,000. How many of us could live on $12,000 a year?

Schools need to teach financial intelligence, and I'm not just talking about diversifying your 401k. Schools need to foster imagination and individuality. There are more ways to express your individualty than to be a 16 year old with cleavage and a short skirt. You and have order and discipline without making every child dress the same. It's bad enough to try to make them think the same. Things like math and language and most science (sans evolution) can be taught without pholosophical overtones, without opinions. You need to know it because you need to know it, not because you won't get a "good" job if you don't know it. Those sorts of things shouldn't even factor into it. There's got to be a way to get most students interested in learning that doesn't involve threatening them with lives of "bad" jobs and poverty.

Kids need to spend more time learning about things like the American flag, and the original ideas that made this country great. Alot of ideas that we're slowly allowing ourselves to forget, or certain adminstrations are straight-forward taking away from us. The free enterprise system of this country, coupled with certain rights and freedoms is what makes this country great. It's why a lot of inventions and innovations are made here and no where else. People have the freedom and time and possibility of compensation that drives them to create things. Any painting, sculpture, sketch, poem, story, song, etc is going to be better if the person making it WANTS to make, not just 'cuz it's an assignment. That idea carries over to everything, be it designing baggage systems or assembling a car, or making a hamburger or inventing matter to energy transport.

Another trend, in this country, that is contributing to these sorts of problems, is this tendency to treat symptoms and not causes. We take drugs to treat the symptoms of pain, but do nothing to find the cause of the pain and correct it. That goes for things like headaches to things like cancer. It also goes for psychological disorders too. People would rather be drugged or drug their children, than actually try to find causes to the problems and correct that. I heard a statistic that 70% of children have a learning disorder. That doesn't even make sense, what's considered "normal" is supposed to be what most people are. If 70% have certain problems, then the problem becomes normal. Plus we now have this proliferation of kids with A.D.D. and people like teachers and counselors diagnosing these things. What bogusness it this. I would have thought that you would need a psychologist to pronounce a psychological disorder. But apparently if some kid has a little too much energy or thinks that math class is boring, they have A.D.D. and they need to be drugged. Something like 20 million drugged children???? There has got to be something wrong with this picture.

If some kid has coated his arms with marker and such, somebody need to find out WHY this child has done this and address the CAUSE, not just drug the child to produce a comatose student, that's drug dependant for the rest of their lives. If I took cocaine everyday, I'd be pretty happy all the time to... OH!!! But these other drugs are legal!!! OH! That makes it better! Still drug dependant! And now people are starting to take those sorts of drugs for recreation. People are getting mugged and such for their perscriptions!

I have no ending for this, so I take a small bow.

Posted by: ToddDrevers at January 16, 2004 03:06 PM

GREAT post, Todd!!

Posted by: Deb Taranik at January 16, 2004 05:31 PM

OUTSTANDING!! Very good observations and very well written. Thank You!

Posted by: Cassaundra Smith at January 17, 2004 04:46 AM