January 25, 2009

Doing it our way

I blame two columns in today’s NY Times for this post.

On the front page of the Sports section, there’s a picture of a formidable basketball coach doing her thing. Pat Summit's taking care of business. She's giving her all and demanding the same from everyone else. A younger coach she once mentored says:
"As a player, I couldn’t see why Pat would get so upset about a lack of effort, why she would say it was disrespecting the game. Now when I see a lack of effort, something about it just grates my nerves."
Pat’s obviously made a dent on the students she's coached. She's done it her way, and she's applauded for it in living color across six columns on two pages.

She's also one of those teachers Bill Gates is talking about when he says: “’It is amazing how big a difference a great teacher makes versus an ineffective one.” That's in the Op-Ed pages, where Nicholas Kristof reminds us that the efforts of this education-dabbler did not really work out. Student achievement has not improved in any significant way, admits Gates years after he started sinking millions into his small-school hobby, and that “In most cases ... we fell short.”

Yes, you effing well did. At our expense and at the expense of hordes of inner city kids. Blow-hard.

I agree with Pat. Teach your guts out. AGAINST ALL ODDS.

I am tired of kids whining when I ask them to take out a pen or a pencil to do some work, or when they suck their tongues in annoyance and roll up their eyes.

I am tired of parents being annoyed when I take the trouble to call them and tell them about their teenager’s unwillingness to work, or that there seems to be a certain proclivity for socializing, or that the standard they've set for themselves is abysmally low.

I am tired of putting crap all over my walls to fit some superintendent’s misguided notion of what a learning environment should contain or look like. (I wrote about that over a year ago in a post called Clutter).

I’m tired of school rules pasted on every square inch of bare wall with kids walking by them
in flamboyant disregard, even under the principal’s nose. At my school, the school uniform seems to be just that: hat, doo rag, earphone wires, pants hanging down below the buttocks, and if you’re really hip, iPod and/or cellphone attached to belt.

I’m tired of the “Blame it down” apparatus they’ve set up. When kids hang out in the classrooms way after the late bell, it's your fault. You didn’t usher them in — as if now you have to supervise the halls as well as your classroom all at the same time. When ambulant students wander into rooms they don’t belong in, it's also your fault. Your door should be closed at all times (no excuse you don’t have a window), and locked. Who cares if latecomers keep you busy as gatekeeper for ten minutes and instruction goes seriously off course. Or when a student is seriously disruptive on numerous occasions, no parent can be reached and you already brought it up with guidance: Your fault, you must be doing something wrong. Your fault, your fault, your fault.

I’m tired of defending every email or letter to the file filled with disinformation, distortion, and downright lies. Those comments get immortalized in cyberspace — not on your computer (they’ve only given you a thimbleful of memory) but on theirs — and in print, for three years minimum in the folder the principal keeps on you at school. No doubt there are backup files on all of this stuff at the region and central.

I’m tired of trying to second guess how some morally challenged administrator will turn the chancellor’s verbal abuse regulation (A-421) on its head to score points. It has some very ambiguous wording indeed:
Language that tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress;
Language that tends to belittle or subject students to ridicule.
not to mention this clause I forgot about altogether:
Nothing in this regulation, however, prevents a supervisor from counseling or disciplining an employee for inappropriate speech or conduct that is not otherwise in violation of this regulation.

That's why I’ve been thinking about putting a sign on my forehead to announce what I'm all about and just be done with it.

Because I'm very tired of administrators at every level not understanding the differences in teaching styles and trying to codify everything from visuals and speech to behavior, professional skills and judgment.

And I am very, very tired of education dabblers, including software philanthropists like Gates, anti-trust prosecutors like you-know-who, and big businessmen, not understanding what kind of commitment it takes to teach in a New York City classroom.

Or maybe they do, and think that if they keep the pressure on, teachers will jump ship way before they’ll ever get a chance at a reasonable salary and a decent pension.

Now, that's something philanthropists and financial people do know something about, and they're going to do their best, by gosh, to make it happen.


  1. Wonderful post. Hits every misguided educational nail of a gimmick on the head. "The respect for education"...Bloomberg, Gates, Klein and what Weingarten has let them do have simply destroyed it. Again, great post.

  2. Great list! I'm so glad that I'm not alone in dealing with these stupid things! Now if we could just get them to change...