Telling People Off — A Fantasy in Multiple Acts

I suspect normal people fantasize about sex with celebrities or winning the lottery, I fantasize about gaining an audience with educational policy makers and the people who have made them their minions.  In my brain, I have the ability to confront the people who are messing with education without having a clear understanding of it.  I also get to call them all sorts of inappropriate names.

I don’t even know if I can cover every topic that ever comes to mind, but I’m going to start here.

  1. When you talk about schools, please leave out the words: rows and black board.  Very few of us place kids in rows.  In part because we do expect them to work collaboratively.  Also because many of us are forced to have more students than the room was designed to hold.  Any chance of getting around the room (especially if you’re a bit heavy in the hips) is limited by a row arrangement. Also, schools are not as backward as you think.  Many have white boards, smart boards, projectors, and Elmos.  Please update YOUR image of school.  It doesn’t match what we’re delivering.
  2. Please, when you get a free moment, fill us in on the skills you really think our students should have.  You keep going on about how schools were set up for blah, blah, blah.  However, I can’t exactly prepare my student with 21st century skills for 21st century jobs when, well, last I checked there was no new job creation.  Most jobs have been shipped overseas.  The jobs that are left appear to be service jobs — you know, car washing, waiter, McDonald’s, maid.  Or the medical field.  So please, give us a clue so we can help laser train your employees.  You know, rather than educating them and turning them into responsible citizens who can dissect an argument and vote accordingly.
  3. It would be nice, I’m just saying, if we didn’t have to aim at a moving target.  I’m pretty sure if I gave my current students a test I had to take when I was in 8th grade, they’d knock that mother out of the park.  We forget that we’ve upped the ante so many times that the test in 1978 does not match any test in 2012.  In fact, I think most of our students would actually master the test from 1978.  Shall we try it, just for shits and giggles?
  4. I don’t exactly know how you want me to use Khan Academy (which I think is wonderful) in my language arts class to flip instruction when he focuses primarily (right now) on math.  Furthermore, how can I flip my class when my class won’t do homework.  Are you honestly suggesting they’ll watch a video, work through his practice questions, and come to class prepared for me to laser focus on refining their understanding? I mean, since they don’t do homework now, nor do they go to Khan Academy as a helper when I suggest this would help with math.  Just saying…
  5. I don’t know if you get this or not, but I’m going to throw it out there.  You do realize, of course, that I actually can’t MAKE a kid do anything, right?  As a matter of fact, you can’t either.  It’s always a choice.  With that in mind, how do you propose I MAKE a kid behave?  Furthermore, what is up with “You can’t deny a child education based on his behavior!” crap floating around?  If the kid WILL NOT behave, and I CANNOT MAKE the child behave and the child is INTERFERING in the education of other students, how do you propose I teach?  When you read this, do you recognize the crazy, or are you still of the mindset that “good teachers” don’t have “classroom management issues”?
  6. I find the “Neil (kneel)/Stand Up” routine of “drop out prevention” strategies enough to make me want to cry and run from the absurdity.  I don’t get how it’s not abundantly and painfully obvious to EVERYONE that when you remove everything joyful from the school site, the kids might not want to come to school anymore.  They might find it boring.  They may choose to act out.  Yet, in the push to make them all the same, only the “good schools” get to have fun stuff.  The rest of us, apparently to punish us for being bad or stupid or unintelligent, must endure days filled with only math, language arts, and maybe, if we’re really good and on course, some science and social studies.  Heaven forbid we find a way to embed art, music, library, or media time that’s not drill and kill.
  7. I don’t know why you threaten to fire teachers.  First of all, most of us tithe to our jobs.  Really.  Check their taxes, their receipts, the stuff in their classes.  I’m betting in elementary at least 80% of teachers spend 10% of their incomes on their classes.  Second, this job, while you think it pays way too much for our skills (which are simply babysitting, let’s be honest.  That’s what you think.)  doesn’t pay enough for the personal stress we undertake, the scapegoating, and the pressure we pass onto our students.  Truthfully, at a starting salary of $40K with a master’s degree, you can’t give this job away to anyone who doesn’t really want to do it. Stop making it uglier through events like public humiliation and putting us in stocks.
  8. I still think people can’t figure out why we want better pay (although in CA where a 10-year teacher is making $65K a year and the average rent is something like $1700, you’d think you’d have a clue) because most teachers (in their minds) are women. Plus aren’t they just working for extras like vacations, carpet, and sending the kids to private schools?  No, we’re often heads of household, single, and trying to get our 15-year-old car to last another year.  Go to your average teacher’s house, we don’t live fancy.  In fact, given that we are “professionals”, it’s pretty embarrassing how non-fancy our lives and homes really are.  Save for those of us in “good marriages.”  Gee, I hope the male teachers have some engineer at home helping bring home the bacon.
  9. I think we’d be treated better if we weren’t women.  Police officers and prison guards aren’t vilified.  Apparently it’s just those of us trying to keep kids out of the penal system who are bad.

Sigh.  I think I’ve gotten my rant out of me for the night.  Still, there are so many things that need to be addressed in education.  I just never know where to start.  I do know that there is a real need for an authentic town hall meeting with educators so that people can really learn how it works and how they can make it better.  However, until this becomes about all of us, nothing will change.

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One thought on “Telling People Off — A Fantasy in Multiple Acts

  1. Morocco says:

    So well said! You know, sometimes I wonder if I chose the wrong field to work in! There is so much pressure, red tape, ignorance, and propaganda in our educational system that it’s enough to make you wanna holler! Unfortunately, many people refuse to acknowledge this.

    I want to enjoy my job and not walk around afraid that I am going to get pinkslipped every five minutes (as all the secondary ed teachers in our district received). The NY Times ran an excellent article called “Confessions of a Bad Teacher” that you should check out if you have time.

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