Thursday, October 20, 2005

A new level of scary

Today, ah today. A Thursday that began so inauspiciously with me swearing at my alarm clock, just like every day. I brushed my teeth, ate a cupcake, and went to school, just as usual. And yet, somehow, this normal day eventually became a terrible freakshow.

First block was fine. I observed a different teacher, who was pretty good. He did a stations lesson, so I just sat at one of the stations and watched pieces of video about ancient Egypt. The kids were well-behaved and seemed to be productive. I think the day first started going downhill in advisory, probably when a kid actually answered a cell phone call he was getting. When my teacher tried to talk to him, he laughed and was incredibly disrespectful. He couldn't even look her in the eye. He has been disruptful in every context I have ever seen him in. My teachers want him to move to another advisory. I think it's unfair; after all, they've never, ever told him what's wrong with how he is behaving or how he is supposed to behave.

Another problem in advisory was the kids who refused to silently read, and insisted upon sleeping. My teacher could do nothing about this, as there are no consequences to anything.

But really it was second block when I knew it was not going to be a blessed day. The period started out with a kid, who was late, standing at the door talking to his friend, who was outside the classroom. I went up to the kid and told him to sit down. He turned to me and said, "Excuse me, I'm talking to my friend. We have some business." I was just opening my mouth to express utter indignation and shock when my teacher called him in, and he complied.

Unfortunately, the entire class today was "student-centered." Please read "none of the kids had any idea what was going on." We were reading various documents about colonists continual insistence upon taking Native American land after the American Revolution. The problem is that most of the kids still do not really know what the American Revolution was or who was even fighting in it, because they were never actually told what it was, explicity. That would have been wrong...I guess they were supposed to "construct" the two sides of the conflict from various bits and pieces of information thrown their way.

If you don't believe me that 11th graders don't know anything about the American Revolution, here are some student guesses I received today as to who fought who: 1) The colonists were fighting the Indians. 2) The British were fighting the English. 3) The whites were fighting the British. 4) The whites were fighting the English. And we can't forget 5) The Indians were fighting the Native Americans.

As if this were not depressing enough, the kids' behavior in second period is getting out of control. They throw balls of paper. They swear at each other across the room. They hit one another. They rap. They yell. They do anything but the work. When the teacher talks, there are eight other conversations going on at the same volume level. My teacher refuses to do anything about this. Refuses. In fact, she thinks that "the class is going really well!" Whereas I would put it more like, "the class is an unmitigated disaster!" Today, another teacher who works with us suggested that we do something to stop them from throwing paper at each other, since it is completely ridiculous. When we see them do it, all we can do is tell them not to. They laugh it off. But she has tied our hands because she never set any limits or any consequences for acting like a total idiot. She said that their paper throwing didn't bother her. She doesn't want to be "authoritarian" with them. She doesn't want to say "oh no, you can't do that." Because somehow, that is wrong. The other teacher said, well, it's your call. But another thing is that oftentimes you're talking, and they're all talking over you. You respect them so much, and you should demand it back from them. She responded, "in my five years of experience, this type of thing gets better as time goes on and they come to know and respect me more." On the contrary. At the beginning of the year, their behavior ranged up and down the scale from "ok" down to "the worst behavior ever." Now it starts at "the worst behavior ever" and goes downhill from there.

Here's one example of what happens when there are no boundaries. Today this one kid kept playing with a yoyo. (No, 11th grade). I told him to put it away a couple times. Finally I said, if I see it again, I'm taking it. He put it in his pocket and I didn't see it for awhile. But juuuust as the period was coming to a close, he takes it out. I went over. I said, "ok, you made your choice, you need to give me the yoyo." He replied that it wasn't school time anymore, even though the period had not ended and, in fact, he was still in school. I asked for it again. He continued to play with it. I was not going to lose this one. I had stated a consequence earlier and, if I didn't go through with it, I would lose any credibility I had ever had (which was and is not much). So I caught the yoyo end as he was throwing it about. But the string was still tied around his finger. I asked him to take it off, several times. He refused. Other kids told him just to do it. He wouldn't. We sat there as the bell rang, me holding the yoyo, him with the string tied around his finger. "Are you going to stay for next block?" I asked. It seemed as though he would. He certainly was not moving. So I asked another kid for some scissors and cut the damn yoyo string, leaving him with a small piece tied around his finger. I took the yoyo back to the desk and put it away. I told him he could get it back at the end of the day. I was satisfied.

He was angry. He tried to tell my teacher on me. She had no idea what he was talking about and shuffled him out the door. I told her what happened and she just kind of laughed it off, even though he was obviously really mad. As the next period was starting, he actually came back into the room and tried to talk to her about it again. Later she saw him outside at lunch and, as befits her friendly/nonconfrontational style, tried to joke with him about it. From the limited amount she said, I gathered that he began saying very nasty things about me. I'm sure she didn't even reprimand him.

The kid was not mad because of the yoyo. He was mad because he is not used to not getting his way in school. Everyone just indulges everyone else. The fact that I broke the mold with him was jarring. I mean, really I had no real right to do what I did, because I'm supposed to follow the lead of my cooperating teacher. But seriously, sometimes I just can't take the outright disrespect and childishness that goes on in there. How is this kid ever going to exist in the real world? He wouldn't put away a yoyo when asked. No one is telling him how he is expected to act, so he acts like a big baby.

Ok, so at this point I took some Advil, and went on with the next block, which went much more peacefully. HOWEVER. After lunch I was working on a project in the same room as my other cooperating teacher's fourth block class. He has a slightly different style, but generally kind of lets things slide. Toward the end of the period, these two girls got in a slight tiff, which quickly, very quickly escalated to a screaming match, then to both of them getting up in each other's faces, and one girl trying to strike the other. The special ed teacher, who was in the room, had to physically get between them and kind of muscle the one girl outside. It was insane.

After that, the class was all a-titter. The teacher couldn't get them to stop talking, which had been a problem all period. Finally, he screams at the top of his lungs, "SHUT THE HELL UP!" They quiet down but still aren't really listening. The two girls get a talking-to by the Principal. When I saw the teacher later, he didn't really think it was a big deal. He should have. It was his lack of classroom management and his inattention to small infractions of discipline that directly led to those two girls fighting. He set up a classroom environment that would allow it. Yet he was totally unconcerned.

Finally, school was over. Tomorrow I am teaching a lesson and being observed by someone from my school. I had been working all day on getting everything set for it. We were wrapping things up when one of my cooperating teachers says, "you know what, let's hold off on that until next week. I know something we can do tomorrow: a book jacket!" So out comes this whole other lesson plan, seemingly from nowhere, although I think it might have been from hell. I was stunned. It had happened so quickly. And this kind of thing happens all the time. They wouldn't even allow me to make up my own lesson plan for the new topic. I had to stay while we cobbled together something crappy. I was so depressed at that point that I just had nothing to say. I still don't, really. What do you say after a day like that?


At October 20, 2005 8:45 PM, Blogger Mike Antonucci said...

I often hear: "If only people could spend a week in the classroom, then teachers would get more pay (respect, applause, et al.)" I think if people spent a week in the classroom, they might actually be horrified enough to do something about it. I don't think it's too much to ask for a high school junior to know who fought whom in the Revolutionary War, but the inability to sit quietly and listen is much, much worse.

You're performing an incredible public service with this blog. If you don't end up becoming a teacher (which would be a crying shame), please consider journalism.

At October 20, 2005 9:41 PM, Anonymous Sherman Dorn said...

I am so sorry that you (and the students) had such a day. What your non-cooperating teacher did at the end of the day was sabotage, pure and simple. I suspect they have no clue how unprofessional that was on multiple levels, to undermine your efforts at lesson-planning, to substitute a poor makework elementary-school project for whatever you had decided, and to be completely unaware of your response.

This is not the time for perspective on the other stuff going on in the school, though I'm tempted. Please just accept my sympathy and best wishes. I hope you have the luck and skill to pull off some decent teaching tomorrow, and I wish I could grant you the perspective that this will be just one day, when you are constrained in ways that most teachers (and most students in internships) are not.

Someday, you will have your own class, and bozos will not dumb down your lessons.

At October 21, 2005 3:49 AM, Blogger newoldschoolteacher said...

Sherman Dorn, thanks so much for the sympathy. Unfortunately, the other lesson plan was not mine either, so it was just a different stupid project. The difference was that I was expecting it and had prepared. It's not going to be any worse for the kids, it was just hard for me since I had to re-plan. I wish I had even a tiny bit of opportunity to plan my own lessons. Unfortunately, they wouldn't ever let me. So while I would be happy to teach my own lessons, I dread teaching theirs and shun getting the practice because I feel like a traitor to my own morality.

At October 21, 2005 11:52 AM, Anonymous Jim Stegall said...

What kind of adult would choose to work in such an environment? Certainly not anyone with a sense of dignity or self-respect--in short, not anyone I would want teaching my children.

If that day's experience is typical of your school's climate, you MUST find another school in which to teach. If you don't, you will wind up just like the derelicts you are working with now. Remember, failure is contagious--get out while you can!!!

At October 21, 2005 12:16 PM, Anonymous Goldstein Gone Wild said...

You cut the string to the yo-yo.

How apropos.

It was 5) the Indians who fought the Native Americans, right?

A tougher question you should pose: Are those the same Indians which have restaurants featuring a lovely lunch buffet and chai, or the Indians who - as part of their spiritual heritage - run Foxwoods and other casinos?

At October 21, 2005 12:32 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

Very glad to have found you! May I also add my sympathies to your, shall we say, dilemmas. For what it's worth I am now re-thinking a future move to secondary ed. I think my second graders will be just fine for the time being (though I can look at my kids now and tell you which ones will be playing with the yo-yo when (if) they get to high school. Go figure...

By the way...I would be proud to have you as a teacher for my've got a great head on your shoulders.

At October 21, 2005 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a new American. I've got my education mainly in a country from Europe. If I would behave like this in school my teachers would ask for my parents to come to school to talk to them about my behavior and hold them responsible for that since I was under 18 before the end of High School. I wouldn’t want such thing because of the consequences could take place at home and the shame would cover my family, and you know what, I was supposed to make them proud like every day because they had me, they fed me, they took care of me, they loved me, and I loved them unconditional. Have I made mistakes? Yes, many, but this is part of the learning process, you make mistakes, you hopefully learn something from them. Did my teachers made mistakes? Yes, many, still I never behaved like the students you talked about. I remember I had an attitude at some point but that was caused by situations when I was treated unfair or I believed I was treated unfair. I don’t recall anything like you described in your classes to happen ever in my classes when I was a student. There were students who misbehaved here and there but all the time the Principal was informed, the parents or the guardians were informed, there were consequences. Maybe I just was lucky to be placed in good classes in a country were there was no private school at the time, maybe…The disciplinary problems usually where when students started to fight with each other, or be in groups with all sort of bad reputations like stealing or raping or do bad stuff outside of the school. From school the students could be expelled for smoking, drinking, offending a teacher, fighting with another kid, etc. Offending teachers was not very often on the plate.

I was a teacher before and after I came to US. I have more than 10 years experience teaching there and almost 5 in US. Back to my native country I remember very few students to be disrespectful to me and almost all of them getting to say out loud they are really sorry for that. The ones who did not express any regrets were the ones with mental problems that we were supposed to keep in classes because there was no money for special education classes and everybody had to complete 10 grades of school. I did not even expect them to express regrets but I made efforts to make them realize what they do is not ok. The students who misbehaved used to come from families with issues. But all the time when I had a parent to talk to about behavior problems the problems were solved. If the parent had behavior issues himself, my job as an educator was to educate the parents as well, because we educators are supposed to prepare the students to survive in society and where the parents failed we were supposed to fill in. I had power as a teacher and I used it and I did make a difference. And where a student did not have a parent he/she got one temporary: Me.

In my American experience I had two students to give me an attitude. One who was able to yell at his mama in front of me and he was even more disrespectful to his mom than he was with me. He used way too many bad words and a tone which I couldn’t take as well. She said nothing to fix that immediately, maybe she did not get that was disrespectful. I was the one offended by his behavior again, and I told him I do not allow him to talk like this to his mama (who had him, fed him, took care of him, and loved him) ever again. Actually I yelled all of that. Both of them were shocked and remained quiet a few minutes. Later I’ve got feedback from other American educators about this incident. They said I shouldn’t have interfered in a family business; I could be sued, so I was wrong. This was a19- 20 years old African American male who was taller than me, had already jail experience in US and came to our school trying to get his high school diploma. He decided later that he cannot do it, he dropped the school but I still have a good by picture of him he signed for me and he wrote on the back of it: Keep up the good teaching! He never said anything that could offend me after that meeting again.

The other student was disrespectful based on his hatred. I felt for the first time discriminated and I cannot fight with this easily. From his behavior I could see his frustration, something like: who the hell I am, a bloody immigrant, to evaluate him, ask him questions and expect him to answer to them, and if he couldn’t answer it was not because he did not know the answer but because he is not supposed to give me any answer, or at least talk to me. I was the teacher, so what? No big deal. This was a white male with some Spanish ancestors I think he denies he has, who came to our school to get his high school diploma after being in rehab. He dropped the school because he decided for him it will be easier to get his GED. I am a white, almost good looking female from Europe, and I am wondering if he couldn’t stand that how he will handle the diversity in his life in a country of people from all over the world and of all colors. He might handle it if he will be in charge (in power) but I hope for that he must pass the “ damn GED “at least, not only to be proudly American almost white male.

These two events happened in my first year of teaching in US, where I was not supposed to be a teacher according to my students from my native country because, as they saw in American movies, I’ll get killed here. I’ve survived maybe because in the past 4 years I’ve been teaching in a high school for immigrants. I love my students and they are respectful and eager to learn and the families of those who have a family here push them to study hard believing this is the only way to live better in US, so they give me all the support I need when I need it. Your article made me wonder, if I would be teaching in mainstream schools all these years, would I still be happy to be a math teacher in US? How much of support I would get from American families who destroyed the American Teacher Reputation in the past generations to the point that I am considered a looser in US because I am a teacher, instead to be one of the most respected citizens in the community as I deserve to be, because I put all my energy and my heart at school to help my students find themselves and grow to be able to set up goals for their future and help them believe they can make their own dreams come true. And I am so proud of my students when they succeed, and I am not even family. And because I teach those good values maybe the streets will be a little bit nicer and safer tomorrow for all of us, old or young, good or bad, everybody. I think it is time for teachers to fight for the American Teacher Reputation. After that we can talk about progress in American Education, but without that NCLB is a battle lost up front. Sorry, this is how I feel, and I am supposed to believe in No Child Left Behind. It should be my goal for God Sake. It should produce results like immediately in some other people opinion. How long do you think it will take the American Teacher Reputation to be reinstated? Be good, become a teacher and fight for it. Obviously the teachers you worked with have no idea what is that. But hey, they were educated in the same system, they might believe what happens in their classrooms is ok. IT IS NOT OK! If you can see it, there is hope…

At October 21, 2005 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, yo-yo boy isn't alone, and probably won't outgrow the attitude. I'm a criminal court judge, handling misdemeanors (DUI, shoplifting, domestic violence assaults, etc,) where most of the defendants represent themselves. You'd think by now nothing would surprise me, but I never cease to be amazed at the disrespectful, childish behavior people exhibit in the courtroom.

This week I even had a guy (in front of his thirteen-year-old daughter) tell me that he hoped I would have a heart attack and die! I told him that I was going to hold him in contempt, but let him off the hook when he apologized. He was mad because I wouldn't let his wife out of jail (she was serving a suspended sentence on a 2nd offense DUI because she had failed to complete alcohol counselling after being afforded NUMEROUS opportunities to do so for over a year). After I told him I accepted the apology, but warned him to think about what would have happened to his kids if both parents were in jail, he still didn't seem to grasp that either he or his lovely spouse had done anything wrong. Their problems were all MY fault.

Hope teaching works out for you, the kids certainly need people like you. My dad and my sister both quit teaching (public schools) years ago because they weren't allowed to discipline students (my dad taught shop courses and quit when the principle told him he was wrong to touch a kid who brandished a chisel at him). My sister eventually went back, to Catholic school. Money stinks, but she's happy, now a principle. I know it's hard, but try not to lose hope.

At October 21, 2005 6:32 PM, Blogger cdwitmer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At October 21, 2005 6:38 PM, Blogger cdwitmer said...

I hope I can help you to maintain a positive perspective on this. You are observing the death of a culture. But there is also a rebirth going on at the same time. The rebirth is going on in an extremely limited number of public schools but it is primarily led by private schools (including those connected with churches) and also by homeschoolers of all stripes. You need to start networking with these people as they will encourage you to no end. Once you have established relations with such people and are unshakeable in your conviction that there is hope, both for you as an individual teacher and for society as a whole, all the negative stuff that you see will only make you stronger. It hardly needs to be said, but I'll say anyway that you should initially avoid seeking employement in a public school unless you can find one of the extremely rare ones where the sort of situation you describe does not apply. There are stories of great teachers who have gone into failing schools and turned them around, but I don't think any of them were at the beginning of their careers when they did that. One person I recommend you get in touch with if you have not done so yet is Linda Schrock Taylor. ( Even if you don't agree with everything she says, that one person alone can be a great source of wisdom for you, and she can put you in touch with an entire universe of educators who are not floundering, but rather soaring. They are bearing fruit and living out the sort of a career (in terms of personal fulfillment) that you were dreaming of when you decided to become an educator. As a general rule, I would say that you will find greater satisfaction outside the public school system than inside it. Other possibilities include working with pre-teen kids who are less rebellious, and working with adults in remedial education. There are people who support themselves through tutoring. I know educators who cooperate with groups of homeschooling parents so that the kids are partially homeschooled and partially tutored. And another thing you might consider is getting outside of the USA entirely. Almost anywhere you might consider going outside the USA, the social milieu in the schools is far healthier than what one finds in a typical American public school. There are other English-speaking countries where you could teach in pretty much that same fashion that you would in the USA. There are international schools all over the world, where expatriate American businessmen send their kids, and many locals send their kids to these schools too. And finally, there are no end of schools in other countries such as Japan (where I live) that teach English as a second language and where many Americans (and Canadians, Brits, Australians, etc.) work as English teachers. The rebelliousness of American teenagers in the public schools today, both globally and historically, represents an extreme case. This is not a normal situation; it is a pathological situation and I am glad to report that it is far from universal. So you don't have to be straitjacketed into a career in the insane asylum for teenagers. Wishing you all blessings on your journey. Thanks for sharing!

At October 21, 2005 8:51 PM, Anonymous Tim said...


I read your entry as I discovered it from another website associated with a racist organization.

I understand what you are going through when dealing with coworkers and other teachers in the school, however, you should know that your situation with discipline is unique in the sense that not so many schools are so lax when dealing with trouble students. The picture you paint is rather disturbing, but if you were to come to a school here in Idaho, things would be much different. I have worked in a number of schools in various parts of the state and have seen discipline problems, however, these problems are taken care of swiftly and appropriately. Granted yes, some teachers don't discipline to save their life, however, you, like so many other up and coming teachers, feel it necessary to take it upon yourself to reinvent education as we know it. I applaud your efforts and wish you luck in your future career as an educator in the PUBLIC school system.


P.S. CDWITMER is not a supporter of public education as he tends to feel as though his tax money is wasted on public schools. If CDWITMER had his way, the bible would be the basis of public education aka government schools, women would be inferior to men, and slavery would still be ok.

At October 22, 2005 4:25 AM, Blogger cdwitmer said...

If Tim is who I think he is, he is an education major. In any case I won't give his venom the dignity of a response beyond pointing out that what I really believe is that there should be completely free competition in education. I'm all for giving people freedom to choose rather than forcing on everyone a one-size-fits-all, top-down, over-bureaucratized, parents-butt-out-and-let-the-experts-handle-it approach to education. What is the average amount spent on educating kids today? About $9,000 per student per year? What are we getting for that money? The free market can do all that the public schools are doing and far more, for far less money. And in a truly free market, people would be free to teach from a biblical perspective, or a secular humanist perspective, or whatever. If there was genuinely a level playing field for competition in education, does anyone really think the travesty we see unfolding in the public schools would be able to continue? No. They would have to get their act together or go out of business. And parents would send their kids where they get the most bang for their buck, or the most bang at any price. My eldest daughter was the youngest person ever admitted to Japan's top music university, on a scholarship. She was homeschooled and had no trouble getting admitted, on the same terms as Japanese students, despite the fact neither parent is Japanese. (Her mother is Korean and I'm American.) Now Japanese government-controlled schools are much better than American public schools, but my daughter would never have been able to get in the way she did if she had attended a conventional school. And I have never heard of a public school in the USA (and I know some pretty good ones, like the the ones in the NYC suburb of Scarsdale, NY) that could have prepared my daughter the way she was prepared. But note, my daughter is mostly self-taught. And except for music instruments and lessons, I don't think we have spent anywhere near $9,000 on her entire education, much less the $9,000 per year that the USA spends on students. The free market is meeting my kids' needs just fine. It has the potential to meet the needs of every child just fine. But what Tim wants is more of what we have now: a virtual government monopoly in education (the monopoly is through heavy taxation, so that anyone who opts out of public schools in effect has to pay twice), in which a very particular set of dogmas and ideologies are promoted exclusively, and real education gets far lower priority than -- than what? Perhaps it is overstating things somewhat, but "a grand experiment in social engineering" comes to mind. [Sorry for hijacking your blog. I won't do it again.]

At October 22, 2005 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hesitated to leave this comment because I doubt there will be a thoughtful response to it by most of your readers who are prone to over-generalization and stereotyping urban public educators. Inspite of this, I'll leave my comment anyway.

You reflect the disappointment and outrage from your daily experience and - from what you describe - are very justified in feeling this way.

First, I feel strongly that you need to demand a new student teaching placement immediately. Remember, YOU are paying the university for your education and training.

Additionally, I have taught in several schools in NYC and visited dozens of others in the past ten years. What you are expriencing is inexcusable but not what happens in all public schools. It's unfortunate, but predictable, that some will seek to capitalize on your experience and exploit it for their political agenda. Yes, there are crappy, dysfunctional public schools but the vast majority of Americans attend public schools and they don't look like the classrooms you describe. NYC also has some of the best public schools in the country (as well as some of the worst) and most classrooms are not out of control in the way you describe.

At October 22, 2005 11:38 AM, Blogger EdWonk said...

As a classroom teacher, I really like how you went through with administering the consequence. In building rapport with students, one of the most productive things that you can do is to foster a reputation of "meaning what you say" and then keeping your word.

On those rare occasions when I do have to take a student's property, I place a tag on the item, and then leave it in our school's office.

The student is told that if he or she wishes to have the item returned, then the parent or guardian must come to the office and pick it up.

This helps to diffuse what could be a tense situation (by trasferring custody of the item taken to the office, it's no longer student vs. Mr. Wonk) as well as involving the parents in the process.

Generally, students don't bother to inform their parents about the loss of lower-value items, and cell-phones (and other high-priced items such as iPods) which aren't allowed in our school, usually don't make a second appearance.

At October 22, 2005 7:02 PM, Anonymous al said...

I hope this finds you well. My wife is a teacher in a private, Christian (Tim, does that make her racist?) school in Florida. Here is my humble opinion... A school run by the government will only be able to rise to the level of competency consistent with said government.
Social service programs run by the state are always defective. They do a much better job running prisons. That is why so many of our schools end up looking that way. Metal detectors and police officers on the grounds are now the norm.
If you need your certificate to teach then go ahead. If not, explore a private school where your authority is an extension of the parent's authority, not the state’s. Trust me it will be a much more pleasant experience.

God Bless,

At October 23, 2005 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if I were in your shoes, I would walk out and find another job or another school. Where does this "crap" come from? A book jacket? A diorama? Students who don't know who fought or won the Revolution? That life exsisted before 2000?
I also teach, I have been in those schools where no matter what discipline I tried, the result was the same. What I did right or wrong I don' t know, but I did keep trying for a while, then one day I just moved on. Now many years later I teach in a vastly different school, tolerate no interruptions, have expectations, not rules, and expect them followed. I expect students to study, memorize, learn, think and do. My students actually tell me they enjoy my class, that they learn and one even told her brother to pay attention to me cause I know what I am talking about! (Little did she know!) Why is that? Because I am not afraid to confront, enforce rules, set expectations, and also the adminstration expects it. That is a huge difference. To the long ago school, it was close the door and survive. Not one ounce of support. That is why I say, walk and find a better place.
It doesn't matter who comes in the door to learn, it matters what the school expects.

At October 23, 2005 10:46 AM, Anonymous Ms. J said...

First, as a high school govt/history teacher I agree with much of your writing when it comes to instruction. You would get little argument from most of my colleagues in our very large, high poverty urban school in N. CA

That said, Tim is correct in suggesting you immediately insist on a different placement...that is, if you really want to student teach in an atmosphere that is conducive to your own "morality." When I was in ed school six years ago, several of my fellow students were in placements that did not work for them...they sought new placements and most received them. Of course, your blog posts might not be so entertaining and rich with fodder for those who believe the public school system is an utter failure.

If a new placement is not possible, then just do what we all must from time to time...DEAL WITH will soon have your own classroom and be able to teach the way you need to teach. If you think finding such a position is impossible in traditional public school, then maybe KIPP is for you. However, let me assure you that it is still possible to instill discipline and high standards in a public school classroom. And by the way, for those out there who wonder why I do this job (I currently have 166 students on my roll books...39 in one class alone), it is the most rewarding, intellectually stimulating and just plain fun work I've ever done.

At October 23, 2005 11:30 AM, Blogger EdWonk said...

We've linked this entry with a post over at our place. I'm concerned that the behaviors of disruptive students are effectively depriving others their right to an education and that factors outside of the teachers' control are causing increasing amounts of frustration for those in the classroom.

At October 23, 2005 12:18 PM, Blogger graycie said...

Cutting the yoyo string was perfect. Just perfect. You behaved like a professional -- far more so than your supervising "teachers."

While every school has problem classrooms and problem students, very few schools are overrun with this kind of behavior or with teachers who enable it. In most schools kids are held accountable for their behavior and their learning.

Talk with your university supervising professor. You need to be able to plan your own lessons and see what works/what doesn't. While you are definitely learning about classroom management and discipline (by seeing what NOT to do), you need to be able to teach your own stuff as well. Talk to them.

At October 23, 2005 12:34 PM, Blogger Alf said...

Thank you so much for sharing these experiences here. It is sort of like having a window into the asylum. The pedagogy you are being exposed to is so familiar, and the results as well, that it is painful to read. If you make it through this I would invite you to listen to your "conservative" voice; they are not all fighting their grandmothers for the last 5 dollar bill. (Most of their grandmothers are too tough for that) What you are encountering is insane. It is also virtually guaranteeing these children will fail abysmally in their future.

If you survive, I would invite you to send a resume' to the Washington Core Knowledge school in Rochester, Mn. It is the antithesis of what you are currently experiencing. (And yes the kids here know everything about the Revolution, including where all the participants came from, including the natives.) Good luck. You go girl!

At October 23, 2005 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure why I am posting, other than the situation moved me to anger, outrage, and a few other emotions. I used to be a school teacher, and I moved on to other things. In my case, higher education since I needed to still teach. I left public schools not so much because of the students, though the one that almost assaulted me had something to do with it. No, it was really the administrators without the cojones to enforce consequences and actually support teachers. You sound like you would make a great teacher, but I can't help but agree with others here. You need to get out. If you feel a need to teach, find a good private school, go on to higher education, or find another career where you will have some respect, dignity, and maybe get good pay while you are at it. It would be sad to see you turn into the desultory empty shells that are the teacher supervisors.

At October 23, 2005 8:31 PM, Blogger David said...

A school cannot operate effectively unless teachers are given the authority to remove disruptive students. See my post Penny in the Fusebox

At October 23, 2005 10:42 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Gee, sounds as disfuntional as my first cooperating teacher, although she hated the kids and wouldn't actually let me do any teaching, except for the low track kids (that dates me) whom she hated most of all.

I requested and got a different placement after other teachers in the department came to me and my supervising professor and apolodized to me for the hellish situation in which I found myself.

Get out. There are better situations out there.

At October 24, 2005 7:28 AM, Blogger KF said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At October 24, 2005 7:29 AM, Blogger KF said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At October 24, 2005 7:30 AM, Blogger David said...

If teachers unions really cared about education, they would devote their effort to things like ensuring that teachers have the right to control their classrooms, rather than to the endless assaults on any attempts to measure performance.

At October 24, 2005 7:32 AM, Blogger KF said...

Britian apparently has had enough of their "unruly children" and recently implemented this policy:
(if link doesn't work, see the Guardian for article "Teachers to get legal rights to restrain pupils"),12388,1597781,00.html

At October 24, 2005 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tutor a 10th grade (African-American) student who was studying the Constitutional convention by roleplaying as a southern state governor who wanted slaves to be counted. Fair enough, I guess--though even this bothers me a bit, as it suggests that poor black kids can only learn about the Revolution through the lens of their skin color (and a prism of victimhood).
But here's what really bugged me. I asked the kid if he knew when slavery was abolished in the United States. His guess: 1915? I gave him a hint: there was a war fought, at least in part, over it. Another hint: the Civil War. Did he know when that was? His guess: 1920.

At October 24, 2005 8:00 PM, Blogger Ms. Smith said...

Oh, honey...

You cut the yo-yo string? Is that symbolic, I wonder?

Please promise me that at your next "faculty meeting" (note the quotations marks...), you'll at least bring up the idea of a demerit system. Please.

Hang in there, Miss...

At October 25, 2005 12:53 PM, Blogger LKK said...

What a horror story!

We often learn just as much from awful student teaching placements as we would from better ones. What NOT to do is as important as what TO do.

But you'll only get there if you spend time reflecting on how you will do things differently next year.

How will you establish the boundaries in your classroom? How will you handle other teachers' students when those boundaries aren't present school-wide? How will you discipline students if there aren't schoolwide behavior expectations? How will you get parents involved in your classroom behavior expectations/consequences?

Reflecting on these answers will help ensure that you find meaning in this awful situation.

At April 07, 2006 5:47 PM, Anonymous Miss A said...

I work in a urban school district know for its awful schools.The school I was interning in gave a good citizenship award to the girl who told me "F--- you". Her mother called me a "motherf-----" so I know where she got the mouth. I wasn't allowed to do anything about this or any other behavior. If they didn't want to give up their cell phones because they using them in class, they didn't and I couldn't do a thing. They rushed me when I asked them to stay until I excused them and ran me over. The previous teacher had left in disgust. The administration bends over backwards to avoid"offending" the kids and their parents because they might be sen as racist, I guess. The worthless education school I was attending told me that I had to pass every child, whether or not they had even done any work at all. I definatly was not allowed to lecture and ask the kids to take notes. I wasn't even allowed to request them to have notebooks for taking notes. I had sold them for a quarter at the start of my internship but even that was considered too much. After getting a C in the internship, I did a student teacher placement which was a lot better and where the administration backed up the teachers. I agree that people would be horrified if they could see how the kids talk to the teachers. People have absolutly no idea whatsoever what goes on. Oh, well, I am going to look for a placement but this time I am armed with ideas from LouAnn Johnson, the woman the movie DAngerous Minds was based on. I suggest you check out her book.


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