The children who are really being left behind
Ms. Cornelius had this post about this article by Tammy McCartney, a frustrated teacher who is leaving the profession. Here is the part of the article that most grabbed me:
Most of the students want to learn or at least want to be successful, but there are five who have no interest in furthering their education. These students talk while the teacher is talking, throw things when her back is turned and sometimes when it isn't. They sing, dance, roam the classroom, try to trip one another, horseplay and generally make it difficult to conduct class in an orderly manner. In fact, these behaviors make it difficult for a teacher to conduct class at all.
Far from being the typical class-clowning of yesteryear, these behaviors are malicious and often willfully disrespectful. From the beginning of the year, Ms. Smith has been contacting their parents, assigning detention, referring them for in-school suspension, discussing their status with principals and counselors, yelling and basically doing everything she can to contain these students. Nothing works.
When these students fail the tests and are "left behind," whose fault is it? When a wayward student injures another with horseplay, who gets sued? There are no behavioral consequences that matter for many of today's students and there are some parents who do not have the ability or the desire to discipline their children; they simply cannot or will not parent.
If this doesn't show the necessity for giving the teachers the authority to remove disruptive kids from their classrooms--not just for the day, but for at least the semester, I don't know what does. I left a comment saying something like that on Ms. Cornelius's site, but it never got published. I don't know if it was a case of Fermoyle computer ineptitude (always a likely possibility), or if Ms. Cornelius didn't see it or just didn't like it. I do realize that when I post and comment on this subject, some people think I've got a bit of Nazi in me, but I plead non-guilty.
Ms. McCartney's article is titled "Teachers Don't Leave Kids Behind," and she makes the point that no teacher should be blamed for a failure to educate the five troublemakers in her story. But it's not those five that we should worry about; it's the other kids, the ones Ms. McCartney says "want to learn, or at least want to be successful." They are the ones we should be concerned about, and they are being left behind, too.
I have seen classroom situations like the one that Ms. McCartney describes--mercifully, not very often. When you have that many really disruptive kids, learning is just about impossible for everyone. The teacher is placed into an impossible situation. All of those tactics that teacher was trying--contacting their parents, assigning detention, referring them for in-school suspension, discussing their status with principals and counselors, yelling and basically doing everything she can to contain these students--have absolutely no effect on students like that. I have no doubt that the teacher being described in Ms. McCartney's piece is doing her best. I completely agree with Ms. McCartney's point that she is not the one leaving anyone behind.
Schools in America need to do the things we are capable of doing and stop beating our heads against the wall trying to do the things we're not. There are some things we can't do. We can't educate kids who have no desire to be educated, and we can't educate kids who show up every day to school with the sole purpose of bringing attention to themselves by disrupting their classes. We can educate kids who want to be educated, but only if we free them from others who make learning impossible. I think it's about time we do that. Until courts, Congress, and state legislatures make it possible for us to do that, they are the ones who need to take a good look in the mirror when ever they talk about "leaving children behind."