In defense of crotchety old teachers
As I was checking out blogs the other day, I wandered over to TMAO's site. Anyone who has read a few of both of our posts probably understands that TMAO and I don't exactly share identical philosophies.
I open my blog with this statement: "Public schools are important, their job is becoming increasingly difficult, and they are doing a much better job than they are given credit for." It's tough to reconcile that with TMAO's introduction: "We must reject the ideology of the "achievement gap" that absolves adults of their responsibility and implies student culpability in continued under-performance. The student achievement gap is merely the effect of a much larger and more debilitating chasm: The Educator Achievement Gap. We must erase the distance between the type of teachers we are, and the type of teachers they need us to be."
TMAO's post dealt with one by Mamacita from Schiess Weekly titled "Anyone Can Tell You Why So Many of Us Are Leaving the Profession," in which she passionately complains about misbehaving and under-performing students. TMAO had absolutely no sympathy for Mamacita (this should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with him) and most of the commenters were also critical of her. I think it's fair to say that TMAO and those who share his philosophy view Mamacita as a crotchety old teacher who doesn't belong in education. I read TMAO's entire post before I ever turned to Mamacita's, but knowing how differently TMAO and I see things, I guessed that I was probably going to agree with Mamacita. I was right.
Although I disagree with TMAO about a lot of things, I admire him. It sounds like he is one of those rare teachers who is able to deal effectively with kids who most of us aren't. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think teachers like him are worth their weight in gold. Nevertheless, I can really identify with what Mamacita had to say. After all, I am kind of a crotchety old teacher, myself.
Here is what Mamacita said about disruptive students:
Most teachers who leave the profession, leave because almost all of the attention, most of the perks, most of the privileges, and most of the allowances are given to the students who least deserve it: the disruptive kids. In other words, these loud, bratty, obnoxious kids are being rewarded for their disgusting behavior, so why should they clean up their act? I wouldn't. Not if doing my own thing meant I'd still get to have and do everything little goody two-shoes next to me got to have and do...
Me, personally, I think that if there are any perks to be handed out, they should go to students who have earned them. No earn? No get. Ever.
Why should a student bother to behave himself if he knows he's going to get a limo ride and a Pizza Hut lunch for bringing a pencil three days in a row? I wouldn't.
Why would a student exert himself to do any work, or allow anyone else in the classroom to do anything either, if he knows he's going to be passed to the next grade anyway? Yes, I am a firm believer in holding back any student who can't do it, won't do it, or any combination thereof.
I don't want my tiny second-grade-size daughter seated next to a hulking ballistic cursing disruptive 15-year-old, but if everyone is REQUIRED to behave properly, there wouldn't be any problems even then, now would there? Because while a student can't help the "hulking," there are no viable excuses for being ballistic, cursing, or disruptive. EVER. Any person of any age who behaves in such a way should be removed immediately, not at the end of the day but IMMEDIATELY, escorted out by the police if the parent can't be reached, and locked away where he/she can no longer deny other children their right to an education. That our schools have lowered themselves to becoming daycare centers for kids who are not required to behave themselves is a national disgrace. The schools who allow it are a disgrace, the parents who allow it are a disgrace, and the kids themselves are a disgrace. That's right; I'm labeling children. After a certain age, they know how nice people behave. Life is full of choices. CHOICES. Door #1: Thank you for being a nice person who behaves properly. You may stay and be educated, that your life's choices might increase. Door #2: Are you sure you want this door? Absolutely sure? Very well. Get out and do not set foot near the school grounds ever again. You are bringing down the entire population of students. Good riddance. Billy Madison speech. Door #3: Whine. Scream. Curse. Threaten. Hire a lawyer. Make promises. We don't care. Get out. And take your obnoxious kid with you...
Until the bullies and the disrupters and the violent and the kids who have no respect for learning are removed from our schools, our schools can not be what the free public schools were meant to be: places where all who wish to learn, may learn all they wish.
It's hard to learn when 25 of the 38 kids in your classroom have important Letters of the Alphabet in their files, prohibiting the teacher from requiring any work or proper behavior. It's hard to learn when it's so loud you can't hear yourself think, and that awful boy next to you keeps stealing your stuff and hitting you on the arm and laughing. He can't help it, poor thing, it's in his IEP that nobody may do anything that would lower his self-esteem.
On the first day of school, let the rules be known and let the penalties for disregarding the rules be known. Let there be no exceptions to these penalties. Require a signed document from every family, admitting understanding of these policies. Require an additional signature under the paragraph that spells out the "no exceptions" policy. From Day One, Period One, expect and require good behavior from all students. Instantly remove any kid that chooses to be an ass. Ass-behavior is always a personal choice...
Wow! I don't know about you, but I have trouble finding much in this rant that I disagree with. That wasn't the case, however, for TMAO and some of the commenters on his post. Here is some of what TMAO had to say about it:
I can't even begin to explain the all-over grossness I felt while reading this. Suffice to say I'm not down with the sentiment expressed therein... Generally, the flight of teachers concerns me, but if the teachers that leave schools are the ones who think it is not their job to motivate, not their job to convince, not their job to get their hands dirty, I got a couple of inches of Bushmills I'll raise in their honor, and applaud the decision to go sell insurance.
A number of commenters on TMAO's post echoed his sentiments, but I don't see Mamacita's frustration as coming from a person who is unwilling to try to motivate, convince, or get her hands dirty. Let's face it, there are teachers who aren't willing to do those things, and TMAO is right--they should get out of the business. But Mamacita's rant sounded to me like it was coming from someone who really cared. I say that because I have felt that way myself--in fact there have been times in the last two weeks that I've felt like that--and I know I care.
It is a wonderful thing to care about "troubled kids." I do care about the "troubled kids" I get in my classes, and I do try to motivate and convince them. But I also care about all those other kids, and I want to be able to do my job effectively. I care when it becomes nearly impossible for me to teach kids who are willing to follow rules and try because "troubled kids" are screwing around so much. I care when I see some of those "bubble kids" who could go either way getting dragged down to the level of the worst kids. I have six classes with as many as 31 kids in them, and we have five minutes between classes. That doesn't leave a lot of time for one on one motivating, although I try to do it when I can. I don't even want to think about what it would be like if I had 38 in a class, and I know there are many classroom teachers who face that and worse with regularity.
I have said it before, and I will say it again: I am convinced that the best thing we could do for the great majority of those "troubled kids" is to make it clear that we will not tolerate disruptive behavior and lack of effort. We have so many kids in public schools who behave poorly and make no effort because we allow them to do so. Are we really doing them any favors in the long run with our tolerance? And Mamacita is right--they drag everybody down in the process. If all kids knew they had to behave, and they knew they had to try, there would be very, very few who wouldn't. And what would we do with those few who wouldn't? Here's what Mamacita says:
Where should these kids be removed to? To be perfectly honest, I don't care. Just get them away from the good kids. Don't good kids have rights, too? I'm sick and tired of disruptive kids having the most rights. SICK AND TIRED of it. It's long past time to give the majority of attention and all things positive to kids who choose to behave properly and kids who want to learn.
I can't say it any better than that!