Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Can't we find a happy medium?

I was browsing through the blogosphere, and came upon a site called Schools Matter, and ran into this piece on KIPP Schools. I then went to the article about the the KIPP School in Atlanta where some parents pulled their kids out of the school because of what they considered harsh discipline. One student, in a group that was made to go and sit by themselves, wet her pants when she was not allowed to go to the bathroom, and another ended up vomiting. KIPP Schools have a reputation for harsh punishments and humiliation, and even though they are publicly funded, they can get away with that because charter schools are given special leeway by the states. As I read, I couldn't help thinking, "Why can't we have a happy medium?"

I have been lucky this year, but like most traditional public school teachers, there have been many times that I've had to tolerate behavior that I should never have had to tolerate. I did that, because I felt like I didn't have any other choice. I mean there are only so many times you can kick a kid out of class and send him (or her) to the office. Although I haven't had any blatantly disruptive kids this year, I do have kids whose effort is pathetic, and of course, I have to put up with that. We are now in our last marking period, and I'm stuck with two young men who have failed all first three marking periods and show no sign of doing anything different this one. I also have a couple of students who are woefully underachieving, and of course, there's nothing I can do about that other than send deficiency slip after deficiency slip to the parents.

I have no desire to humiliate any students, and I have no desire to bludgeon any students into performing. KIPP Schools have a reputation for producing fantastic test scores, and if it takes harsh punishments and humiliation to do that, and if that's what parents who send their kids to those schools want, I'm not going to knock them. But I teach in a traditional public school, and I'm not looking for fantastic scores; I'm just looking for good solid ones. I just want every kid in our school who wants a good education to be able to get one. If KIPP Schools are going to be allowed to do the things they do, and they are getting the results they are by doing that, wouldn't it make sense to give those of us in traditional public schools just a little more power? Wouldn't it make sense to allow us to demand that kids behave reasonably and make a reasonable effort in order to remain in our classes?


Blogger Roger Sweeny said...

Wouldn't it make sense to allow us to demand that kids behave reasonably and make a reasonable effort in order to remain in our classes?

And wouldn't it be great if our unions pushed for this? Why they don't is a great mystery to me.

4/01/2009 3:43 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Amen, Roger. I think one reason our unions don't push for this is that it might lower overall enrollment, which of course, might slightly cut down the need for teachers, which would mean less members, which would mean less money in their coffers. I also think that if teachers are given the power to get rid of students who don't belong there, it's natural for people to ask why teachers who don't belong in the classroom shouldn't also be chased out. Our unions don't want to deal with that one. And finally, I think the leaders and staff members of our unions have either never worked in classrooms or been out of them for so long that they really buy into the idea that we have to reach every single kid, even though anyone who regularly works in the classroom knows that ain't ever gonna happen. They think the saying, "No Child Left Behind," is swell; they just don't like the program.

4/01/2009 5:54 PM  
Blogger mazenko said...

Of course, that sort of freedom is a great argument for charter/vouchers. Some parents will withdraw their children from schools that are too harsh - and the stories you mention are not only harsh but borderline immoral and criminal - and others will withdraw their kids from schools that are too lenient. More latitude for schools to teach to their student population is a reasonable "happy medium."

4/02/2009 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Katherine said...

I don't believe that we should punish sudents this way. I certaintly wouldn't want my child to pee in his pants because he was not allowed to go to the restroom. Just because they have high sores does not meant that they have a right to treat the students at the school in this way. I also do not believe that humiliatioin works with students, all it seems to do is make the student upset and may even cause more trouble from that stuents.

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