22 June 2006

And Now, The Editorial

I used to write for the newspaper, back in college. Chances are, I sucked royally, but it was fun, I learned a lot, and I met some awesome people. And sometimes there's something so simple and neat about a news story, so I thought it would be fun to try my hand at it again. Of course, since objectivity is key to a news story, even a spoofed one, I didn't write about my real feelings about what my kids did.

For me, this event has me thinking about the issue of teacher quality and the way bad teachers are protected. The teacher who is the subject of my students' anger has been the subject of my anger as well, for a range of reasons not worth detailing. I don't think my principal can do much, beyond encouraging this teacher to go on the open market. If this teacher worked in "corporate America" he'd be fired, probably, or at least demoted, for not carrying out the responsibilities of his position.

I am proud of what my students did. They organized themselves and expressed their frustrations in a constructive way. They could have used the teacher's inattentiveness, the clear lack of planning and interest in them, to really raise some hell. But they didn't.

Oddly, I feel a bit badly for Mr. X., because I am sure his feelings were hurt. But I really believe that he should have seen this, or something similar, coming. My class is a good group; I feel very lucky to have taught them. And I know from my years in the classroom that even kids who are not so well-behaved will respond when you come in prepared, with rules and structures and activities. Mr. X. is not a new teacher, and he should have known this too. And he had the advantage of teaching a subject that many of our kids want to learn.

I don't excuse the times that my kids have been truly disruptive, but I also understand that their bad behavior came from the fact that they spent an absurd amount of time learning to clean their instruments, even though they all had instrumental music as fifth graders. And things didn’t improve much from there.

When I see kids who are well-behaved with some teachers, and not with others, it obviously brings up the question: is it the kids or is it the teacher? I have always told my classes that if they can behave for me, then they can behave for all their teachers. But deep down I wonder if that's an unfair expectation on my part. If a teacher is ill-prepared, is it fair to expect the students to hold up their end? We all have bad teaching days, but for some teachers ill-preparation is their way of life. What is the solution?


AprilMay said...

Way to go kiddos! You should be proud of them. As a former band student who ADORED band, I am crushed that my son currently has an ineffective band teacher.
I am with you regarding the poor teachers, but there is hope...one teacher at my school was (finally!) asked not to return next year!
Read this editoral, posted today on cnn.com.
He has some good points, but not ONCE does he mention parental support! I taught in Asia, and the parents there POUND it into their kids that education is to be the #1 thing in their lives. If ONLY that were true in America! It really does make a huge difference.
~a fellow teablogger~

NYC Educator said...

I think you're absolutely right about how kids behave well with some teachers but poorly with others. The fact is that an indifferent teachers cannot command respect--if they don't respect themselves, how could kids respect them? Why should they?

No self-respecting teacher would let a class descend into chaos. I couldn't go to work each day if things were like that.

How bad teachers live with themselves I have no idea.

annie said...

It's simple for a bad teacher to allow chaos to erupt. They are either:
1. Too indifferent to care. They are getting the miniscule paycheck anyway and that's all they care about.
2. Too ineffective to make a difference, and they lack the initiative or attitude to make it work.

Either way it's sad and it's a complete disservice to the kids, especially when they want to learn. I just hated being the teacher the period after Mrs. Y had them in complete chaos.

Rocket Surgeon, Phd said...

you write in a very engaging manner.

I salute you.