What Exactly Is the Education Department Up To?

March 26, 2010

They’ve recently purchased 27 shotguns. As I understand it, they’re a part of the department’s law enforcement arm. That a department run by educational bureaucrats has a law enforcement arm scares me even more than the shotguns.


He’ll Have to Wait- A Tragedy

March 19, 2010

This post is the first of many “F-ed Up Fridays” where I post the bad, the ugly, the horrific, and the insane among education news.

In today’s story, horrific may not be a strong enough adjective to describe the teacher’s actions. Sam Linton, an 11 year old in the UK, died from an asthma attack after his teacher refused to help him because she was in a meeting at the time. Even this boy’s friends had enough common sense to approach the teacher for help. Her response? “Go away.” She then added, “I know Sam is there and he will have to wait.” The boy died after finally getting help hours later – from a teacher his 13 year old brother.

This is an awful tragedy and I’m sure that the teacher, Janet Ford, had no intention of killing this boy. Yet, her arrogance allowed it to happen. This hubris, demonstrated by her comment that “he will have to wait,” is founded on the common belief among teachers that they have absolute authority and student needs are totally subservient to the teacher’s sense of good order (which can vary wildly).

Sam probably created headaches for Miss Ford that day, so she marginalized him. His friends had probably acted out in the past, so she ignored their concerns. She attended to bureaucracy, while ignoring the needs of the human beings. I see this attitude daily, but never with such tragic results.

And, Miss Ford hasn’t even been suspended. God bless education.

Bullying: I Learned It From Watching You

March 18, 2010

Of all the corny PSAs from the 80’s, the silliest has to be when the teenager caught using drugs tells his father who confronts him: “I learned it from watching you!”

I’ve attended countless anti-bullying seminars throughout my five years in education and other than not learning anything that I already didn’t know intuitively, these lectures all failed to address one important factor: teacher-student bullying. A small survey recently found that 45% of teachers had admitted to bullying a student. And this is the number that volunteered the information. My best guess is that the numbers are even higher since the worst offenders would never admit what they do is bullying and would probably see it as essential to discipline or classroom order.

It’s tough being a teacher. Each day is a huge challenge and requires incredible patience and virtue. There are many temptations; the biggest, I think, is to go on a power trip. The relationship itself is one of the powerful interacting with the weak, especially at the elementary levels. In the upper grades teachers have control over a student’s life in ways that most of us never think about. For example, a low grade can keep a kid out of his or her first choice of university and a black mark on a permanent record can do the same (or create even worse headaches). And believe me, teachers know they have this power and many misuse it, some on a regular basis.

Is it just a few bad eggs or could the whole disciplinary system of modern education actually promote bullying? As someone who entered into education without an actual education degree I’ve been shocked at what techniques are actually promoted as ‘effective’ discipline. My first ever day of substitute teaching, I remember receiving a phone call from the regular teacher reminding me to use the methods I learned in college to keep them under control, like having them copy pages from a dictionary. As someone who loved words and hoped to see more young people embrace the English language, I was shocked and appalled. It was my first taste of educational insanity.

At the school where I teach, I’ve seen teachers employ threats, shame, intimidation, relentless sarcasm, and even physical violence, because when kids sit down and shut up, it makes teachers look good and their jobs easier, even if the kids aren’t learning. And, of course, those kids who can’t sit down and shut up easily (usually boys and extroverted girls) are labeled as troublemakers. But, since the expected relationship is one of total submission to the teacher, the students have few options when a teacher bullies them, even with parental involvement.

And why is there no one willing to stand up for students who are victims of teacher bullies? Because administrators more often than not come from teacher ranks and interact with others – kids and adults – using the exact same methods. Where I teach, every single negative action in the previous paragraph, with the exception of physical violence, is also employed by the administration to achieve their ends.

I want to say that there are many dedicated teachers and administrators who are excellent leaders and truly committed to the best interests of children. However, the minority who are not can make life pure hell for others. If your child has been a victim of teacher bullying, please post your story in the comment box. This is an issue that receives almost no attention in the world of education, but the problem needs to be addressed and fixed.

I think some of our school bullies could point to teachers and say, “I learned it from watching you.”

Blog Fridays and Saturdays

March 18, 2010

I’ve decided that Friday posts will be a part of an ongoing series called “F-ed Up Fridays.” Basically, the silly, farcical, and dark side of education will be spotlighted here, mainly taken from news stories. And, of course, I’ll be adding my own thoughts.

Saturday posts will be devoted to “Spotlight Saturdays” where I highlight good, bad, and downright ugly teachers with none of the details spared. I would like to take submissions for this category since I’m sure there is no shortage and loads of people probably need to get some of the horror stories off their chest. I only ask that every submission be well-written. I’ll tackle the first few and will post an email address later for those interested in helping out.

It Begins…

March 17, 2010

The world has another blog. I’ll pause for a moment so those two spam bots can go ahead and cheer. As a teacher who is in love with teaching kids, but perpetually frustrated by ‘education,’ this blog will be an opportunity for me to share my thoughts and experiences with a system that is in desperate need of reform– and not just in the way that you think.

When many observers think of education reform, they conjure images of statistics, objectives, and keeping up with the Soviets Indians. While I recognize the importance of hard objectives, my personal beef with the current educational climate is that it’s impersonal and in many ways inhumane. It helps those primed for success to succeed while doing very little for those students predestined to fail. It focuses on numbers, alleged objectives, and pedantic systems of discipline, instead of providing the motivation and skills for human beings to be successful people and contributors to society.

This blog will be a mixture of current events and policy discussion, spotlights on good and bad teachers, my own personal experiences with education, and even some of my fiction. Check out the About Me page for more info about my background, etc.

Hello world!

March 16, 2010

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!