May 28, 2024

A Bad Week to be a Teacher

First, Michael van der Galien says that group of teachers from Tennessee need to be fired and quick. Why? From CNN:

Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.

“The children were in that room in the dark, begging for their lives, because they thought there was someone with a gun after them,” said Brandy Cole, whose son went on the trip.

During the last night of the trip, staff members convinced the 69 students that there was a gunman on the loose. They were told to lie on the floor or hide underneath tables and stay quiet. A teacher, disguised in a hooded sweat shirt, even pulled on a locked door.

After the lights went out, about 20 kids started to cry, 11-year-old Shay Naylor said.

“I was like, ‘Oh My God,’ ” she said. “At first I thought I was going to die. We flipped out.”

As Michael says, preparedness is one thing, outright stupidity is another. It’s not that practicing to handle dangerous situations is wrong. Most adults could do with a bit of practice in this area; personally, I think it would help me.

But the endless tornado drills I endured as a kid were never accompanied by mock hysterical teachers and realistic sound effects. We knew it was practice, in other words.

Second, a Houston teacher is out of the hospital after being viciously attacked by a 9th grade boy in front of her class:

Vanesta Marshall, a home economics teacher at Worthing who stands about five feet four inches tall, said she remembers a ninth-grade male student punching her in the face two or three times before she blacked out. The other students in the class counted seven or eight blows, she said.

The student became angry and started spouting profanity after Marshall scolded him for not bringing his notebook to class, she said. Marshall then escorted the student to school security, and when he came back to class, she asked him if he had paperwork allowing him to return.

He got angry again, she said, and lifted a chair. Then, Marshall said, she was walking to her desk to call security when the first blow came. The punches kept coming, and several students tried to stop the teenager.

“My class, they’re the real heroes,” Marshall said in a phone interview before her voice began to crack. “If they hadn’t did what they did, I probably would still be in the hospital right now.”

Big-time kudos to the kids who jumped in to protect their teacher – thank you for doing what’s right! I mean that.


Marshall said she wanted to share her story because she’s worried other teachers could face the same situation. She said school officials didn’t inform her about the student’s discipline history.

“We’re just regular ed teachers,” she said. “We don’t know how to handle violent behavior.”

In an independent survey last year, about three-fourths of HISD teachers said they felt safe on the job.

So 25% of HISD teachers feel threatened on the job. So much for the district’s “no tolerance” policy.

Reading between the lines of Marshall’s quote, it’s clear that her attacker had a history of violence and behavioral issues. As I’ve stated before (and often), it’s imperative that we stop trying to educate 100% of American children. It’s impossible and undesirable to even try because of the inefficiencies involved in reaching the bottom 5%.

Yesterday Jason Steck wrote a good post on the subject of education in which he said:

The social network of students is by far the most powerful influence that determines the behavior of other students in the school environment. Students’ disapproval towards anyone who might validate increased academic expectations (and therefore increased work for them) causes even intelligent students to avoid academic achievement. And students’ bullying replicates itself, producing a culture where violence becomes the expected and normal means for enforcing social dictates (and eventually expressing rebellion against them — the backlash mirrors the problem).

And teachers and administrators need to be part of the solution — violence will continue as long as teachers condone or ignore it in order to remain popular with students or out of fear of abusive students’ parents and lawyers.

Fascinating that the Marshall article appeared in the Chronicle soon after. Jason’s point is true but I don’t think it speaks to the heart of the matter, which is that teachers are not security guards and that some children simply have to be left behind.

I commented thusly to his post:

This is true:

“Until we deal with the culture of anti-intellectualism, rudeness, and violence in our schools, we will continue to be disappointed in our students’ academic performance and we will continue to be periodically shocked at the paroxysms of violence in our schools.”

The question is how to deal with the problem given the adult world’s own bi-polar, illogical manner of solving problems. You address one problem in your closing statement:

…violence will continue as long as teachers condone or ignore it in order to remain popular with students or out of fear of abusive students’ parents and lawyers.

This is also true, particularly in regard to lawyers. As you probably know, teaching is a unionized career. This creates many problems, including the retention of incompetent teachers, a sense of entitlement to their jobs regardless of results, and a back-loaded salary structure that forces teachers to stay in the union and on the job for decades to get a reasonable retirement payout.

Meanwhile administrators are afraid to discipline students for fear of legal retribution by ignorant, self-absorbed parents and misguided special interest advocates of every conceivable stripe. But can we blame them? Their jobs are on the line each and every day because every decision, no matter how trivial and obvious the solution may be, is subject to second-guessing in the hallways, courts, and media outlets.

Working with children can be very rewarding – given the right group of kids. But a bad class, of which there are too many, can make a teacher’s job more like that of a prison warden than an educator. With little or no support from administrators what can we truly expect from a teacher who MUST keep his/her job to be able to retire?

Serious problems are found in every aspect of the education system. But how can we combat fundamental issues when the political debate is much more about who should control the money we’re spending than about the radical reforms that are needed to turn things around?

There are things that we can do but I doubt that we have the stomach or the votes to make them happen. Even the names of laws work against progress, No Child Left Behind being the most foolish of them all.

For instance, if we want to make real strides in educational outcomes Americans need to face the fact that some children have to be cut from the herd, metaphorically speaking, if the rest are to thrive. Anyone who has studied nature knows that the group cannot slow to the pace of the weakest member. Education is no exception to the rule.

Children should be tracked according to ability starting in the earliest grades and the brightest of them should receive the best instruction – period. This may be elitist. It is also the only way that America will be able to compete with other countries where this practice is the norm.

Is this even remotely possible in the current political climate? I don’t see how such a bill can pass when we’re talking about “saving NCLB”, a dead horse if ever I saw one.

But what about parents? Ultimately they have to assume responsibility for their offspring if kids’ behavior is ever going to change.  I don’t see this happening.

How are schools supposed to teach when their hands are tied when it comes to discipline, when moral and ethical behavior is not allowed to be taught, and the same kids who cannot pass basic achievement tests or behave civilly in or out of the classroom are now raising children of their own?

The cycle, I fear, is a long way from having run to its low point.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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