January 7, 2007

so, what do I think? #2

In that last post about changing public education I talked a lot about money, and I did something that annoys me when other people do it - namely, I bad-mouthed teachers at schools 'like mine.' This annoys me because, hey, you think teachers don't teach well? Here. You try it. Try teaching four periods a day with no office to send kids to, no curriculum for two of those periods, your personal safety in danger, fights on a regular basis, and your students 5 or 6 grade levels behind. Not so easy now, is it? There are a million things I know I should do and just don't, for all sorts of essentially personal reasons about needing time and energy spent away from school.

Last night, I was talking to a friend about her school, where there have been no fights since October 26, 2005, and where the principal mentions that at each Thursday's all-school meeting and there are three full-time deans who deal with anyone who's disruptive in class or talking about thinking about maybe fighting. This is what we like to call a 'support system.' I said that I had realized that at my school, with no support system, it is actually possible to create the support system yourself. I can't do it, but it can be done. She said, yes, but you shouldn't have to, and you can't as a first-year teacher. Which about sums it up.

Basically, being an excellent teacher at a failing school is an almost superhuman endeavor. I think. There are a few teachers who may be counter-examples, but I suspect they pull at least a few superhuman stunts. This is why I have so little patience with people who talk smack about teachers as if we're THE reason public education is so messed up. So why did I talk smack?

Well, mostly because it seems like the math teacher my students had last year just gave them a B+ for showing up. Because my brightest, most motivated students are still mostly behind - and I know it's not their fault because they catch up so damn fast. So. There are at least some really bad teachers out there.

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