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Sunday, March 29, 2009

First Post

I've been wanting to do this for quite some time now, begin blogging. It's an incredible tool humanity has developed for sharing and refining our ideas on life with others. I just hope I can keep up with it on at least a weekly basis.



I thought I'd take time to think through an important article I read today in the Washington Post for my first post. The article
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/12/AR2009031203540.html)
addresses allegations of student assaults on teachers in the DC public school system. It really made me stop and think about the state of education in this country for our disadvantaged youth - and this for someone who thinks about that state of education a lot. This article just really struck me. The idea that teachers are being physically assaulted by unknown students who go with no consequences makes me want to tear my hair out (not that I really have any to tear at). I lose a bit of my soul processing this reality - and perhaps inch toward that veteran teacher quality that new teachers so often (with that slight sense of youthful arrogance) refer to as jaded.


As someone who's been in the classroom for a few years now, I've seen my share of disrespectful kids. The kids who flick you off, or sneer at you, or refuse to follow your instruction, or claim they'll get their parents to sue you for asking them to change seats - but the very idea of having a dictionary thrown at my head by a student who gets satisfaction out of it makes me want to leave this profession. Even more sickening was a facebook group I found later in the day committed to disrespecting teachers at their charter school in dc: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2203541608

Stories like these weigh heavily on the minds of those who choose to care about the way we, as Americans, choose to collectively raise our youth. Like ugly ornaments added to a tree, they are added as evidence that our inner-city schools are decidedly failing our youth. And while it's not that I disagree that these allegations, if true (which I'm sure at least some of them are), are signs of a failing system, I'm afraid the solutions so often posed for alleviating these problems are quite myopic.

The idea that a student throwing a book at a teacher can be attributed to poor classroom management technique disturbs me. Public schools are not meant to be holding cells for society's miscreants. Teachers have enough to worry about without having to deal with learning classroom management techniques for criminal behavior. Assault is a criminal offense. If I wanted training on how to deal with that I would have joined the police.

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that public schools naturally deal with all kinds of students, some who will grow up to be senators and some who will grow up to be murderers. This is a reality. However, classroom management techniques are designed to keep naturally inattentive youngsters (okay - sometimes they're more than inattentive) on task and learning, not deter assault. As soon as students show signs of violence they need to be removed from school immediately for everyone's safety. Improving teaching will not solve most of public education's woes. Yes - the classroom teacher is the single most important variable in a child's ability to learn, but only when put to use in the context of a culture and community that supports learning. Teachers cannot be superheroes. We can work our asses off every day and hope for the best, but so often we fall so short, not because of lack of concern, lack of skill, or lack of talent, but because we're not being supported elsewhere.

I suppose I'll finish my thoughts on this by saying that I don't mean to suggest that teachers are never to blame for poor education. They are logically the first to blame - and I get this. I agree that all teachers should be held to high standards and those that are not performing or who hate their job should find another line of work. But I cannot believe that more training on classroom management can solve the problem presented in the above article.

Food for thought....

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