Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


A corollary to my education rant

Things got done faster than I thought, so I thought I would add something about teachers to my "What's wrong with education" rant from Friday. One of my former students reminded me that teachers aren't always so wonderful, and she's right. So here's a brief (I promise!) observation about teachers (and I'll try to be objective, because I am one).

Teachers, for the most part, are fighting a losing battle, and that sort of thing wears on morale and desire. I can't think of a teacher who gets into the game for the money - in some places you make decent chedda as a teacher, but not in most places. I got into it because I thought it was something I would be good at, I didn't want to be stuck in an office all day, and I love it. My students often ask me why I teach, especially sociopathic teenagers, and I tell them, honestly, that I find teens fascinating. I also want to help them become adults, and I think teachers have a big role to play in that, even though parents should be the primary models.

But Miss Melendez is right - there are a lot of shitty teachers out there. Why? It's a chicken-and-egg thing - do they become shitty teachers because the kids suck the life out of them, or are they shitty teachers to begin with? It's a little of both. I have known very good teachers who have just given up because of the evil little bastards they get stuck with, because the administration doesn't care, because the parents take the side of the child (almost always), and because there's no money. It's sad to watch, and I wish those people would get out quickly before they do something stupid and really fuck up their careers and lives. At my school (and again, my school may be an extreme example, but I don't think it's too extreme), at least two teachers were literally driven out by the students. The administration refused to do anything to assist the teachers, and they just gave up. Of course, the kids say that the teachers sucked and didn't get them and were mean, and I know that the teachers probably said and did some things that they shouldn't have, but it doesn't change the fact that the teachers were driven to these things by the students. That kind of thing really makes me angry.

I have also known teachers who have actively hated the students, and I often wondered what they were doing in the field. We used to dismiss the kids out the back of the school and around the strip mall where the school was located. My job was to walk to the end of the mall and make sure they continued on to the road instead of doubling back into the area of commerce. I used to hang out with another teacher while I did this, and he used to rail about every student who walked by (out of their earshot). They were all useless punks with no future who were either going to get pregnant or get someone pregnant or end up in jail or dead. He quite literally hated the students. I had no idea why he was a teacher. I think his expectations were very much different - he pictured a class of smiling children who sat quietly and did everything he told them to do. Well, hell, who wouldn't want that? Welcome to the real world. He couldn't adjust, and he left after the school year.

I don't claim to be a great teacher. I'm a moderately good one, I suppose, although I need to work on several things, most particularly my classroom management - I let the kids get away with waaaaay too much. However, I still love the job, and if you don't love the job, you need to get out. If you are a lousy teacher (and I have known teachers to be drunk on the job, and I have known teachers who have dated students - the girl was over 18, but still!), the administration needs to crack down. If you are a lousy student, the administration needs to crack down. Many of the teachers I have dealt with feel abandoned by everyone, and so some of them simply spiral down into ennui and give up. It's tempting. The thing that keeps me going are the good students. At some point in the term I identify the good students and I start ignoring the bad ones. This might seem horrible, but that's the way it is. I tell my students that I don't care about them, and they get all offended. I tell them if they don't care about my class I don't care about them. I'm not about to make an effort if it will fall on deaf ears. I got in a huge argument a few years ago with a student about this - she thought I should care about everyone, and I asked her why when many of my students only showed up twice a week. If that makes me a bad teacher, so be it. Teachers are mortal, too. Some are horrible, yes, and some are good people who see the futility in what they are doing. Unfortunately, some of those don't get out quickly enough, and the kids suffer even more.

Well, that was cheery, wasn't it? I'll be bright and sun-shiny next time, I promise.


Blogger ymelendez said...

Burgas I think you are a great teacher. You might not know this but I use to take your classes for electives. I couldn't get enough of "trivia" at the end of the term.

31/5/05 2:16 PM  
Blogger David Campbell said...

Good post, I totally know what you mean. Up until recently I was going to night classes at Western Washington University to get my teacher's certification, but I dropped out. The more I learned about the profession and the more time I spent in schools the more I realized that I wasn't motivated enough to put up with the downsides of teaching - particularly the pay. So after weeks of agony I dropped out and got a promotion and a fat raise working for my corporate masters doing a dumb job. Isn't that fucked up? Super-important job = no money. Dumb corporate job = lots of money.

31/5/05 2:34 PM  
Blogger Roxy said...

Well - I finally finished my Masters in Education and I have left the job I really enjoyed (even though it was frustrating) to sit behind a desk and teach two classes a week at University level...I miss the students but I don't miss all the work, frustration and tears of being a high school teacher...

31/5/05 3:18 PM  
Blogger layne said...

I wish more teachers/admins had the 'conserve your resources for the students who deserve it' attitude. When I was in school the buzz phrase was co-operative learning; pairing up stronger students with laggards and lunkheads resulting in lower grades for the students who knew their stuff and less work for the wastes of organs they were expected to carry.

Buncha communists...

31/5/05 6:23 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Good post. I'm afraid to admit, I do believe I have one of each of those students in my house. One the teachers like, the other, maybe not so much, I'm hoping they don't hate him though...and I'm hoping that someone eventually will inspire him to pull his head out of his butt and take notice of what's going on around him. I'm amazed my children are such different students and how to make the negative turn into a positive, I've no idea how to achieve that...well, what I've attempted thus far isn't working anyway.

1/6/05 1:57 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

David: It's a shame that we place value on certain jobs but not on others. I don't blame you in the least - if I was any good at anything else, I'd do it in a second!

I wish I could help every single student, I really do. I just don't have the energy. Like I said, we have some brilliant students, even at my school, and I want to make them better. When a kid doesn't know what a noun is it's kinf of difficult to get him to write a research paper, so what's the point? If I had the time, I would sit down with him one-on-one and teach him grammar, and it might work, but I don't have the time.

Sara: I'm as clueless as you are, unfortunately. Mia obviously hasn't reached that phase yet, but it's a really difficult thing. I hope you keep bugging him, because sooner or later he'll figure it out.

1/6/05 6:44 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

I think that teachers should not be allowed to teach more than 5 years in a row. Because it is easy to get depressed on the job. You can always come back and teach after a few year's break.

1/6/05 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg: I hear you, although I don't feel the same way (I teach kids with autism at an elementary school). I could never teach high-schoolers, they'd drive me to a) hard drugs, b) violence, c) insanity, d) all of the above.

The "typically-developing" kids in the 4th & 5th grades simply do not care about school. On the other hand, most of them live in the inner city, are poor, and have clueless parents and/or terrible home lives. They have to survive first before they can focus on school. It's sad and frustrating at the same time.

I'm having more difficulty getting certified, because they keep changing the requirements. If I get out of teaching, it will be because of that. No Child Left Behind, huh? We'll see how many children are left behind when all the teachers quit.

3/6/05 5:55 AM  

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