Bad teachers…no, I’m not talking about the Cameron Diaz kind of hot, pot-smoking, “I don’t give a shit” attitude, kind of bad teachers. I’m talking about crappy, sucky, who shouldn’t be teaching cuz they’re really not teaching at all, kind of bad teachers.
Ok, before you get all huffy and puffy and give me the “you have no idea what they go through every day” sermon, please remember that I AM A TEACHER and, in addition, I substitute for the public school system. I think it’s safe to say that I have a little inside insight and I think that THERE ARE CRAPPY TEACHERS!! I don’t think all teachers are good, and I don’t think all “teachers” should be teaching! I believe that teaching is an art, just like sculpting, and painting. I believe you have to have a talent for teaching, you have to know how to nurture that talent and you have to practice at it every single day in order to get great at it. Most importantly, I believe YOU HAVE TO LOVE TO TEACH!!! You have to be passionate about it, you have to be humble and you must understand that the benefits you reap from teaching are ones (for the most part) you will never see or hear about or know about. Once you come to terms with all of that, and the fact that as an educator, you will never be financially well off, and still want to be a teacher, then you can one day become a great one.
As a college instructor I have to deal with an evaluation system utilized by most college students today known as RateMyProfessor.com. On this website, students rate their college instructors and professors on quality, helpfulness, clarity, easiness and of course HOTNESS (don’t ask me what the hell that has anything to do with your ability to teach, but apparently it’s quite important to this young college generation of learners) on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest. Students use this website to select their instructors/professors for the semester based on evaluations of prior students. Is it fair? No! Is it reliable? Fuck no! But they seem to think so! On one occasion a few years ago I was reading through these very enlightening evaluations and came across a comment from a student who claimed that I took my job “too seriously”. The student was attempting to portray this attribute of mine in a negative manner to warn students from taking my class. While I found the comment to be fitting, because I do take my job extremely serious, to my surprise the website flagged the comment and took it down.
I don’t know, but I think taking my job “too seriously” as a teacher is what I’m supposed to do. Every year hundreds of students sit in MY class, listen to MY lectures and presentations, do what I tell them to do, BELIEVE that what I am teaching them is correct and will benefit them in the future, and along with their parents, they TRUST me. So yeah, I take my job very seriously. I actually give a shit about my students and their success, and I love what I do…as ALL teachers should!
But, before I go on, let me be fair, and acknowledge that some teachers don’t necessarily suck overall, but rather suck at the subject they are teaching. This is usually the administration’s fault for placing a teacher who, for example, only has experience teaching elementary students into a middle school classroom and who does not have the ability to command a classroom full of hormonal, righteous 13 & 14 year-old’s. But I digress.
I’m sure you can all relate to your child bitching and complaining about this one teacher that’s mean, and sucks, and all that other bad stuff. Or maybe you remember a teacher you had that fits this description. The question is, what do you tell your kid when they come home complaining? How do you handle it? It seems that there’s several ways. For one, you could pull your kid from the class and ask that they be switched into another one, you could set up an appointment with the teacher and conference with them to see what’s going on and set a course of action that will hopefully alleviate the problem, or you could tell your kid to suck it up because sometimes we get teachers that we don’t like. One final option, would be to take a course of action that entails doing all three: conference, tell child they still have to do their best and if it’s still not going well, pull them out.
Typically, I am of the camp that tells their kids that sometimes you get teachers you don’t like or get along with, or who we think are crappy, but we gotta do what we gotta do and get the job done right, regardless of whether we like them or not, or get along with them. For example, when my eldest son was in 7th grade he was placed in Algebra (a high school course). My son complained all year long to me that he wasn’t learning anything and that the teacher sucked. Every grading period he would end with a ”C”, but because other kids were passing with A’s and B’s, I expected my son to do better. Besides, she was the only gifted algebra teacher at the school at the time, so I couldn’t switch him into any other class unless I brought him down a level and the school was not supportive of this. I told him he needed to be more proactive about his learning and if he really felt she wasn’t teaching, then he should take it upon himself to learn the material by reading and rereading and practicing over and over again and watching videos online, etc, etc. I even offered to pay for tutoring if he wanted, but he refused.
Ultimately I was trying to teach him that his grade was in his own hands and he needed to take responsibility for his final products. When subject selection forms came around for 8th grade my son opted to take Algebra again rather than moving on to Geometry with the rest of the peers because he felt that he had not learned anything (mind you, it would have placed him 2 subjects ahead of everyone once he hit High School). Unfortunately his school still had not hired another Algebra gifted teacher and he was stuck with her again, and the story repeated itself. Every quarter he came home with a “C” on his report card and insisting that he wasn’t learning anything. I would later find out that his teacher had been an online college math teacher before she was hired to teach middle school for the public school system. I will forever regret having my son take that class with that teacher for two years. Not only did he walk into high school with his GPA ruined, but as an engineering major he will continue to struggle with math because he did not learn the fundamentals he would need for the rest of high school and college. (As of this moment he is taking the class once again, online, in an attempt to forgive the “C” to improve his GPA.)
Three years ago, when my youngest entered 4th grade he was fortunate enough to have his 2nd grade teacher again. In her class he had excelled in all subjects and she even recommended that he be tested for gifted placement. But when 4th grade got started, suddenly his reading reports started plummeting. Immediately she recognized that something was not right and became concerned. We started paying closer attention to him and came up with a course of action to help him, but soon his other grades started slipping and now I was seriously concerned. This was a child that had been getting straight A’s, had no behavioral problems, was an independent learner, and who was reading three grade levels above his age norm, therefore, none of it made sense. That’s when I discovered that his classroom was what is called an “inclusion class”. For those of you who do not know, an inclusion class is a class that has special education children in the same class with regular students. An inclusion class often times is much larger than a normal class with anywhere between 30-40 students and quite a few special ed students with “problems” ranging from learning disabilities, autism, to ADHD, with some students on meds, and others not. An inclusion class will always have a SPED teacher who works specifically with the special ed students, and for this and budget reasons, the class tends to be larger, rather than smaller, as in gifted classes where most of the funding is pumped.
I cannot speak to my sons instruction or experience with special ed students, and I cannot speak to the dynamics of functionality within the classroom as I never observed it, however, I can speak to what my son would say when he would come home from school. Every day he would express his discomfort in the class, the strangeness of many of the students, the lack of attention he was receiving, and the descriptiveness caused by certain students that slowed down the learning process. I am not going to sit here and criticize, or agree or disagree with inclusion classrooms. I have substituted in these classes, and I can say that the teachers who do work in these settings, are absolutely amazing, and patient, and I commend them for getting through the year. I will, however, say that inclusion classrooms are not conducive environments for all learners, my son being one of them.
As a result of his inability to function and succeed in this environment, I made it very clear to the administration that I wanted him pulled out of the class and placed in another, and that I would not accept any other option. Of course, they weren’t too fond of this idea and wanted to persuade me to leave him in the class, as it was already December, FCAT testing was around the corner and they were concerned with how it would affect him psychologically to move into a new class halfway into the school year. As public school parents, we have to advocate for our children, and we have a lot more say than most of us think we do. I know my children better than anyone else, and I knew if my son stayed in that class, it would be detrimental to his learning. So, when the kids went back to school in January after the winter break, my son was placed in a new class, with yet another amazing teacher who eased the transition for him, and I am forever grateful to her for nurturing him back to “learning” life.
This year I found myself in yet another situation with my youngest son who is now in 7th grade advanced classes. For the most part he is an A/B student and has never disrespected a teacher or gotten in serious trouble (other than mooning the kids on the bus early on this year). From the onset of the school year he began complaining about his civics teacher, claiming that she wasn’t teaching them anything, he wasn’t learning and that everyone was always talking and fooling around in class. From the beginning I gave him my “sometimes we don’t like our teachers” speech and told him he needed to do what he had to do to get a good grade in the class regardless of whether or not he liked her, or felt she was a good teacher. Besides, it’s middle school, he has a different teacher for every subject, so dealing with her two or three times a week for a few hours, is not that big of a deal. Not a week would go by where he didn’t come home and tell me a story of one of his friends getting a detention or a referral to the office. Honestly, I had a feeling that eventually his ticket would be up and he would come home with one from her as well.
And sure enough, at the start of the third quarter he came home with a detention for “laughing in class”. Seriously? It seemed a bit ridiculous. I mean, who gives detentions for laughing? If laughing has become such a disruption in your class, then it would seem to me that your classroom management skills should be reevaluated, but that’s just my opinion. In any case, I figured the detention was enough of a punishment and simply reminded him that if he got another one, he and I would have a problem.
Fortunately, there wasn’t any more problems, that is until a week ago. It was a Friday and I was substituting middle school at his school. I was getting ready to go to lunch and my son was with me telling me about an incident that had occurred in his civics class when there she was. His civics teacher walked into the classroom and was making her way towards me. Instinct told me that what I was about to hear wasn’t going to be good and embarrassment started kicking in. If you’re a parent, you can relate to that embarrassing feeling you get when you’re kid has done something wrong. And it’s not because they did something wrong, but rather because it’s a reflection of your parenting abilities. If your kid fucks up, it’s because you suck at being a parent. At least that’s the way everyone sees it.
So there she was standing in front of me, with her hand outstretched and a fake smile splattered on her face, “Hi, I’m Ms. T…., Aaron’s Civics teacher. You’re his mom right?”(obviously she’s oblivious to the fact that we’ve met in the past.)
“Yes, yes I am. How are you?” I shook her hand, gave it a firm squeeze and smiled as warmly as I could while thinking, “what the fuck did he do??”
At that point she turned to my son and asked him if he was proud of how he did on his quiz and the answers he had provided. I looked at my son who was defiantly nodding his head. “Yup,” he answered almost arrogantly and it took me aback. Suddenly I felt extremely uncomfortable as a heavy blanket of tension hung over us threatening to suffocate. I could almost taste the dislike and the lack of respect my that was spewing from my son’s aura. I can honestly say that I have never seen my son react so indifferently to another human being and with such disdain. It was as if this woman had at some point inflicted severe physical pain on him. Finally, I turned to her and asked her if she could provide me with a copy of the test. “Oh yes, I can give you the test itself. Come with me to my classroom.”
As I followed her to her classroom, I felt like I was the one who had done something wrong and was on my way to be punished. She handed the quiz to me and I looked down at it almost in fear of what I was about to read, and I had good reason to be afraid. Another wave of embarrassment washed over….but I’ll allow his answers to speak for themselves.
Undeniably you are all laughing at his responses. Shit, I thought they were hilarious. But of course, as a good parent, I can not condone these type of jackass responses. It’s obvious that he was unprepared for this quiz, and even though my 16 year old insists that at least he didn’t leave the answers blank, this is unacceptable.
The school year is almost over, and frankly I’m done with the drama from this class and this teacher. Don’t be mistaken, his actions did not go unpunished. I warned him that I would come up with just as creative of a punishment as his answers were to the questions on the quiz, and that I would embarrass him as much as he embarrassed me. So with the assistance of my Marine friend, we took a pair of scissors and cut a path through the right side of his hair, chopped up his bangs a bit, and I sent him to school like that. (Despite the fact that my children are military brats, they both love to have long hair, so having a fade, is not my son’s idea of a good look.)
At the end of the day, regardless of how crappy some teachers may be, and how some teachers are negatively impacting our children’s’ learning experiences and forever damaging the course they may take in life with their education, parents have the responsibility of instilling the value of education in their own children. If you don’t show your kids that you care about their education, then they aren’t going to care about their education. As parents we have to empower our children and make them realize that their performance will carry with them throughout their academic years, opening or closing doors of opportunities. Whether they like their teacher or not, it doesn’t matter; being a jackass will not get them ahead in school, so they still need to do well.
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