Sunday, February 24, 2008

Old School

I'm going to try to get fired up here, folks. I sure was this morning when I read this dumb editorial! Aaron always asks why I read them's obviously because I like to argue. And be right. But after attending church this morning (and having tea, not coffee!) I find myself too at peace to get really riled up. Let's see how I do anyway.

THIS editorial happened to be by the Editorial Page Editor, which makes me REALLY angry that it was written. Zaleski seems to be type of person who says things like, "WE didn't have these car seats, and WE were just fine...", "Lead paint never hurt US!" and equally crazy things. (I always think...sure, it didn't hurt YOU...but what about all the others who aren't here to say that?)

I'm going to assume that he wasn't really seriously telling "bright young people: avoid teaching in public schools." I'm hoping he was being dramatic. Because if he wasn't...I don't think the public schools of ND need a person of (somewhat) authority to be pointing out that there are better places to be employed. And schools in general definitely don't need to have bright young people discouraged from the profession. It's not a career folks automatically gravitate towards...unless they are born to be teachers, as I like to think I am. So I may be a bit biased in the rest of this post.

Zaleski cites an incident (article here) locally where a Spanish teacher "shoved, hit or pushed" a student. The teacher was put on leave and then resigned. This SAME TEACHER (in 2003) had also mooned her track team to get them to smile for a photo. In my own knowledge of the situation, those two incidents by the same teacher show a lack of judgement.

Also, I had the opportunity to talk to someone this weekend that knew much more of the situation than the Forum published. She said the resignation was a good thing for the district (her personnel file has been expunged, implying that there was something bad in it...), and was necessary for the teacher to keep her teaching license...because she WOULD HAVE been fired, and then lost it. So watch out for teachers mooning students at a school near you.

Zaleski then goes on to tell how three of his best teachers were "disciplinarians" who used methods that would be firing offenses now. Great for him. This fact does not mean that good teachers hit their students. It means he was lucky in those particular teachers.

However, here is the great fallacy: Discipline DOES NOT MEAN getting physical. Saying "discipline a student, get fired" is just as ridiculous as saying "discipline your child, get reported". Yes, spanking is a FORM of discipline that I occasionally use, but it's not the ONLY form. Time outs work just as well for seniors in high school as they do for pre-schoolers. I just called them "Go to the hallway." Or the office, for that matter. A "great disciplinarian" could just a likely be the teacher who never has to touch a student, or even raise her voice. I've seen many of them.

Zaleski also implies that it is IMPOSSIBLE to keep order without getting physical. Whatever. Either he thinks that public schools are running wild with lack of order, or he thinks that EVERY teachers is hitting their students. He needs to realize that our society has changed: Parent are more worried about what their kids think of them than what other adults think of their kids, and everyone has gotten more litigious. Teachers have had to change their methods, and I don't think that corporal punishment was a big loss to the system. Kids scared of getting hit don't concentrate well, unless its on keeping out of the teacher's way.

To me, hitting a student (or, like a music teacher of mine, throwing something...) shows that you don't have control of YOURSELF, not the classroom. It shows a lack of swearing too much shows that you don't have a large enough vocabulary to express yourself properly.

By the way, while student teaching I DID slam a book on three consecutive desks...because the 10th graders were sleeping. They weren't happy about it, but I didn't hear from parents, either. I have also touched or held students on the shoulder, and never heard a word about it. Holding a kid up against a locker? I don't think I'd want ANY adult doing that to my kid. No matter what the kid did. THE PARENT can deal with that...during their suspension.

1 comment:

Noel said...

A little bit of editing and your blog piece could get sent to the Forum ;-)

There are two issues: one is the particular teacher who has shown a lack of judgement on some number of occasions.

The other is that some of us are from a time when STUDENTS used paper cutters without annual training films, a broken mercury thermometer didn't result in buildings being evacuated and HAZMAT being called, and some teachers effectively use corporal punishment. It was a less safe time, but the bulk of us got through OK.

Society changes with time. The non-sequitor in the editorial was in concluding people shouldn't go into public education at the very time our economic well being depends on an increasingly well educated work force. To Z.'s point, though, teachers should not have to be on pins and needles about carrying out their jobs which includes getting students' attention in reasonable ways.

-- Noel, from the Minneapolis airport where his 10:25 PM flight departure is now 11:45 :-(