Sunday, April 29, 2007

Good Teacher or Bathroom Bully?

How a teacher handles bathroom privileges tells a lot about a teacher. But asking that a teacher be fired for denying bathroom privileges is like asking that a lawyer be disbarred for--well--refusing to allow a client to go to the bathroom.

This behavior raises a question about whether a professional has adequate respect for those he serves, but it doesn't ANSWER that question.

The science teacher at Charles M. Goethe Middle School in Sacramento, California who earned a spot in the news in April 2007 sounds suspiciously like someone who does not have a handle on classroom management. The mother of student Michael Patterson, with the backing of the local NAACP, is demanding that a teacher be fired for making her son urinate in a bottle in the back of his science classroom rather than allowing him to go to the bathroom.

But before I judge the teacher, I'd like to know what exactly was going on in class when he refused to allow 14-year-old Michael Patterson to go to the bathroom. Was it a once-in-a-lifetime science demonstration? Or was it independent work time?

Many teachers are bathroom bullies. Some of them should be fired, others shouldn't.

Some bathroom-bully teachers are of limited intelligence and even more limited teaching ability and are impossible to rehabilitate. They should be fired. Some teachers are out-and-out racists. They usually reveal themselves as such only in off-guard moments. We must be careful before pinning the racist label on a teacher for a single action, but when a racist teacher is exposed, he or she should be given a chance at rehabilitation, and should be fired only if he or she continues to disobey the laws regarding equal treatment of all.

But there is another group of teachers who are basically good at what they do, and who happen to have a few blind spots.

This second group of bathroom-bully teachers are good enough teachers that they should be allowed to keep their jobs; they simply need some attention from the school administration. Ideally, they would receive professional counseling to help them deal with their demons so they wouldn't bully kids. Most teachers of this type have a handful of students they don't like, and these children are the targets of their abusive tactics. If the teacher can't grow up and behave more maturely toward all the children in his or her care, then there is a another alternative for dealing with the situation. The principal should handle the problem by protecting targeted kids, transferring them to another class or giving the teacher specific instructions on how to show adequate respect to that child.

Bathroom privileges are not at the top of the list of important school issues. At the top of the list should be the teacher's basic respect and fairness toward his or her students, and the teacher's ability to expand the knowledge and understanding of his or her students. Bathroom bullying simply raises a warning flag.

The Serious Issues Behind Bathroom Bullying

Many teachers are unmoveable in their negative attitudes towards bathroom privileges for students, and toward just about any other privilege for students. In fact, these teachers are unmoveable in their opposition to the idea that education is the main goal of teaching.

The main goal, they believe, is to teach kids who's in charge.

If Student A does his homework, but gets failing grades on tests, while Student B fails to do his homework, but scores 100% on tests, what will these teachers do?

In many cases, they will give Student A a higher grade than Student B. Student B is likely to drop out. Student A will get a worthless diploma. Is it any wonder our schools are failing?

But these rigid teachers don't just cause problems within their classrooms. They also cause many problems in their schools. One reason is that the teachers union consists largely of just this type of teacher. In some districts, there are innovative teachers who challenge this control, but these districts are rare. My union president boasted to me that her students at Castle Park Elementary in Chula Vista were fond of the saying AVOID BOYD. She thought it was something to be proud of. Needless to say, Gina Boyd supported abusive teachers. During her presidency, four above-average teachers were forced out of Castle Park Elementary in a period of six years.

One thing you can count on the California Teachers Association to do is to back up an abusive teacher, no matter how cruel or incompetent that teacher might be, when a parent or child complains about the teacher.

I hope Michael Patterson's mom (see next post) will be able to start a discussion and an investigation into bathroom rules at her son's middle school. It's something that should be done at every school. And then the discussion needs to be expanded. Schools shouldn't be havens for Little Ceasars. They should be places where children and education come first.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Right-wing special interests in schools

Since we’ve all come to accept that our government is for sale, I suppose it's unrealistic to expect the public to rush out and demand that education be cleaned up.

Perhaps we need to clean up government before we can clean up education.

We need to take money out of political campaigns, and politics out of schools. It’s a joke to say that political contributions don’t result in legislative and administrative decisions to benefit contributors. We have huge amounts of taxpayer money flowing into schools, and we have entrenched interests, both left-wing and right-wing, that want to channel that money, and the power that accompanies it, to themselves and their friends.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Is all the hoopla about Reading First just self-serving baloney?

The government is letting READING FIRST evaluate its own reading program! In fact, it's paying them to do it!

The Associated Press writes:

"A billion-dollar- a-year federal reading program that ran into scathing criticism over conflicts of interest now has a new one: The government contractor that set up the program for the Education Department is also part of the team hired to evaluate it. Reading First -- part of President Bush's signature No Child Left Behind education law -- has been under scrutiny following a string of federal reports that found it rife with conflicts of interest and mismanagement. The program provides intense reading help to low-income children in the early elementary grades. RMC Research Corp. was the contractor hired to establish and implement the program starting in 2002, under three contracts worth about $40 million. Recently, the Department of Education inspector general reported that RMC failed to keep the program free of conflicts of interest. For example, RMC did not screen subcontractors for relationships with publishers of reading programs."

See full article: