Confessions of a "BAD" Teacher

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by teacherman1, Jan 11, 2014.

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  1. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Jan 11, 2014

    The book, written by John Owens (2013) is based on his experiences in a NY inner city High School. This article (basically a resignation letter) appeared in 2011 and actually seems to have done some good. The inept and corrupt administrators were "pulled out" soon after it appeared:http://www.salon.com/2011/08/29/confessions_of_a_bad_teacher/

    This is from the article:


    ".....And, according to my personnel file at the New York City Department of Education, I was “unprofessional,” “insubordinate” and “culturally insensitive.”

    In other words, I was a bad teacher.

    From Michael Bloomberg to Bill Gates to hedge-fund-enriched charter school backers, the problem with our schools is bad teachers. With salaries sometimes surpassing $100,000, summers off and “job for life” tenure, it’s easy to believe that our schools are facing a bed-bug-caliber infestation of bad teachers.

    Amid all of this, I thought I could do some good. I am a middle-aged white guy from the suburbs, but I’m not lazy. I’m not crazy. I’m good with kids, and I love literature.

    During a three-decade career as a writer, editor and corporate executive, I traveled to more than 100 countries, met heads of state, and picked up wisdom that I thought was worth sharing. When I left publishing, I was senior vice president/group editorial director at Hachette Filipacchi Media (the bulk of which was recently sold to Hearst Magazines). Now, I was determined to make an impact directly with kids in the classroom, and I set out for the South Bronx.

    Little did I know I was entering a system where all teachers are considered bad until proven otherwise. Also, from what I saw, each school’s principal has so much leeway that it’s easy for good management and honest evaluation to be crushed under the weight of Crazy Boss Syndrome. And, in my experience, the much-vaunted “data” and other measurements of student progress and teacher efficacy are far more arbitrary and manipulated than taxpayers and parents have been led to believe.

    If Mayor Bloomberg’s team is determined to get rid of “bad teachers,” they’ve succeeded on at least one count: They’ve gotten rid of this bad teacher. Join me on my short and unhappy experience in the New York City public schools.
    "

    :whistle:

    note: A nice feature of AMAZON now is the "Look Inside" option. If you're not sure about purchasing a book, you can read excerpts from it before you commit to buying. And this isn't just a page or two. There are some whole chapters here.
    Take a look:http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-B...onfessions+of+a+bad+teacher#reader_1402281005
     
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  3. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Interesting how teachers think it is the "admin" that is the problem, while "admin" think it is the teachers. Hmmm wonder if its both.....
     
  4. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Or neither.
     
  5. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Yeah, certainly a possibility.

    Although Admin was in quotes because I was referring to parents and corporate america, the non teachers cited.
     
  6. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Jan 11, 2014

    .....or the elephant in the room:unsure:

    POVERTY

    :whistle:
     
  7. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Far from the Elephant in the room.

    Certainly part of the equation..far from the whole thing.
     
  8. gr3teacher

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    I'd argue it is the whole thing, or at least the biggest by a huge margin. Unless by some sad coincidence, high-poverty schools just happen to attract the worst teachers and worst administration.

    And assuming the final part of the article is true, about the positive letter in his file, I'd say evidence exists that the teacher cited in the article probably wasn't the problem.
     
  9. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    So every classroom in every high poverty school is failing? Is that your stance?
     
  10. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    And a few other "parrts of the equation" that have been added to the mix just since I was in High School in the 1960's:

    * Cell phones
    * Drugs
    * Divorce & family break-up
    *Video Games & Computers ( How do teachers match the entertainment value of these?)

    :whistle:
     
  11. gr3teacher

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    No, I expect most of those classrooms are doing the absolute best they can in the situation they are dealt.
     
  12. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    My personal experience is I can do better. I have so much to learn as a teacher and to improve on, that quite honestly I am part of the problem when students don't achieve.
     
  13. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    This is really the difference to me, you seem to imply that you have maxed out your capabilities and are on the top of your game. I just see that I have to get better at building relationships and a classroom culture. I have to become more efficient at engaging students. That myself as the teacher has to improve and has the room to improve.
     
  14. gr3teacher

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    Cool. On the other hand, I think I have room to grow, but I know that I am doing the absolute best job at this second that I can, and as my skills improve, I expect I'll do better. I'm not going to be beating myself up if my blind student with dyslexia-esque reading patterns isn't up to grade level by May though, nor did I consider myself the problem when, two years ago, I had a sixth grader with first grade math skills get a below-basic score on the math state test because I "only" got him up to between third and fourth grade math skills (depending on the topic).
     
  15. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Who said anything about beating oneself up? Such hyperbole.
     
  16. gr3teacher

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    You said you'd consider yourself part of the problem in that case. I don't have any intention of putting blame on myself for this student's inability to be at the same place as the rest of my class by June though. If she ends the year where she started, or if I know in my heart that I could have done things to help her but didn't, then sure.
     
  17. 2ndTimeAround

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    I think there is a point in an established teacher's career where she has very little room for improvement. Instead of concentrating on being "better," she should concentrate on being "different." That reflection and change for each year's unique set of challenges is important.

    Before I get too far ahead, I do not consider myself established and at the top of my game yet. I'm green enough to realize that I may not have enough experience yet to even recognize all of my deficencies.

    An example of what I was saying occured last month. A beginning teacher tried a new activity with her first period class. She was disappointed because she really thought it would be great. She had the same prep in the afternoon and was trying to figure out what she was going to do with that class instead. I asked her why she thought it didn't work. She didn't know. I told her that just because it did not work with one set of students did not mean it wouldn't work with another. Or the next year with yet another. If you think it is that good it is worth a couple of more tries. Revamp it. Explain it differently. try it with different students.

    One semester I had two of the same class back to back. What worked in one just did not work in the other all the time. I went back to older activities that I had ignored for years and those worked great for the second group. Not better, just different.
     
  18. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    This is where we are different.

    I do put the responsibility on myself to become a better teacher.

    When I look at my past classes I generally see 32 students who have the ability to be at grade level and 1-2 who have learning disabilities that I question whether they can be at grade level. I have never been able to get 32 students out of 34 to grade level. There are always a few who I think I could have done a better job with.

    I believe that with some students I haven't created the right relationship with, haven't designed the right sequence of activities..etc. I may not have the answers for those situations at that moment, but I absolutely believe that I can learn more about doing a better job at those examples. I may need to read and understand building student's self esteem better...etc.

    So while I may be doing the absolute best job at that moment, it is still my responsibility as a teacher to get better at those instances. I don't in anyway "beat myself up" over them, but I in no way think they are outside my realm as a teacher to get better at addressing.

    Edit: I have looked at past students and said "If I knew then, what I know now, I could have done a better job with that student." Even though, I did the best I could at that moment.
     
  19. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    2ndtimearound

    What you describe to me IS getting better. KNOWING what you described is making you a better teacher.
     
  20. 2ndTimeAround

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    No, it may be semantics, but if you are already at the stage where you KNOW to do this and are changing regularly according to your students' needs, you aren't getting better by doing the changing, you're just changing.
     
  21. gr3teacher

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    I think we're saying the same thing, just with a different emphasis. I'll admit there are areas where I need to improve, but that doesn't mean I'm part of the problem when a student two years behind leaves my room one year behind. At the risk of sounding overly arrogant, I've only ever had one student that didn't make a full year's progress, and I put most of the blame for that on the fact that he was essentially raising his kindergarten brother because mom was working two jobs, and he spent at least four hours a week in the clinic getting a much-needed nap.
     
  22. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Fair enough.

    I think I am just so far from being a teacher that can honestly say that "I have reached my end game" that this is a hard point of view for me to accept.
     
  23. 2ndTimeAround

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    I wish I could say this. I have no way of knowing how much growth my students make. In the past I have given pre-tests and post-tests to see if they made a significant amount of growth, but we don't have a scale to determine "year's worth" or such. I've been told that I am no longer allowed to administer post-tests.

    Growth is determined from either another subject's test (different discipline even) or from a general test in the subject from two years prior.

    My students' main obstacles are themselves. They actively choose to not participate because they have been trained from middle school and elementary school to not put forth effort. If you put forth effort you will get an A, B, C or D. Just a letter on a report card. If you don't work at all you'll get a D or an F. Still just a letter on a report card. Either way you'll get to move up with your classmates. By the time they get to me they do not remember what it is like to try at something.
     
  24. gr3teacher

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    Oof... that's tough. It's different at the elementary level though... we have to give a beginning and end of year writing assessment, we have to give beginning and end of year reading assessments (previously the DRA, this year the BAS), and give a BOY and EOY math test... this was tough during my special ed days, but I would usually give my kiddos portions of the test from multiple grade levels.
     
  25. gr3teacher

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    I'll also confess that... I honestly have no idea why in the world they'd expect you to use a test from two years before as your baseline. I mean... if they've taken a class in your discipline in between, obviously they've grown, and if they haven't taken a class in the discipline, it's fair to assume at least mild regression.
     
  26. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I think there's quite a leap between acknowledging that you can grow as a teacher and have students achieve better and more, and blaming teachers as the main problem that is causing the United States to fall behind other countries and for the overall lower quality of students at the end of the line.

    I'm certain that everyone feels that they can do better and strives to become better. That doesn't mean however that we are horrible teachers to begin with.
     
  27. 2ndTimeAround

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    And it is often a different subject that serves as a baseline. They'll use biology scores to determine chemistry growth a year later. Sometimes it is a different discipline. They used algebra scores to determine growth for biology before.

    How do you get students to take the assessments seriously if they aren't being graded for them? Last year my student's final exams couldn't hurt them, they could only help. So most of my A students blew the exam off. They already had an A so there was no point in even trying. Some of them were done in ten minutes. And their scores count against me in my evaluation.
     
  28. Go Blue!

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    Exactly. For the unmotivated student, there is no incentive to care about assessments that are not part of their grade. This is a huge issue we had with our MS taking the state exam.

    Every year, they ask us: what happens if we fail the MSA?
    Well, nothing really happens, because, technically, you can't fail.
    So, why should we care about passing the MSA?
    Well, poor scores reflect badly on you, our school and the subject-area teacher.
    The kids' response ... So? Maybe they will finally shut this place down or maybe that teacher will get fired!

    At the HS level, students are a bit more motivated to pass the state exam because they "need" to pass it to graduate. But, students know that if they don't pass it by October of their Senior year (the 3rd or 4th time they've taken the test); they can complete a project instead to meet the requirement. I've had kids tell me they were not going to take the test or report to the testing room on test day because they rather do the project.:eek: What can you do?
     
  29. Pashtun

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    There we go with hyperbole again. Never did I say teachers are horrible(though there are many). Never did I say teachers are the main problem.
     
  30. gr3teacher

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    If you had to rank problems... say, poverty, teachers, school-based administration, governmental-based administration, and non-poverty related social issues (including parents), how would you rank them?
     
  31. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    To be perfectly honest, I don't want to. I want to focus on what I have control of. So I want to focus on how I can better reach all of my students with the above issue you give.

    How can I better teach/reach my students with poverty issues, social issues, admin issues..etc.

    Eidt: so I guess my biggest issue with education right now is me.
     
  32. gr3teacher

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    That's fine on an individual level, but with teachers under attack the way they are, but the issues in the educational system aren't on an individual level. When politicians talk about our "educational system being broken (gag me)," they don't mean Pashtun, personally, is broken.
     
  33. Pashtun

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    Then I guess I will only focus on the individual level. And for the record, I don't in anyway feel under attack, certainly not from my administration or the government in California.
     
  34. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    So, this conversation seems to continue to resurface with many similar folks getting involved. I'm wondering what areas we still disagree with? Could anyone make a statement that they think the rest of us wouldn't agree with?

    The reason I ask is that I think we may be arguing many points that we probably, in reality, agree with. For example, is there anyone reading that thinks poverty doesn't significantly affect a child's educational experience?

    Let me give one a try:

    There are many (no specific #, but not insignificant # of) teachers across the country who could improve their behavior management strategies to the degree that it would make a significant impact in student achievement in their classrooms.

    Is this a point of disagreement?

    I'm thinking, for the sake of moving our ongoing conversation forward, identifying specific areas of agreement and disagreement may be helpful.
     
  35. RadiantBerg

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    Look at that little two-step there Pashtun.Gotta love it.
     
  36. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    There is no two step Radiant. I want to be a better teacher...so I prefer to focus on what I can control in the classroom and how I can better reach students with learning issues, social issues, poverty issues...etc.

    No two-step. I love teaching and I want to be better at it, so I choose to focus on how I can address issues within my classroom and school.
     
  37. joeschmoe

    joeschmoe Companion

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    The real elephant in the room are the parents. How many times do you sit in a conference with the admin, principal, and disobedient student drawing up a behavior contract. And you go over reasons why the kid is acting out. Didn't you just want to stand up and scream "BE A FKN BETTER PARENT!"

    Of course, if you ever accuse the parent of doing a bad job to their face, you risk losing your job which is ridiculous. It's taboo and that's why it's the elephant in the room.
     
  38. RadiantBerg

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    Pashtun, ATTACK!
     
  39. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    There are probably a herd of elephants in the room, and yes - some parents could do a better job. But, for every struggling student I've worked with that has a family that is unsupportive in some way, there's another student who has at least a decently supportive family.

    I'd also say that, in terms of why kids misbehave in the classroom, I do a lot of behavior plans, and seldom do I come across a child who misbehaves directly because of direct parental decisions. There are always a few that have parents who don't enforce rules or consequences, but usually there are a myriad of in-school and out-of-school variables - from neighborhood violence to a parent working 2 jobs and less available for homework support - that enter into the equation.

    That being said, I can definitely empathize with how frustrating it can be to work with families in a customer service-oriented manner when a family is disrespectful or not putting in effort, but I still have to be nice and courteous. I get that, for sure, and wish our educational system would be less inclined to throw teachers under the bus and bend over backwards to quell every parent concern, regardless of how trivial.
     
  40. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Honestly dude, you're being kind of rude.

    Can't we have a discussion (even if we disagree) where we don't mock each other?

    I don't agree with a lot of what Pashtun says (or maybe I do, we're kind of unclear on where everyone is disagreeing right now), but I can still hold an adult conversation with him.
     
  41. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    There are MANY issues that are effecting student learning in education right now. I choose to focus on what I can do in my classroom to improve the student learning situations with regards to social issues, poverty, admin..etc.

    Doesn't help me become a better teacher just saying it is a poverty issue...what can I do in my position to improve it.
     
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