Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Steve Bell
A teacher accused of molesting a student.  Notice that he mentions that the victim/ witness went from saying there was nothing provocative in what he did, to turning him into some sort of monster in a later interview.  I believe that children, in particular, are more prone to this inconsistent and hyperbolic behavior, because they want to please certain adults.  After they see all the attention that greets some admission that the teacher did something inappropriate, they may feel pressure to enhance their version of things.  After all, it might feel like they are crying "wolf" if after weeks of cps and police interviews, they think "well....I'm not too sure that the events that occurred were that egregious.

Sean Lanigan

a disgruntled student's accusations create hell for him and his family and he is still left having to pay lawyers fees although he is not guilty.  And for the student? consequences.

lannigan acquitted

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

video in the classroom

Read the letter on the teacher who is now in hot water despite not being informed that there was school policy against filming.

Are we justifying cheating?

I bought Jean Twenge's book, "The Narcissism Epidemic," a few years back as I couldn't help but notice that more of my students seemed self absorbed, shallow and entitled.  It started to feel like I was no longer in my own country.  The following article posits the question of whether illegal acts such as cheating on SATs for money reflects on current changes in our values in light of the fact that many of those viewing from the sidelines seem to believe such behavior is tolerable.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Student inventor projects

Students had over 2 days to research an assigned inventor for an end of the year presentation.  I decided to film their presentations and when many were not ready on time, I decided to begin filming, believing that it might prompt some of the laggards to get it together.  This was the last full day I ever worked.

As class ended, the same girl who had accused me of calling a kid "fat," the year before, made a beeline for the door.  The principal called down to tell me I was not supposed to be filming kids without permission.  I had never thought twice about it, and had been using the camera for years. The girl and her mother came by with the principal after school and that was the first inkling I got that I was being accused of filming chests.  These were kids who were not perceptive enough to know that the confederacy wore gray after studying the Civil War for a month, BUT they had no problem discerning that their aging, unmarried teacher was some sort of sexual predator and was filming their "training bra" chests. 

The next day, I was given a list of parents to call and managed to reach one.

By lunch that day I asked by my principal to give up my keys and would be placed on administrative leave.  The director of HR waited the entire Summer break before letting me know that there were 5 complaints.  The student(s) claimed I 1. Did not stop filming them even though I was told by them that I did not have permission 2. That I did not tell them why I was filming them but, instead, just pulled the camera out and began to film 3. That I was trying to film their chests.  He concluded by saying I had done the "exact opposite" of my stated purpose as a teacher.  Furthermore, I had a number of parents who, now, did not want their children in my class for the upcoming year.  Interesting how the gossip gets around. (see below).

I was told the students felt "uncomfortable."  Really?  Some of them felt comfortable enough to sit there and lie and obfuscate right in front of the camera.  One of them felt comfortable enough to bring up her grade and then not even attend to the "hardly started" poster she'd had days to work on.  Then she felt "comfortable" enough to go to the back and chat rather than getting the book as I asked.

 She even felt "comfortable" enough to have her irresponsible mother threaten me with the police.

 This was the same mother who kept her kid out of school for a week during the May Fair so she could groom her horse.  Then I was the bad guy for trying to get this uncooperative, entitled child caught up on her return.

Not surprisingly, 3 years later, a 15 minute search of some twitter accounts turned up this:

student inventor projects 2

I was placed on administrative leave the following day for doing this.  There were 5 parent complaints.  My union appointed lawyer was little help.  The word of the students (guess which ones?) were taken at face value while my defense was ignored. Some parents were so rabid about this video that the district went to the local police.   Typical of the district kangaroo courts where admin plays judge and jury and often have a vested interest in a teacher leaving.


There any number of reasons a teacher might need to vent in this day and age:  apathetic students, low prestige and pay, being overworked, too much red tape, etc.  This blog was created to chronicle the various ways that students, parents and school administrators have rendered many teachers helpless in the face of unfounded accusations.  I left my position as a junior high school teacher two years ago as I could no longer take it.

The administration uses the necessity of investigating each and every complaint as a wedge to drive the teacher out.  And why not?  The system is largely broken and operates as a baby sitting service where overworked administrators spend time putting out fires.  What employee wants to spend more time in this disagreeable situation?

I would like to think some changes in policy can be made where unsubstantiated, vindictive and vexatious complaints against teachers are minimized.  Under the present system, students and parents can accuse all they want with next to no consequences for false claims. Furthermore, the emphasis on grades has rendered the real reason for school, less important.  Many indulgent parents want to believe their child and also have an axe to grind when memories of their own dislike for school/ teachers comes up.  In my twenty years in education,  I see things getting worse all the time.  Memories of my last year are little more than a recurring string of visits to the principal's office following hearsay from some disgruntled pupil who didn't expect anything lower than a B- for showing up, and received a C instead.

One could argue that the sad state of our educational system is in part, due to the often hidden and nuanced dynamics where today's student often hopes to maximize their grade while keeping energy / time expenditures to a minimum.

So what is the usual root for complaints?   low grades or being disciplined: the student's failure to meet expectations.

Most complaints against me started with a pushback after the above mentioned occurred.  Sometimes the complaint/s came months after I had done something but now the student had a low grade.  Teachers realize that politics is a part of the game they must play but, unfortunately, politics supersede academics in many places.  The attempt to head off any sort of retaliation by students and parents pushes teachers to:

1. inflate grades   
2. overlook disruptive or unproductive behavior 
3. dumb down lessons (frustration creates disruption)
4. behave as if teaching is a popularity contest rather than teaching. 

Almost every teacher surmises that whether or not students are learning, keeping their job is a matter of keeping complaints to a minimum.  Many principals, who were never good students to begin with, make judgements about teachers based on complaints rather than assessing them on their ability to teach. What we have increasingly is an attempt to create the illusion of learning rather than the real thing so that when an administrator walks by the door, the kids are quietly engaged in some activity.  The tendency to spoon feed students the answers keeps kids on task but it also keeps them from pushing themselves and keeps their threshold for dealing with frustration low.

I would suggest that posters not use their real names or mention the names of students, but getting the school's name, or geographical  location might be helpful.  A teacher wishing to contribute should enter 1. the events prompting the accusation, 2. possible motives behind the allegations 3. steps the administration took to resolve the issue 4. lessons learned, questions, etc.  I will close this introduction by saying that I started my career with a masters degree, pride and idealism.  By the time it ended I felt like I was practically powerless in the face of such stacked odds.  I can't be only one to experience this.