Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Student Accountability: the real problem with education

Eventually, any attempt on my part to hold students accountable, put a lump in my throat.
"Oh God....please ...let's not have a parent complaint."

I still recall watching a student with good skills start to sink as she began to socialize more and more.  I gave her a chance to get extra credit by doing some illustrations that depicted the dress of women in medieval society.  I received a few hastily drawn pictures of women wearing gowns.  Hmmmm they were basically the same picture and the details were almost nonexistent.  I handed it back with a 7 on it.  (7 points were a gift).  I told her I was sorry but that was the best I could do considering the quality of what I had in hand.

A few days I was told there were allegations of improper conduct against me.  Huh?  I scanned my memory for slips of the tongue, an incidental moment of contact with a kid,....

This girl's mother had called the school.  She alleged I sang love songs to girls, told dirty jokes, and showed my profile on a dating site.  I was interviewed by the principal who had a meeting with some of these girls regarding my behavior.

I admit I made some lapses in judgement but the insinuation was that I was somehow interested in something sexual with a 13 year old student: something abhorrent to me.  I admitted I played guitar and sang silly songs to liven up the class.  These were not "love songs"  I had sung.  The kids laughed.  How could they take them seriously as love songs.  The joke-  made the mistake of adopting a joke I had heard about a stranded salesman who has to sleep with the farmer's daughter.  It ends with a demonstration of paper clips that land within an inch of each other.  Was it impulsive and stupid on my part to tell it?  Definitely. Was there more stupidity on my part? Yes.  I often ate my lunch in my room and these same girls had come by and were chatting.  I showed them my dating profile because there was a picture of me with a baby meerkat on my shoulder.  I thought they would like it.

Maybe some of you are saying anyone with such poor judgement shouldn't be in a classroom.  I admit that I am extroverted and somewhat impulsive.  Does this make me a pedophile?  No.  I thought of myself as safe from such comparisons.  When had these incidents occurred? Over a month before the accusations were made.  So the spark that ignited this was a low grade on a project that probably took this student 10 minutes.  I can't tell you how terrible the next 3 months were for me.  My principal took my admission to these accusations and twisted them to make my transgressions look worse.  Yes... I sang love songs to girls and told sexual jokes.  Why had I been so impulsive?

I can't help but feel that some of it is due to trying to manage a large group of adolescents who often don't want to be there.  I often had to act very quickly to quell some hotspot in the classroom or move the activity to something else when it wasn't going the way I thought it should. Perhaps what I did does disqualify me from being a teacher.  But it is a separate issue from the mean spirited accusations that came my way.  My principal actually reprimanded me for sexual harassment, but that's another story for another time.

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