Monday, July 31, 2017

Cruel to be kind?

I think it’s clear that teachers must be awful people.

Take my friend Amy.  She teaches a remediation class for students who are seniors and who need to pass previous year’s end of course exams.  It’s not a job for the faint of heart, or even the stout of heart, or generally anyone who has a heart at all.  Most of these students have learning disabilities, serious behavior problems or absolutely don’t care at all.  The fact that they got to their senior year is baffling. 

Amy cares about them, a LOT.  She goes to all the senior events at school and games and tries to encourage each of them.  She also knows her stuff, since she has a master’s degree and teaches remedial English at a nearby college as well.  Plus, she works super-hard to try and get each student to understand the material, but she still holds them to high standards. 

This makes her an awful person.  Are you following me? 

She has a co-teacher* who works with her during one of her class periods.  This co-teacher told her that she needed to “search her heart” and really look at “what kind of teacher” she is, because she failed a student who is classified as special ed.

Why would she fail him?  The student, whom we'll call Mr. Wizard, decided to plagiarize a poem he found online, rather than write one of his own.  This comes after weeks of review and practice assignments, none of which he completed.  Amy confronted him about it.  Mr. Wizard insisted he wrote it himself; however, when confronted with the evidence, he claimed he didn’t know they couldn’t use an already written poem.  Amy contacted his mother and told her that he was going to fail for the term and why.  This isn’t news to the mom.  Her kid already failed last semester because he wouldn’t do any of the work.  Mom is fed up with Mr. Wizard and wants to teach him a lesson.

The co-teacher says she’s unfair.  He reported her to the principal for “not assisting” the student in boosting his grade.  The principal said she needed to give him another chance to pass, even though in most districts, plagiarism is an automatic F with no makeups.  This is when Amy found out that the report of her “unfairness” came from the co-teacher.

She confronted him.  Co-teacher told her basically that she’s unfit to teach because she’s failing kids with learning disabilities.  Amy wisely decided to hash this out with him in front of an administrator.  Our assistant principal had them come into the office, where said co-teacher made his complaints.  Amy asked, “What are you doing to prevent them from failing?  I’m sorry, but I don’t see you being proactive and helping them at all, even though that's your job.  Generally you sit in the back of the room and ignore them and work on your computer.  That's if you even show up for class."

CT fired back that this was HER fault because she doesn’t grade fast enough.  Plus, she’s teaching way over these kids’ heads.  When she countered that she’s teaching at an 8th grade level (remember, these are seniors she’s teaching), he replied that the level was still too high, and that her expectations were "abusive."

"Abusive expectations?"  That's a new one.  I can't wait to use that phrase in class.  Trust me, it'll be a thing soon enough.

The good news is that the principal is lazy and never tried to follow up on her directive or talk to Amy about what happened later.  The better news is that the co-teacher decided that he couldn't, "in good conscience", sit in Amy's class again and see her try to teach her students.  The even better news is that an administrator came looking for him every day for a week, and since he wasn't in class where he was supposed to be, he was fired.  EVEN BETTER - Mr. Wizard refused to do the new assignment and failed anyway.

But the BEST news of all is that despite all she went through, Amy still tried to get her students to work at grade level.

This, naturally, means that she's still an awful person.

*Co-teacher - someone who is supposed to be a help or resource in a class that has a high population of special ed students.  Amy's co-teacher was the golf coach who was mad that he had to spend any time in a classroom.