Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sound Off

I am sooo tired, but can't go to bed without a small rant.

Mitch got the standardized test scores back for his class yesterday. They have the scores, but they also put on there the percentile ranking for each student in each subject area, as compares with the rest of the students taking that test across the nation. It was devastating to hear. Many of his kids ranked in less than 10% in multiple subject areas. I heard him say many times 1% or 2% even. Can you imagine? His class is made up of students that perform worse than 99% of students in the United States in certain areas!

Well, you know how I feel about statistics. (If not, refresh your memory here.) In this case, however, I feel that the numbers are deadening. It is heartbreaking. He read me a lab report that a student wrote. (By the way, he rarely, if ever, shares any names with me.) There was not a single coherent thought in the report. Zero complete sentences. The spelling was horrible (he spelled the words for me) and there were not even any phrases that I could understand. It was gibberish. The saddest part: it was not even an ESL student. :(

Now, this next part is my interpretation from what Mitch told me. I really don't want you to assume that this is exactly how it happened. It is poor journalism at best, and is truly a highly-opinionated "sound off."

To top matters off, Mitch was paid a visit by his assistant principal today. He had just given the class instructions to sharpen their pencils, take out their books, and get ready for class. He turned his back to assist the select students who would be giving the morning announcements (each class takes a turn giving announcements for a week), and in walked to the principal to see the pandemonium that was breaking out behind Mitch's back. It was all in a very short time frame. She criticized Mitch for not providing structure for his class. She spent over an hour and a half today "instructing" Mitch how to manage his classroom. Never mind that he has been a teacher for 7 years!!! And an excellent one at that! She told him how he needed to keep these kids "under his thumb" and that he sometimes needed to "be in their face" telling them what to do. I asked if he even had a chance to defend himself (as my own emotional temperature was rising). He said yes, but was met with plenty of sugar-coated talk, like "well, you need to get a hobby and relax at least twice a week after school." What?!? Even worse, she is going to be stopping by to provide more advice and assistance over the next two weeks. Duh. Here was the real clincher...Mitch began mentioning specific student names and behavior issues. The principal was like "He (or she) is in your class?" "Oh, him too?" "You have an inclusion class?" "Wow. They are feeding off each other." It was like she came in and attacked him, accusing him of some fault, and she really didn't even understand what was going on in there. He had kids fighting today and one kid even kicked him. They carry "conduct cards" and this is supposed to be some sort of incentive. The kids get marks on their cards and if they have marks, then they are not able to participate in privileged clubs such as "the principal's club." Or something like that. This is an ineffective and outdated method of discipline. Positive reinforcement is obviously not the answer for this class of students. They have so many marks on their cards that it doesn't even matter to them any more. Yet his boss's advice was to really drum up the clubs. Right. He mentioned the workbooks to her (or lack of workbooks) and she advised him to copy what he needs. Illegal copies. She says that the school district doesn't get enough money and can't supply all they need. (rolling my eyes). This is ridiculous!!! Can you tell I am angry for him? He mentioned that he will not yell at the students, get in their faces, or anything like that. He said that the children have become desensitized to this form of "management" and it is not beneficial. She responded, "Well, I suppose there are some who use those methods, but there are others who are soft spoken and handle their classes well." Mitch supposes there are maybe 2. I suppose that those teachers have "gifted and talented" students and that no one in this district is ready to accept blame for the problems that are going on.

On the flip side, I recognize many of my own faults here. I would not fare much better than any other teacher in this school. At home, with my amazing kids, I am sometimes reduced to yelling as a form of "classroom management." Mitch overheard me criticizing Micah for something he did to Eden. I said to Micah, "That makes twice you have done that. I said to stop." Mitch asked me, "So what's the consequence?" Fair question. I said I didn't have one. I supposed I could take the item away, but that would lead to more yelling from Micah who would tell me just how mean and unloving I am, etc etc. This is just one example, and the big issue is the questioning of my authority and how I dole out consequences. So Mitch says we will have some things to work on when we get back together. =) How I can't wait for that day!! I asked him if he would even have anything left at the end of the day to give to us. If he would be able to come home after dealing with the same stuff (only on a much larger scale) at school all day. He said he thinks it will be a relief in some ways. I hope so!

In other news, my house is clean again. That can only mean one thing: a showing. Yay! We have a showing scheduled for tomorrow morning (Friday). We are also having TWO open houses this weekend on Saturday and on Sunday. I'm not sure what all the hullabaloo is about, but I'll take it! Let's get a move on!!

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