Hypocrites and Heroes
Kind of a boring and cryptic title for a post….especially since through all of the whirlwind political happenings of the past six months, I couldn’t manage to post one piece. There were props 30 and 32, Deasy’s bullshit evaluation system -that was thankfully watered down- and of course the horrendous killings of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut which oddly enough, put me at odds with some social justice teachers and former teachers in a heated Facebook exchange in which I was accused of being racist, uncaring and a crappy teacher to boot. It all began when complaints arose that this was all about race and that because the shooter was white, the rampage was attributed to mental illness. I pointed out that 20 kids were dead and this really wasn’t about race. I also mentioned in the lengthy exchange that I do think that white males in rural and suburban areas who have had conflicts with the schools should be profiled the same way someone walking down Florence with 26th street gang tattoos should also logically be profiled. I guess that is controversial and incendiary but to me it seems like common sense.
What was my crime or in this case -crimes plural? Pointing out that often urban communities don’t rise up in the face of gang violence when the young are killing each other but will become incensed at a police shooting. I also suggested that urban students need to take more responsibility for their own lives when it comes to school and that parents need to go the extra distance as well. In addition to the racism and ineffective teacher accusations, I was also accused of being elitist. Hey, I’ve only taught in South L.A. for 10 years, live in Tujunga and bought my first brand new car 6 years ago, but I guess it doesn’t matter. It made me realize that hypocrites and bullies exist within our own ranks. And it was suggested somewhat nefariously that I shouldn’t be allowed to teach in South LA because I don’t have the “correct” opinions. They claimed that the idea of “personal responsibility” is a myth perpetrated by those in the 1%. Guess what? It still doesn’t absolve me of getting to work on time or absolve my students who stroll in 1/2 hour late and then immediately demand “their work,” which they will promptly copy from a classmate and then act shocked when I tell them, no you cannot make up the quiz. As I pointed out to the saintly teachers who think I am the devil, we all have to take care of our business.
Believe me, I have plenty of criticism for middle and upper class areas and their public schools but also some admiration. They work overtime to make sure they don’t take kids with low test scores so giving urban parents “choice” in their schools wouldn’t work because as a school principal in an API 9 school near Riverside declared, his school was booked solid- no room at the inn. Same story in the Las Virgenes School District near Calabasas. But suburban teachers also have better working conditions, they stay in the same classroom for 20 years and their districts aren’t forcing them to try out various fads and schemes. They let teachers teach- and get out of the way. They also support teachers who might have controversial opinions. One of my mentor teachers, Joan Malkin who was a teacher of the year and taught in Irvine Unified for years pissed off one of her conservative, evangelical Christian government students with her more progressive opinions. The administration backed her up
The problem with some of the social justice types in our union is that they- like the Rhee style reformers- buy into the myth of miracle teachers and that obviously, my students didn’t come prepared with basic supplies or homework because I can’t “relate to kids in south LA” and I obviously don’t know how to do my job. But somehow they do manage to show up with their Flaming Hot Cheetos, bought at the same stores where pencils are available. One went on to extoll all the fabulous things her 3rd graders in East LA could do just to prove her saintliness and my incompetence. I also teach high school students who don’t know how many states are in the union or who the Vice President is- big difference. Learning is hard work–blood, sweat, tears and perseverance.
Some of the biggest hypocrites are the 31 pro-gun lawmakers invited to appear on Meet the Press in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary shooting but refused. I wonder why…..
Then there is our very own Dr. Deasy who appeared on the news claiming to be very concerned about school security. Hmm the CDS school I left a year and a half ago had no security and very dangerous students- one even threatened to kill my colleague and while the police were called, the student was allowed to remain at the school. And of course LAUSD has many schools with no security where kids run amok and don’t control themselves. That is a choice-their choice-and that is where personal responsibility comes in . Yes, urban students are victims of this district and of lack of economic opportunity, but what is in their control they often refuse to control- their behaviors and attitudes. And both of those are huge indicators of future success. But I guess pointing these things out makes me a racist, elitist out of touch person who has no right to demand any type of responsibility from my students. After all, if I was a “good” teacher, my students would automatically do whatever I said.
But here’s to the heroes – especially Victoria Soto, a young teacher who threw herself in front of her students to save them and was killed. Then there was the teacher who when asked by the gunman to tell him where her students were said they were in the gym. She had actually locked them in closets and a bathroom. The gunman then shot her. The teachers who think I am the devil will rightly point out that maybe this much attention would not be paid to the shooting had it happened in an urban area. But these shootings don’t happen in urban areas. We have other problems, such as poverty, learned helplessness, lack of jobs, massive drug use, no decent school- to- work programs and a declining number of real electives. We also have heroes in the teachers who work in our schools but are rarely recognized and often demonized, sometimes by their own colleagues.