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Teacher is a four – letter word

February 17, 2018

I emailed the letter below to Jamie Alter -Lynton, the founder of the corporate education blog LA School Report, a blog for those who love education but not teachers.  They pretend to love teachers, but just low paid teachers of color who of course wouldn’t have fully paid health benefits.  In the linked commentary, Look to Leadership to Retain California’s Teachers of Color, no where does writer Christine Chiu mention better pay or benefits to retain “teachers of color.”

In the same breath, LA School Report complains about the health benefits contract which UTLA members approved by a margin of 99% to 1%.  I’d like to know who the 1% of UTLA members were who didn’t think we needed fully- paid health benefits but maybe, like their percentage, they are the 1%. The article is full of propaganda claiming unnamed parents “complained about the contract.” Would this be bused in charter school parents?

Dear LA School Report, 
So you want to retain “teachers of color” while complaining about teacher health benefits.  You want the district to be  a tougher negotiator but you want better teachers.   
How much exactly should teachers make in a city where the rents are climbing like crazy? 
I am at the top of the pay scale with three teaching credentials. I don’t get any extra pay because  I am triple – credentialed. I have been with the district 16 years.  I still keep in touch with many former students. 
My take home pay is 4,100/ month paid on the 5th of every month.   I am extremely fortunate to rent a house for 1400/ mo but a house that is in bad condition nonetheless.  I do the repairs on it and replaced the last wall air-conditioning unit as well as the mini-blinds. 
My landlord will sell the place soon. The lowest rent I have seen for a small house is 2,100 dollars in my area of the Valley.  That’s 50% of my take home.  I am now realizing that I will have to move to Palmdale or Frazier Park and commute in 50 miles daily.   If I had to pay for medical benefits it would break me.   
I am adding a Special Ed credential. My plan is to leave the district once I do that to move to an area of Northern California with low rents but comparable pay to LAUSD.   
The district will have a huge problem attracting new teachers to work for them unless of course they do what charters do- hire newer, younger teachers, burn them out, or non-reelect them as most charters do.  That way they keep high turnover and teaching never becomes a profession.  
We never have arguments about pay for LA City firefighters who start  at $80,000 a year, about what my pay ends at with the district and who work 10 shifts a month,  yet somehow better pay and decent benefits are a no-no for educators. But Melvoin and the criminal Ref can still make 125,000 dollars a year with no teaching experience sitting on the Board of Ed -and they don’t have papers to grade.  Bottom line is you want great teachers for a pittance but I’ll tell you a secret- you won’t get them and I know you don’t care. As long as you can fool the public into thinking younger is better, your job is done.   And I wonder, shouldn’t we start getting combat pay for dodging bullets, because I didn’t sign up for that. 
Sincerely, 
A veteran teacher (The kind of teacher charters love to hate) 
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Duck and Cover Your Ass

February 1, 2018

Image: Shots fired at Southern California middle school

The gate leading into the Belmont High -Sal Castro Middle School- Newmark Continuation School complex,  a gate I often walked through to go to work. 

Frightened students describe gunfire at L.A. middle school

Student suspected of bringing pistol to school. She will be charged with negligent discharge of a firearm.   I’m betting whoever failed to secure the gun will be getting the real charges filed. 

Today a rare event  happened  in LAUSD: A school shooting, but it now appears to be unintentional. A female student brought a semi automatic pistol and was  playing around with it in a science classroom at Sal Castro Middle School- right next door to the Options school I just left in December.   A 12 year- old girl was led out in handcuffs after the shooting. Four students were injured, one critically.    One student quoted claimed someone decided to bring a gun to school and some students were playing around with it and thought it was fake.

What was clear and predictable were the racist comments under the online LA Times articles about the shooting, referencing “Dreamers” in a sarcastic way and illegal immigration.  Trouble is, it is mostly white men and boys in rural and suburban areas who are responsible for school shootings.   Nearly every single comment had a racial angle with no concern for the injured students.  Americans’ lack of empathy puts this country at far more risk of decline than the decline of capitalism or the proliferation of guns.

What was disappointing were the comments made by acting superintendent Vivian Ekchian who spent her time at the podium during the press conference showing little concern for those shot and instead spent her time desperately trying to convince the public that the schools are safe and simply saying that she was “sad it happened.”  She went on to add defensively that “we could not control or know about the situation.”  I doubt that.  Someone knew that someone had brought a gun to school.  She went on to blab about “mental health support” and for “our students to be back and learning.”

Even more distasteful was the LA Times printing comments that Principal Erick Mitchell made sometime in January during a students awards ceremony that made it sound like he made the comments today:

“We have a new culture here,” Mitchell said. “I love this school. We have really good kids here. It’s the best-kept secret in town.”   

I don’t agree with Mitchell. Sal Castro Middle School, like most middle schools in the district is a mediocre institution with discipline problems and students who can fail every class and still move on to high school.    But for the LA Times to print those comments showed poor judgement.  Mitchell had no idea a shooting would happen.

What continues to shock me is the lack of empathy demonstrated by the head of the school police, acting superintendent Ekchian and others in leadership positions who made no statements of concern publicly for the injured students.  Ekchian sounded like she was more afraid of lawsuits.  I’m going to bet metal detectors will be going up at all LAUSD schools soon.

This shooting was yet one more sign in a plethora of signals that leaving my job at the Options School was the smart move.   If I was a parent of one of the injured students I’d think about making a move out of the area and the district. Still it is surprising that with as large a district as LAUSD is that we don’t have more incidents.  My personal theory is that in general there are fewer cliques and less social stratification than at schools like Columbine. Cheerleaders in the district don’t act as snotty as some can out in the burbs  and at my current school the athletes are humble.

Overall, LAUSD is a district of working class Latinos, not an economically stratified suburb with the haves and have-nots.   That doesn’t mean I don’t see some trouble signs among some kids. One kid on my caseload is selectively mute and another has dramatically declined in his behavior over just the last two days and he seems a bit unstable.   The general ed teacher is really good with him though which helps. My Valley school is one of the best run schools in the district with a staff that really cares about students.  If a student sees something on social media that might be a  threat, they report it to the administration.  We have a full time psychologist and extra teachers because of per pupil funding which in other schools would be a disaster but we have 98% attendance.

What could change the school culture or any school culture is an even like what happened today at Sal Castro Middle School.  I’m all for free standing metal detectors. It beats random searches which I haven’t seen conducted at my current school.  What I really want is to go back to the good old days. Yes there were good old days- when schools were not fenced, when students spent more time outside a classroom with four years of PE and driver’s ed in sophmore year.   There are few outlets for students today in schools. That needs to change.

A Moment Changes Everything

January 23, 2018

I haven’t written about Fremont or education in quite a long time.  Part of it is shell shock from the current dystopian presidential administration spewing “alternative facts” and deporting immigrants with no criminal histories. Part of it was fatigue from working credit recovery after school for two years straight and summer school on both ends of that.  Good for the bank account, bad for reflection.

The title of my post is a song by David Gray that describes the moment last spring when I was sitting in a staff meeting and my principal went ballistic.  He began screaming at me and threatened me with a transfer form.   I can’t remember his exact words but one of my colleagues wrote it down because he knew it would be either an informal conference or a grievance. Since UTLA has gone a bit soft, we went the informal conference route.   My colleague said I should have filed a grievance after the conference but in my head, I had already moved on.  It was the moment that changed everything.

This wasn’t the first time the principal had gotten overly aggressive with teachers or attempted to manipulate facts.  That’s being generous. Staff meetings were more like communist reeducation sessions with obviously phony attendance stats presented as well as a never revealed long “waiting list” of students who supposedly couldn’t wait to get into our school. The problem was, when we wanted to kick out a drug dealer or other problem students, they were only removed if they were a problem for the coordinator, not if they caused hell for the teachers.    He had also threatened my Social Studies colleague with a transfer form as well.  My colleague still remains.  I decided to do a 180  degree turn and add a SPED credential through the district’s CENTSE program for already credentialed teachers.    I am now a resource specialist at a comprehensive high school that is well run with a wonderful staff.  It’s one of the rare schools in the district in which students are held accountable as well as teachers.

What had angered my principal so in that meeting?  The fact that I brought up that “trauma” and “stress” were not excuses for disrespectful student behavior and I wanted to discuss an article demonstrating that schools in which kids are not held accountable become out of control as ours became last spring.  Drug users and dealers abounded on campus.  He routinely “conducted investigations” against teachers when the most irresponsible and disrespectful students  complained.   The principal apologized in the informal conference but then retaliated against me on my evaluation by placing two “developings” in areas designed to taint me, even though I received an overall “meets standard.”  He placed no evidence for the developing designations  into my evaluation and I wrote a scathing reply.  Unfortunately,   a teacher can’t appeal a “meets standard” unless practically every other score is “developing.”   He had tainted me just enough to make it hard for me to get another position.  That’s when I knew I had to act.

I was fortunate enough to work summer school at an outstanding school in the Valley.  It went well.  I knew I wanted to work there but the problem was there were never openings in academic areas because no one left unless they retired or died.  That’s when I revisited the idea of the CENTSE program and knew it would be my best shot.  It worked.

Often teachers are not proactive and allow themselves to be victimized by a bully principal because they are afraid of change.  My message to teachers: Don’t be afraid.  You have to do it for yourself.  Each credential I have added has assured me more leverage and more control of my career.  If that’s sounds mercenary it’s really not-it’s self-protection in a field where I have seen teachers sail through 20 years of their career and all of a sudden get a “below standard”  on their next evaluation.  Then another “below standard.”  And then they are out. So when I had the chance to apply to the district’s mostly free CENTSE program (a few books are required)  to receive my mild to moderate  SPED credential I stepped into the unknown and embraced that change and every single sign along the way was a message that I had made the right move.

From getting an unexpected check for 208 dollars the day I had to pay 190 dollars for books and didn’t know where I would get the money, to seeing the job opening for resource specialist at the school I had worked at the previous summer- and then getting hired at that school- well it all fit together.   Either the administration didn’t look at my evaluation scores too closely or didn’t believe them because they knew me.  I fretted at the interview about last year’s evaluation but then realized that I was allowing a vengeful principal to control me with two little scores and I finally let it go.

Turns out my former principal was having massive personal problems, mostly brought on by his anger management issues and those spilled over into school.  He also chronically lied whenever it was convenient and excluded teachers from any decision-making in school policy matters.  To deal with the chronic absenteeism of our students, three teachers at my old school got together and created a system of dailies, check -ins and phone calls home. Meaning the teachers came in early and called each student’s home to make sure they would come to school.

That’s more dedication than I have and shows a complete abdication of responsibility on the part of the administrator to do his job.  I realized the principal was physically present in the school but was in reality MIA when it came to the functioning of the school, defaulting those responsibilities to a gossipy coordinator who never followed through on commitments, choosing instead to opine about the poor state of her marriage and visit teacher’s classrooms to slander her latest target.  In other words, like many Options schools in the district, it was run like a fiefdom.  I needed sanity and thankfully, that’s what I have now.

Do I have regrets? Sure.  I don’t know when the next time will be that I will read Feed or The Other Wes Moore or any other great book with my own class of students.   Not sure when I will teach that poetry unit that was a great hit and the poem that affected my students the most – “I Go Back to May 1937, ” by Sharon Olds.   There are many wonderful students who I miss terribly. But I know this was the right decision for me right now.     I feel comfortable on my new campus, my commute is only 15 minutes with no traffic and people treat each other with respect.    I feel like I can relax and focus on goals a few years into the future instead of stressing about “right now.”

My old principal left suddenly mid year at the winter break at the same time I did.  He took a position at a middle school but I am still so glad I left. The shady coordinator still remains and a retired principal was put in for now. That retired principal crows about bringing  IPADS to his school which “helped student achievement.” Right.  He also boasted about being a former principal of a pilot school in South LA which he noted gave him freedom from the district and the teacher’s union.  I got out of there just in the nick of time.    Glad I will never have to work under that Deasy disciple.  Of course hypocritical principals have unions, too.   They just don’t think teachers should have them.  To add to the irony a bit, my former, abusive principal is listed as the Title IX complaint manager at his new school.  The guy who abuses women verbally is now the go to person for complaints about discrimination.

One bit of karmic good news from Fremont: One of the AP’s who made a deal with the devil with Balderas and a few years later got a cushy job at Beaudry is now principal at LA Academy Middle School, one of the worst middle schools in the district.  Now maybe he knows how teacher’s felt when the reconstitution of Fremont went down.  I’m sure he was a victim of last year’s round of cuts at Beaudry.

I went back through my old blog posts and spent some time on a post I wrote a couple of months after Fremont was reconstituted.  It was called “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” after  a Green Day song.  The song lyrics I had posted 7 years ago on that piece still resonate and guide me through my teaching career.  It really is a lonely and solitary road most of the time, no matter how much artificial collaboration is forced on teachers and no matter how many teacher friends we have.  When we close that classroom door, it is a unique experience that only we share with our students.    Teachers, you have to trust yourselves and know when to hold em, fold em and protect yourselves.  There’s always an alternative, there is always a way out- and a way in.

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me, and I walk alone”

Embrace your own teaching journey and trust yourselves and your instincts.  They’ll save you in the end.

 

The Song Remains the Same

May 7, 2016

As teachers, we shouldn’t comfort ourselves too much into thinking much has changed in  the LAUSD teacher purge department since Deasy’s drama-laden departure.   A substitute teacher told me a story yesterday that sounds all too familiar.   She subs a lot in the South Area of LAUSD and met a twenty -year veteran male teacher who had been displaced from his long time high  school and …wait for it…was placed at Muir Middle School in South LA in a co-teaching position in which he was not the lead teacher. Shortly thereafter, he was visited by an admin who of course found major flaws in his teaching.  He is fighting the observation but we know how this story ends- it’s how it has ended for countless of mostly male, veteran teachers displaced from usually a high school and then placed in a tough middle school in the South Area.

How does this happen with seniority in place? If a school goes into Small Learning Communities the school can use many different creative strategies to displace veteran teachers.  Once labeled “displaced” it can be difficult to find other employment through interviews in the district. Sometimes, displaced teachers are lucky and land one long -term sub job after another, keeping all their pay, benefits and seniority in place. But once the district human resources catches on, the teacher is “placed” in a permanent position, almost always in the South area at schools like Muir, Drew,  Carver, Obama Global Prep and  Audubon middle schools.   It’s somewhat ironic that at schools with the toughest to teach populations, the administrations of these schools are often the least supportive and most vigorous in ridding their schools of veteran teachers.  Is it any wonder these schools usually have the most openings for teachers?

This purging of veteran  male teachers occurs about  a year or two before they qualify for fully paid health benefits and before year 25 when their pensions would be a bit higher. These teachers in their prime are then forced into retirement at a low pension (2000 dollars a month or less) and unless they worked summer school most years or had other extra work will only have a small amount in their supplementary Cal Strs accounts. They are then forced to scramble for extra work subbing in public or private schools, or as one purged science teacher did, as a solar panel installer.    The science teacher was a textbook case.  He worked at a well -regarded high school and was displaced after twenty years, ended up at another high school where he was promptly given a below standard Stull.  Of course he panicked but remained level -headed.  He signed up for a retraining program to install solar panels and sure enough, despite doing everything his administrator asked of him, was given  a second below standard Stull.   He was out.

It’s tempting to relax after the Deasy era but this purging is ongoing.  But the district may be screwing itself in the long-term, even with declining enrollment.  As openings emerge in other districts with higher pay and a lower cost of living, LAUSD will find itself in the same quandry it has found itself in before- hiring “teachers” off the street with emergency credentials.   It seems clear that the district isn’t as concerned with quality teaching as it is with saving money and racial politics.  One thing most of the targeted teachers didn’t do was consider employment in other districts after their first bad informal evaluation.  One strategy a targeted female teacher used was to go out on stress leave before her Stull evaluation meeting. She had about 70 sick days and used them up and then retired.  This preserved her “meets standard” status in case she ever wanted to return to teaching in another capacity or in another state.    This continuing use of the South area as a stage for ridding the district of veteran teachers is something our union has been ignoring for years.  It’s important for teachers to protect themselves using the leave process or any means necessary to avoid a negative evaluation.   It is the reason why saving your sick days- something I have never done- is a vital tool in helping teachers protect themselves by at least giving themselves a cooling off period to decide what to do without losing pay.  Unfortunately in LAUSD, when it comes to the treatment of veteran teachers, the song still remains the same.

And the greatest of these is love. Go Bernie

May 3, 2016

Well it looks like Bernie won’t let the DNC and establishment Dems get on with their “regularly scheduled programming.”   He just won Indiana. I am in awe that the youngest people  in this country are supporting the oldest candidate in the race. I am heartened that they are turning a blind eye to the establishment media who keep trying to tell us that golly gee, his candidacy is “fading.”  That last comment was courtesy of the LA Times which published an article a few days ago saying that because Bernie only raised  26 million dollars last quarter, that his candidacy was over. Two days later, he wins Indiana.  Too bad that many teachers seem to be following the status quo and believing whatever the media tells them about Hillary, the “inevitable candidate.”

The NEA (National Education Association) is trying to shove Hillary in our faces as a full -page color spread in their latest teacher magazine issue nearly jumps off the page with Pravda -like comments from teachers around the country who support Hillary.   One particularly nauseating comment comes from a civics teacher in Hamilton, VA who stated,” As a civics teacher, I’m teaching kids what it means to live in a democracy. I want them to have their say and express their views, so they can make a better future for themselves. I think Hillary Clinton is part of that future.”  What he leaves out is that without a middle class, we can’t have a democracy.  We have an oligarchy.    It’s not enough for students to be able to “express their views.” They have to be able to effect change and with such concentrated wealth at the top, that is nearly impossible to do. None of the comments dealt with the root issues in society today- unaffordable college, rising rents and continued job losses.

This educator is not going along with the party line.  Hillary really doesn’t support unions. She sat on the board of Wal Mart for crying out loud. She gave speeches to bankers for hundreds of thousands of dollars. You don’t do that unless you have their interests at heart.  So I’ll vote for the candidate who has my interests at heart: Bernie Sanders.

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

April 30, 2016

hairspray

I attended the last showing of Verdugo Hills High’s wonderful production of Hairspray tonight,  and in attendance was Dr. Trimis, the VHHS former principal who was kicked to the curb about a month ago, much to the dismay of parents and students, but from what I hear, not to the dismay of teachers- but I am not defending the teachers in this case.  A union rep tried repeatedly to convince me that there were valid, but confidential reasons why Dr. Trimis was removed and banished to the Dark Tower at Beaudry to work in the Arts Education Branch.

But something just rings false about all the innuendo used to try to persuade me that Trimis was a horrible principal. That’s not the impression of the parents, students or some of the staff.  It’s also not what my gut is telling me.  VHHS is an ESBM school- School Based Management- something of a dying breed in the district   I think giving staff control of a school can be positive but I have also seen the less positive side of this type of governance.

After going through the reconstitution of Fremont and having to apply  at other LAUSD schools, I was subjected to condescending age discriminating comments like “We don’t use dittos here.”  “Oh, is there something about me that leads you to believe I would use dittos?”  The comment about “dittos” was from a twenty -something teacher.    I found that teachers want to hire other teachers who are most like themselves instead of hiring someone who might bring something different to the staff.  Younger teachers also tend to want to hire younger teachers but they often forget- they to will someday be veteran teachers.       I also witnessed top-notch teachers forced out during the dark years of the Deasy regime.   I’ve seen teachers not support other teachers and  others who behave like corporate lackeys, so I am less inclined to automatically believe everything I hear from other teachers or my union.  I’m far less gullible and more discerning than I was before Fremont’s reconstitution, restructuring – whatever R word is in vogue for destroying a school.

Principals don’t often have a clear understanding of all the issues teachers deal with in the classroom but that also is true in the reverse- teachers don’t often have an appreciation for the politics,  mandates, staffing and budgeting issues principals have to deal with.  I was glad to see Dr. Trimis in attendance even though he was supposedly banned. Below is part of the text of a letter sent to Michelle King by a parent dismayed at the banning of Dr. Trimis from school events.  I’ve blocked out any identifying parent or student information.

 

THIS FROM ____________(A VHHS parent):

I was informed today that Dr. Edward Trimis is being banned from attending any school events at Verdugo Hills High School such as musical, concerts, awards banquets, graduation. I sent the following letter to the Superintendent of the LAUSD: April 27, 2016

Michelle.King@LAUSD.Net

Dear Ms. King,

My name is ________. I have __________ enrolled at Verdugo Hills High School. They are both seniors and have attended Verdugo since their freshmen year. My daughter _________ is the Deputy Colonel for the LAUSD JROTC and also serves as an alternate student board member for the LAUSD. My daughter __________is highly involved with many of the arts programs at Verdugo.

For the past 4 years, we have enjoyed getting to know Dr. Edward Trimis as he was the principal at Verdugo when they enrolled and he has been integral to their positive experiences in academics, the arts and student leadership. We were very saddened and somewhat enraged when Dr. Trimis was removed from his position at Verdugo. Dr. Trimis had become like family to us, and the thought that we would be missing him and everything he did for Verdugo so close to the end of senior year was nearly unbearable.

Considering this close relationship with Dr. Trimis, our family of course has extended invitations to Dr. Trimis to attend the school events that my daughters are part of and have always enjoyed the presence of Dr. Trimis at in the past. For example, _______ has the stage production and spring musical of “Hairspray” this Saturday. Dr. Trimis has attended all her performances in the past. _________ has the Awards Banquet/Ceremony for the JROTC coming up on May 3. Dr. Ttimis has always attended these ceremonies and had kind words to say to my daughter and the JROTC program at Verdugo. _______ has Spring Concert coming up. Trimis has always been there to encourage, support and praise her and the entire team. Senior Awards and Graduation is coming up. The thought of Dr. Trimis not being there is extremely unfortunate and quite frankly a travesty.

Dr. Trimis’ indefatigable efforts to attend all Verdugo Hills events and to document them on social media to share with the entire student body has been a mainstay in developing school spirit, pride and success. We are all missing him and his uniquely remarkable dedication to students and the school. Make no mistake, my girls are not the only ones feeling this devastating loss. Hundreds of students and parents are beside themselves with grief and angst.

The reason I am addressing these issues with you today is that upon the extension of invitation to Dr. Trimis for these events, I have been informed that the “local superintendent” has blocked Dr. Trimis from attending any events at Verdugo Hills High School.

I will not inquire or pry into the reasons the local superintendent has taken this stance, but I can tell you from a legal standpoint that it is certainly challengeable and a violation of Dr. Trimis basic human rights as a citizen of the United States.

Constitutional provisions provide protection to teachers and school staff at public schools that are generally not available to teachers at private schools. Since public schools are state entities, constitutional restrictions on state action limit some actions that public schools may take with respect to teachers or other employees. One of those rights, that is constitutional in nature, is the freedom of expression and association provided by the First Amendment.

If Dr. Trimis were a family member to me and I invited him to my daughter’s school events, what authority does the LAUSD have to prevent Dr. Trimis from attending the events or to alienate him from the family?

Similarly, if Dr. Trimis is a close family friend, what authority does the LAUSD have to deprive all of us from having his company and association at these momentous occasions?

I implore you to think heavily on these issues which not only violate Dr. Trimis’ rights, but they violate the rights of my family and other families who are a part of Verdugo Hills High School. Any barring of Dr. Trimis from freely associating with us at school events should be rescinded immediately or LAUSD could face a barrage of litigation within the next 10 days.

I hope you will consider this plea and set right this errant course the “local superintendent” and the LAUSD find themselves on.

Sincerely,

________________________________________________________________

Generally speaking, both the city and the LAUSD constantly underestimate Sunland-Tujunga.  We are one of the most persistent and active communities when it comes to civic and school affairs.  I guess this parent got through to Superintendent King because Dr. Trimis was in attendance tonight in the front row and surrounded by students and parents.  It was as it should be.

UPDATE: Apparently the letter worked.  I saw on a community website that Dr. Trimis would be allowed to attend VHHS events.   This means that obviously whatever the reasons for his removal, they could not have been as dire as what the UTLA union rep led me to believe, otherwise Dr. Trimis would not have been allowed back on campus.

 

 

Perspectives

April 29, 2016

It’s great to have someone in your corner when you are a teacher.  Today, that turned out to be a great resource specialist, Mr. Dixon, who comes once a week to our school to service the special ed population and he does a wonderful job. On the surface he seems like a cool hipster but he is oh so much sharper than the personnel the district usually put in the resource positions.   He usually observes one of my classes a week to see how his student are doing.  He taught math last year during summer school and so knows many of our students.   Today, it was Expo Comp and the topic was juvenile justice.  We were creating semantic maps for the topics Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice with categories like “causes” and “felonies” for the Juvenile Crime map.

At first,  everything went smoothly until a student mentioned “teachers” and “teachers who don’t care” as a cause of juvenile crime.  The kids all started piling on.  Mr. Dixon came to the rescue reminding one student, Henry, that he came late every day to his summer school class and didn’t complete work.   He laid into the students about how they behave in class and called them out for being rude and using their cell phones.   I think Mr. Dixon has a film career ahead of him as an actual real hero teacher as opposed to the faux ones portrayed in Stand and Deliver and The Freedom Writers.    I have a vivid memory of a university credential teacher with a stick up her ass who admonished us teachers-in -training to never watch the movie Teachers with Nick Nolte because it showed teachers in an unfavorable light.  It actually showed teachers in a realistic light and I had already seen it and loved it.    My favorite scene was when Alex Jurel, played by Nolte took one of  his students  to get an abortion.  She had gotten pregnant by the gym teacher.   If you haven’t seen it,  it’s a must see film.

My perspective was also altered when I found out my sister received an eviction notice. Although she finally found employment, it is a low -wage job.   Her field is rife with age discrimination, something this unionized teacher doesn’t have to deal with as much, although I did suffer a brush with it after the reconstitution of Fremont.   It is tough for anyone over 50 to get reemployed in art directing, production or graphic design. She does all three.  I suspect she also needs some serious career coaching but it is painful to see her fall so far. The recession isn’t over for everyone. What makes it worse was that her apartment rent is reasonable and her place is located in a safe area.    I realized that despite minor issues at work,  I am incredibly lucky to be a public school teacher in California.    If I was unlucky enough to be teaching in Wisconsin, Chicago or North Carolina, I might be suffering a similar fate.

I realized after today’s encounter with my students who were so ready to blame teachers for all of their problems, that they have probably internalized much of the anti-teacher messaging of the last twenty years. None were ready to look at their own habits, which include ditching, disrespect and not completing work as the source of their issues.  An inability to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses will be harmful to their futures but I also believe their reactions are due to immaturity and the sense of entitlement they get from failing every class in middle school and still being able to move on to high school where they finally hit the wall at the end of 9th grade. Then, they come to us.  Most are honestly great kids who come for a variety of reasons, not necessarily poor grades. But my 3rd period is full of immature boys who think they should be able to play on their cell phones and talk over the teacher and their classmates.  The main perpetrators are those who didn’t complete the last major writing assignment. These were the ones who complained the most about “teachers who don’t care.”   I suspect their perspectives won’t change much when they get their grades. “Miss, why’d  you fail me?”  “I didn’t fail you. You earned that grade.”

Update: I worked Saturday school today and a chronically disruptive student came into my classroom with the principal  to complain about his grade.  He hadn’t completed the major writing assignment in Expo Comp and tried to lay the blame on me.  “How could I complete it when you were always moving me?” Absent but implicit in his question was why he had to be moved constantly which was due to chronic off -task and disruptive behavior.   I pointed out that many students who had low English skills worked their tails off to complete the work and struggled but ultimately prevailed.   The principal then turned to him and asked if he had enough time to compete the work. “Yes,” he replied.  That was the end of the conversation.   The Deasy legacy and the War on Teachers has done much to create this sense of entitlement among students.   The student’s first thought was to blame me and not his absences  and laziness.   If I was at a regular school the administrators would  likely  try to blame me which is why areas like Options, Magnet and Home School are really the secret to success if you want to survive as a teacher in LAUSD.