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.