Let them fall, Let them fail, but don’t [Push them over the edge].PART 1

I’ve been stewing over this topic for quite some time. I really don’t know where to begin because  for me it encompasses years of dealing with the public/separate school systems, various teachers, administrators and not just one of my kids but to varying degrees, all 4 of them.   The education system is a failing/failed system.  This ain’t yo’ mama’s school anymore.  The brave new world of high-tech, high expectations and low morale for students and teachers is upon us and we are not coping very well at all. I say “we” as the collective parents, society and government WE.    We are lax in our dealings with things that are not working.  Face it~we don’t care.  Or at least, that’s how it looks.

How many parents show up to parent-teacher interviews anymore?  How many parents are involved in their school council? Does your school even have a council? Ours doesn’t or if it does , they are a secret society meeting under the cover of night so as not to attract any new blood into their inner circle.  And this, THIS is the problem.  Apathy.  Good enough.  Don’t change anything.

*sigh*

I am tired.  I guess when you get to the 4th kid in the system and years of dealing with the same issues you just kind of give up the fight .  But I can’t.  And I didn’t.  I sat on this issue of a heavy-handed teacher for over a year.  I told my kids to just get through it~don’t rock the boat~do your work and behave and soon enough you’ll move on to another teacher .   After all, every school has at least one teacher that feels it is their God-given right to be dictator, judge and jury in their classroom and even into the hallowed halls of their institution.  They’re bullies and it’s time parents, students and administrators stood up to them.

I wish I could describe to you every incident that led up to this week but there are too many. Here’s the short version:

My grade 8 daughter, who is very conscientious about her school work, preparation and studying came home last week and started to blurt out the events of that day. I have to filter through her rapid-fire high intensity chatter most days and usually I just nod and act like that guy in the  PVR commercial with one eye on the TV while the other eye pretends to be on the child(so silly but it’s true).    Anyways, in amongst the typical teenage gibberish and giggles a story emerged that I had to stop and take notice of.  The look on her face told me more than I heard in her words~ she was stressed, worried and not impressed.  Her phys-ed teacher had given the class a verbal tongue-lashing about their irresponsibility, how they are the “‘worst class [she's] ever taught”‘ and then she went on to call them all dumb-asses along with a side comment about not putting any “smart-ass”‘  answers on the test she was about to give them.

A couple of notes that you need to understand: we don’t swear in our house and this is strictly enforced but even beyond that, the school has a no swearing rule(of which *ass* is a part of).  Along with the rule is the consequence that if you are heard or caught swearing you must write a full page essay on why swearing is unacceptable within the school.   The other thing to consider here is that this is a small town where most folks know each other, teachers are friends who grew up together and this particular teacher has been in the community her whole life.  She has a certain level of anonymity and she gets away with a lot because no one challenges her.  Her philosophy is one of hard work, cracking the whip and getting results that only SHE demands…I have a feeling she came from a pretty tough home where hard work was the number one priority and probably enforced in the strictest manner.

I e-mailed the principal and asked that my name and that of my daughter be kept out of discussions with this teacher. I’ve been here before and the worst thing that inevitably happens is that a child gets placed in the firing line of an angry defensive teacher.  We already have enough stress around here and my kids don’t need that.  I was simply asking for this teacher to be held to the same account as the kids.  I was also disturbed at some of the threats that were being doled out to the students.  Particularly the ones about anything lower than a 70% would require a re-write at noon hour ”or else”.

I am okay with re-writes in the case of grade 11 and 12 diploma courses where the teacher sees the potential of a student and offers the chance to improve a mark.  In general, I am opposed to re-writes just for the sake of 2nd, 3rd and 4th chances to do what was clearly stated as expectation from the get-go.  This is a topic I will address in part 3 of this little series(oh yes, there’s more).

When my daughter came home at the end of the next day and began to tell me what happened when test results were given, I was shocked and infuriated.  The teacher went into another ugly rant about how pathetic this class was and how terrible they did.  Out of 2 classes( a total of 40 students), only 9 had “passed”‘ ; getting 70% or higher. Among those 9, her own daughter and a few of her daughter’s closest friends who just happen to be the teacher’s pets and who also happen to be the children of the teacher’s  close friends.  The kids were not given their tests, they do not know their exact marks or what they did wrong.  They were told that they would HAVE to come in several noon hours to get study help(no options) and then they would be required to re-write on a noon hour at the end of this week.  All of this on their own lunch breaks , without option.  Detention.  Yes, they were being punished.

My daughter studied hard and was stressed enough the first time and now she was facing a week long punishment for doing what was asked of her.  She simply didn’t measure up.  To add insult to injury the teacher proceeded to force the class to do a rigorous workout of  what she calls “suicide drills”‘.  That’s her name for them because, as my daughter says: “you have to do them HER way or she gives you more and you feel like you’re going to die”‘ .  Jump higher, run faster, squat lower~do it again! You’re not doing it right…do it over.  You aren’t fast enough, do 20 more.  ….it never ends, they don’t get a break for more than 30 minutes.  My daughter was sore for 4 days after.    This is punishment.  Punishment inflicted because these kids aren’t good enough.  They never are. They never will be.  The next threat was this: You WILL get 75% or you will re-write again.  And that time they HAVE to get 80% or they will re-write again.  Do you want to know what this test/ unit is on? Weights and muscles.  Naming every muscle in the body, writing paragraphs of workouts for specific muscle toning.  Basically, if they don’t word their answer ‘just right’ in her mind, it is wrong.  This is not multiple choice.  I have looked at my daughter’s notes and it is very intensive, detailed material.  It looks like university level stuff to me.  These kids are in grade 8.  They want to play games and have fun in gym and now they are so miserable and fearful of their teacher they can’t possibly be expected to even enjoy what they’re learning about. (Part 2 of this series will be what a mess the phys ed curriculum is.).

I got a call from the principal yesterday after relaying to her my further concerns about using lunch hours to “discipline” kids who aren’t even doing anything wrong.  She admitted this teacher “‘pushes hard” but assured me that she is “‘fair and impartial with all of her students” and is only passionate to see them succeed.  I wonder how much the principal really knows what goes on behind closed doors.

I got a call from the teacher too.  I sent a note to school with my daughter explaining that she would NOT be using her noon hours to “study” in a detention hall and would not be re-writing.  She tried her best for the first 2 minutes to hear me out but I could feel her blood boiling over.  She ultimately accused me of making poor choices for my daughter and setting her up to fail(I got the impression she was trying her condescending tone on me in an effort to force me to submit~boy, did she mess with the wrong parent!).  She was not happy at all and told me my daughter was going to fail the weight room portion of the unit as she clearly didn’t understand the concepts(things like the difference between a barbell and an Olympic weight? ) .  I assured her that making a judgment call on a student at this stage was unfair to which she sarcastically retorted “we’ll see”‘.  She’s got her panties in a knot.  And she’s a meanie.  She’s a bully and she doesn’t like being pushed back or challenged.  My daughter wants out but there is no option.  The principal has said that I am the only parent to raise a concern…this year.  Oh yes, did I tell you? This teacher needs “‘yearly reminders “‘ of how harsh she comes across.  I’m thinking teaching isn’t her thing.

Part 2…..forthcoming.