Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't." ~Tyler Durden

As many of you are probably already aware, a middle school teacher got suspended for venting her frustrations about her students in her blog. You can read the story here, for all the details:

As per usual, everyone is "up in arms," criticizing her for her words, even citing the fact that she's eight months pregnant as a possible explanation for her rant. This particular issue rubs my nerves positively RAW. My guess is that everyone who is coming down on her has never spent one day in a classroom with this generation of students.

The issues she raises range from rudeness, to laziness, to entitlement. The Digital Generation is absolutely ALL of these things. Her attorney defended her by saying that she could be speaking about any classroom across this country. And again, he would be correct. The first major problem here is that her administration responded by suspending her. STUDENTS brought this blog to their attention. So, once again, we have reinforced their false sense of entitlement, coddling them and defending them instead of holding them accountable for the behavior that just about any instructor in this nation will confirm as a problem in his or her classroom. But they win. Again. They tattled, and were more or less told that SHE is the one who should be punished.

How bad does it have to get before the tables turn back to the days where it was not only acceptable to be strict and expect a certain level of decorum, respect, and adult behavior in the classroom, but absolutely required? How many more lazy drones do we have to raise up and send out into the world before we wake up and say, "Hey, we have a problem"? Everyone says the state of education in this country is abysmal, and while that may be true, we have to wonder if it's the quality of the actual education, or if it's because of the behavior that this instructor has complained about. And the kicker here is that it's absolutely nothing new. This has been going on for years. I would venture to argue that the quality of the curricula in many of these districts is probably sound. But how do you teach those who are unwilling to learn? This is a battle I face every day, and I find myself inevitably teaching to the three or four who take their education seriously.

I could give you hundreds of examples from my own classrooms, most recently an admission from one of my students that he doesn't come to our 8am class because he can't get out of bed in the morning. He oversleeps. But now that he knows he's failing, he "sees that he has to show up and do the work."He did not show up yesterday. And he did not submit the paper that was due.

But by far the biggest problem here is not what she said, what she did, or how it was handled. The most severe consequence is the absolute refusal on the parts of parents and administrators to take full responsibility for allowing the state of affairs to devolve as it has. They are responding with her suspension because they feel criticized. "Not my school." "Not my kid." YES. YOUR school. YES. YOUR kid. YOUR student body/children ARE a mass of lazy, disrespectful, mindless drones. And those of us who are in the trenches with these students day in and day out cannot correct this behavior alone. We may try, but the end result is always student backlash, with backing from parents and administration. On the college level, when I get strict, my students stop showing up. In middle schools and high schools, students act out instead of rising to the standard set forth. And we have no recourse. Some of us simply give up. We're exhausted. And we're tired of being the only ones who care.

By the way, I'd love to know when there will be outrage over websites such as Rate My Teacher and Rate My Professor, where students can log in and write whatever they want about a SPECIFIC instructor at a SPECIFIC school. Who is defending us?


  1. guess we've finally figured out that maybe "time outs" and coddling are not the greatest ways of disciplining and teaching respect to kids huh? don't get me wrong i was far from a good child or student, but i can only imagine how fucked up i woulda been if the only consequences to my action were a pat on the back and a "don't worry son, it's not your fault" or maybe a "just tell us how you FEEL, it's not your actions that matter, but how you FEEL about them" some of these little punks need a good ass whippin to teach them some respect

  2. I Agree 100%. I think the entire mindset of today's student body is explained by one simple sentence from Munroe (the suspended teacher):
    "Parents are more trying to be their kids' friends and less trying to be their parent."

  3. "How do you teach those who are unwilling to learn?" That is such an important question, and unfortunately such a futile one to a certain extent. Sad to say that with events such as this one taking place in the school system, all roads lead to "you just don't teach them". As bad as that sounds, as an educator, I feel your hands are being tied. The only thing you are left with is teaching the three or four students that care to learn. Most kids, not all, get very little to no discipline at home, so now you're expected to be a teacher AND a parent to them? I mean, where are we going with this?. This is such a delicate issue, and the educators that DO care to bring light to the problem, are being punished for it. Great blog

  4. I used to be head teacher of a group of 12-18 month old kids when I was in my twenties. Even there, parents refused to follow rules that were in place for THEIR child(ren)'s safety. Things as simple as no glass bottles of any kind. Seems pretty obvious why, right? Of course we had the dad that insisted on bringing little glass travel bottles of ketchup, etc.. He had a sense of entitlement & attitude of being above the rules; wonderful example to his daughter. If a school is mistreating a child or depriving them of their rights in some way, fine, speak out. I had issues with the way Ava was treated at her old school, but I still never allowed her to be disrespectful in any way. Of course, I removed her. However, before that, she was told that if she was mistreated, she was to tell us & we would handle it. The only time she had permission to talk back was if the teacher refused to give her her drink or let her go to the bathroom (both had happened with a sub once) and even then she was to speak with respect. School is SUPPOSED to prepare them for life. There are rules & behavioral expectations in life. Just as I think a child (with parental permission) should have the right to express themselves through their hair color/style and/or clothing (within reason & decency), that woman has rights too. She has every right to free speech that we all have. She did not defame or slander anyone personally. What are we teaching our kids?! If an adult doesn't like their words,actions, or behavior, they should just deal with it. When a child doesn't like that of an adult, the adult gets punished in a completely unreasonable (and in my opinion unconstitutional) manner?! Sadly, these kids will some day be running our country, changing our diapers, & wiping our drool. Very scary!

  5. Acutally, Ann, they won't... because they won't know HOW.

    You're right. It's all about learning the balance between when it's appropriate to speak up and when you're supposed to abide by the rules of your environment. Respect is so severely lacking in their worlds. Their parents, as you demonstrated in your example, don't set appropriate models. How can we expect these kids to behave a certain way when their parents don't?

  6. We as parents, should be grateful to the decent teachers out there. They work for so little money; often going into their own pockets for supplies. Their salaries are hardly enough to make their jobs worth doing. We are trusting them with the care & minds of our most precious possessions. In return, they receive lousy pay, little or no support from parents, & penalties for their honesty. It really is a disgrace!

  7. Such an interesting and thought-provoking post, Nikki. We've had a few conversations on this topic, and I've spoken about it with other friends who are teachers, and I'm always shocked by what I hear goes on in the classroom. And I don't think enough attention is ever paid to the attitude of the students who come to class. It is completely unacceptable for a student to sleep through a class. And that this behavior is repeated time and time again is just inconceivable to me. I fault the parents for not instilling very basic teachings to their children.

    But it's also an issue of respect, which is clearly lacking. These kids have no respect for their teachers, administrators, and authority figures.

    I don't know how one can go about fixing a system that is clearly broken, but it's important you continue fighting the good fight. Do it for the three/four students you do have in class who are clearly benefitting from your teachings. I can't imagine how very frustrating that must be though :(