are afraid of the principal;
principal is afraid of the superintendent;
superintendent is afraid of the school board;
school board is afraid of the parents;
parents are afraid of the kids;
kids are afraid of no one!”
~ Author unknown
typical week, in a possibly typical school, has ended. Teachers
have endured months of weekly ‘staff development’ aimed at forcing/shaping/shaming
them into collective acceptance of the principal’s hero, Ed Ford.
Repeatedly the teachers practiced the official Ed Ford questions:
“What are you doing? What are the rules? What should you be doing?”
– but very little has changed.
usual couples cuddled, smooched, and pawed. The student handbook
states that PDA (Public Display of Affection) is inappropriate,
but lacking administrative support, teachers sporadically voiced
a softly spoken reminder. They have been warned that criticism upsets
the students, and directed to refrain from ‘yelling and telling.’
The teachers are not surprised that the rate of PDA has increased,
even among the sixth graders.
usual students loudly cussed and swore in the halls, with no regard
for females, younger students, or teachers. But wait, come to think
of it, many of those cursing students were girls! There was
little of the old-fashioned, “dang-blast it, shucks, or hell” swearing;
but lots of the really coarser language – the terms once described
as ‘enough to make a sailor blush.’
teacher filed a written complaint after being publicly proclaimed
a “F – ing B – ch!” by a student who had been asked to
speak more quietly in the halls. This teacher filed a second discipline
report when ‘said’ student was observed walking the halls, instead
of walking home. This teacher sent a third note, plus spoke with
the principal, when ‘said’ student was noticed still in the building,
attending science class. The student handbook states that insubordination
and disrespect toward staff will bring about discipline, including
suspension. However, this teacher was reminded that things are ‘different
in this day and age’ and left the office knowing that nothing would
be done to violate the free speech of the doctor’s son/star athlete.
usual students were driving badly, but freely, in the parking lots.
One student raced his black pickup, tires squealing, through the
walkway in the teachers’ parking lot, and he actually lost his driving
privileges for ten days! The hope – that a trend towards discipline
might be returning to the school – soon died when the boy reinstated
his own rights and freedoms by leaving the black pickup at home
and driving the family van, instead. If anyone were to suggest the
obvious – that a loss of driving privileges meant ‘of any vehicle’
– the boy might feel badly about failing to pull off such a
stunt. Better to just let him drive the van for the ten days. At
least he isn’t driving his pickup.
usual kids walked the halls with cans of pop in their hands, in
violation of the school rule against drinking or eating in the halls.
Morning announcements reminded students to “put empty pop cans in
the tall boxes placed throughout the building.” Subtle message:
“Do not drink pop in the halls…but when you do, dispose of your
usual bullies harassed the younger, smaller, or weaker children.
One boy used a rubber band to shoot a hard, folded paper missile
at a girl, hitting her in the upper lip. The girl was typically
advised to ‘stay away from’ the tormentor.
usual kids attended classes, minus pencils and homework, and the
school moved close to a politically correct stance of just not expecting
much from any of the students. Hurt feelings can be avoided if the
unmotivated can spend their days without fear of standing in the
shadow of the motivated. Low or failing grades might damage self-esteem.
things were different in Room 18. The door was kept closed; the
window covered. PC philosophies were ‘out’; expectations and encouragement
were ‘in.’ ‘Ladies and gentlemen’ were shown how to behave; how
to show respect for self and others. Swearing was ‘out’; Greek and
Latin vocabulary roots were ‘in.’ Room 18 felt more like a one-roomed
schoolhouse; more like a home-away-from-home. Older students tenderly
assisted younger students; stronger readers put weaker readers through
decoding exercises. Discipline was rarely necessary because even
the most hostile and defensive child mellowed and was enriched by
successes brought about through traditional classroom management
teachers were tempted to ask administration, “What are you doing?
What are the rules in the handbook? What should you be doing –
to make our school safe, productive, and decent; rather than crude,
chaotic, and politically correct?”
Schrock Taylor [send
her mail] lives in northern-lower
Michigan, where she is a special education teacher (in Room 18),
a free-lance writer, and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where
real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.