Saturday, September 15, 2012
Another Aside About Education
Kids deserve respect. For a lot of them, though, they do not understand that teachers deserve respect, too. And respect is not something that we have to earn in this life.
For a substitute teacher, though, an instructor has to fight to command respect in the classroom. Much of the time, holding the threat of a student’s grades over him or her does not help. The reason: most of the time, the substitute loses the work, or the full-time teacher ends up leaving altogether, and another teacher steps in. In some cases, students never get a full time teacher all year. No wonder most kids get jaded very fast about substitute teachers.
The press must stop attacking the teachers. Many of them are swimming upstream against a tide of useless reforms and heedless administrators, lost kids and losing parents who had kids before they had grown up. The teacher cannot be the panacea for every ill and kill in the life of a student. The teacher is not the answer to every kid’s problem or need. A teacher cannot make or break a student, but hard work sure will.
Jonas Salk Community Day School, in East Hawthorne, is a representative example of the crap and corruption that defines Los Angeles County Office of Education.
The Alternative Education program serves students who have been previously incarcerated, the majority for drug possession or drug sale on local campuses. I had subbed at the campus twice, and the disturbing results of what I had witnessed indicated to me that there is a growing problem with the whole model of public education. I also relate what other staff members shared with me, including one woman who disdainfully remarked, “I’ve got my respect.” Another substitute teacher, who has survived full-time teaching at Locke High School before taking on long-term assignments at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, called the site “Jonas Suck.” This coming from a man who had dealt with students who had threatened his life, who would take the fire extinguisher off the wall and spray the white foam across the room, and whom he had prayed on a daily basis that certain students would never come to class.
Jonas Salk is a damaging program, one in which the adolescents pretty much get away with everything. Before I pass any judgment on what they got away with, though, I have to write about the terrible family conditions that some of these kids endured.
One young man told me that his mother was in prison. I never heard about his father. Another kid told me that he was kicked out of his house, and he neglected to tell me if he was living anywhere else. Some kids were bright but not wise, they engaged in illicit drug sales on their home campuses. In some startling cases, a number of students had been kicked out of middle school, and they had never enrolled in a public high school, bouncing around from one Community Day School to another. In more extreme cases, these students had been kicked out of other CDS schools under County jurisdiction, either for rowdy behavior, rampant misconduct, or just refusing to show up.
ScoreRite Academy exemplifies some of the worst elements of treating education as a private matter. Children are consumers, in a sense, but the service that schools and teachers provide is not just a matter of trade. The training that students receive is not always welcome. Most kids do not want to be told what they have to learn. Part of education is that a student has to receive discipline, and no one wants to be corrected. If the students are the primary consumers, and they do not like a strict teacher, then you can be sure that these students will just complain to parents, the parents will raise a fuss with the academic directors, and then the teacher gets the brunt of it. Either a teacher has to soften his stance, which means letting the kid get away with everything, or the teacher gets fired.
Private companies are not effective when it comes to providing a quality education. In only one instance, a junior enrolled at a local prep school, commented that he liked that I was strict with him. Most tutors, he told me, were more interested in being his friend and taking things easy. I wanted to get things done, and so did he. He took the AP US History exam seriously, and he wanted to do well.
The majority of kids that I worked with at ScoreRite were Asian-Americans. Some of them drove as far as Fullerton to come to a 9am teaching session. Most of the kids were not in the mood to study for the SATs.