Tag Archives: American teacher

Guest Post: “The Wisdom of an American Teacher”

Here’s a Guest Post by an anonymous American Teacher who has posted here before. Please bear in mind, I do not endorse these opinions. I am presenting them to stimulate discussion only.

In the 1970s, intense pressure was brought to bear on public schools to include all students in the regular classroom.  Mainstreaming changed everything. Today, American schools favor what is called accessibility and inclusion.  The current order of things is taken for granted.  We are living in the unfortunate, extended afterlife of a dystopian experiment that has deskilled the American classroom.  While well-intentioned, mainstreaming students lowered standards for everyone.  It has been a change on a tremendous scale.  Education is no longer special when these students are put in the regular classroom.  It is time to abandon this project.

What is a special education student?  It has really come to be an indeterminate term.  They are a heterogeneous bunch.  We talk about them as though they are one entity, but they come in so many flavors:  the dull, the disruptive, and the dumb.  What no one wants to acknowledge about them is their abnormality.  Perhaps this point is so obvious as to be banal, but genuinely special ed students are ghastly.  Sometimes their ghastliness lies in their work; other times, it lies in their personalities.

A very basic yet simple question needs to be asked:  what is so special about special education students?  The answer: Nothing.  Nothing special is either visible or hidden in these students.  They are abnormal, irregular misfits.  Only the special can be called special.  We have become careless about this word, making it interchangeable with the abnormal. We have turned this word into just another well-meaning attempt at democratization.  Furthermore, we no longer interrogate the criteria by which we call someone special.  When even the ghastly are special, we have become dishonest.

I absolutely know that these students are not special.  I learn firsthand about these students every year in the regular classroom.  My heart races with distress in late August when I look at my roster and see all the abnormal students shoved in my room.  The difficulties with putting them there should be obvious.  With their outbursts and temper tantrums, their violations of social norms, they spark crises.  Sometimes it is hard to believe that these monsters are the creation of a beautiful God.  They are not able to conform socially.  They cast a shadow on the ability of everyone else to learn.  Their IQs tilt to the below average and they find it challenging to communicate and interact with others.  They need constant repetition; you can never give directions to them too many times.  I feel just a little bit glum when I look at their IEPs (individualized education plans) that lists all the ways the teacher must go out of his way to accommodate them.  When nearly half of a class gets extended time, preferential seating and their own study guides, the burden is not bearable.

Because mainstreaming is taken as a given, the misfits, instead of congregated in one place, are now dispersed throughout the school.  They feed into the classroom at unacceptably high rates.  Their numbers have way passed educationally possible levels, to the point where the classroom has become incoherent. I have had classes where forty percent of the students have been labeled special ed.  Sometimes I linger in the hall after the bell has rung, so much do I dread going in and dealing with the misfits.

Yet the school administration takes an unprecedented interest in these students, devoting faculty meetings and workshops to their needs.  State legislators also take a keen interest in them.  The normal student or the gifted student is no longer the driving force of the school.  He or she has become a distraction.

To be against mainstreaming is to go against the status quo; however, all of us have a duty not to look away from the uncomfortable: the abnormal have no place in a normal class.  Mainstreaming causes harm.

Putting these different kinds of misfits in the regular classroom has been an awful mistake.  The most important lesson to be drawn is that abnormal have gained more from all of this at the expense of the normal.  The casualty of mainstreaming is the normal student who now has to engage with the abnormal. Their right to a normal education has been sucked away from them.  They have been abandoned by the schools that they attend. Mixing the abnormal with the normal has proven destructive to the latter’s learning. We act as if there is very little we can do about it, yet there is a lot we can do to save the normal.

As mainstreaming has tapped into a huge parental population thirsting for services, parents have seized the government’s purse, putting their greedy hands in an expensive grab bag of accommodations.  Their kids get social workers, an IEP, a legal document which must be followed to the letter, a support class taught by a special ed teacher and a paraprofessional, and at least one meeting with administrators, social workers, speech therapists, and teachers a year.  It is easy to understand the allure of having your child labeled ‘special.’  When a child is labeled ‘special’, their services are endless.  When I first began teaching, many years ago, a severely handicapped boy was a student in my class.  Wheelchair bound, his senses, cognition, and obviously, motor-skills were severely impaired.  It was as though his mind was not plugged into his body.  Sometimes his arms jerked about.  He could not speak, read or write, yet he was taking algebra and biology.  He had his own bus bring him to school; his own aid do everything for him, from getting out his materials to taking him to the bathroom.  His parents, who lived in a home that at the time was valued at $700,000, sued the state for a $10,000 computer so that he could communicate.  The student was so cognitively impaired that the computer was useless.

People who cannot learn biology or algebra should not be in a biology or algebra class.  More important, they should not be allowed singlehandedly to derail a class with their flailing and moans.

Another year, I had a student with Turrets Syndrome in my class.  Not a day went by when he did not call out, “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.”  I ask you, is this desirable?  (I don’t know why these people cannot call out “I love you”, but that is another topic.)  His antics tore up the classroom.  The normal, talented students in my class were sabotaged by him.

Mainstreaming has achieved nothing except to remake the classroom, subjecting the class to the rule of the abnormal.  The normal can no more make normal progress.  The constant, uninterrupted disturbance of my classes, of teaching and learning, has to end.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this.  We can say no to this exasperating project and put the abnormal back in their own rooms where they belong.  When states across this country find themselves in financial straits, it is incumbent upon legislators to say no to the special education lobby and cut mandates that are unworkable.  If we stopped funding this waste with our taxpayer dollars, it would collapse.  The highest priority of a school should be education, not inclusion.  We should grant the gifted and talented the same seriousness we do the misfits, but their programs are the first to be cut.

It is to be expected that some will complain that removing the abnormal from the regular classroom is akin to a Nazi killing program.  To be clear, no one is arguing that the abnormal are unworthy of life.  They are just unworthy of life in a regular classroom.  We are not trying to determine who will live and who will die.  We are trying to create a high-functioning classroom.  After all, the misfits could be working twelve hours a day, six days a week for two dollars an hours at a factory in Chengdu.  They are not.

It is time to move past mainstreaming.  We don’t have to shove abnormal students out of sight while keeping them out of a normal classroom.  Abnormal students have no place in the regular classroom.  They can be educated to the best of their abilities in their own rooms.  A regular classroom cannot be maintained with irregular people in it. An alternative to mainstreaming has to be developed and that can only mean a separate classroom in some other wing of the building where abnormal people cannot infect the normal with their abnormalities.

Guest Post: The Life of an American Teacher

As always, the opinion of American Teacher are not mine, but are posted to stimulate discussion.

It took me just six months to realize that students have no interest in Sophocles or Beowulf. They don’t know who Epictetus, Montesquieu, and Locke were; and moreover, they do not care.  They are not driven to learn.  Education begins not with teachers, not with schools, but with desire, insatiable desire.  The generation that will replace us lacks desire.  The secret to their hearts is apathy.

This total absence of desire was crystallized one afternoon many years ago when I was helping a student with his paper.  I turned to look at the boy to make sure he understood.  He wasn’t looking at the paper.  He had not been listening.  He had been looking at the back of my head.  I stared at this shining example of apathy.  “Can I go pee?” he finally asked.  I nodded.  The past six months became clear.  I realized then that none of my students were fired up and that it was beyond my capacity, indeed any teacher’s capacity, to fire them up.  Any warm, fuzzy illusions that I still harbored about teaching teenagers were swept away.

That students found no interest in learning did not make me inconsolable.  Students taught me and I learned from them.  I learned to be deeply practical.  I learned to separate my job from my life.  I learned to swallow my saliva and withhold comments.  I learned that rules do not apply.  I learned to shape my own destiny and I came to believe that everyone, including students, shapes their destinies.  How burdened would I be had I not been such a quick learner.

I make a handsome living.  What with health benefits and life insurance, I make well over six figures.  I pay less than $50 a month for health insurance.

By contract, teachers work 185 days a year.  The reality is a lot less.  There are the sick days and personal days.  I take all of them.  Mid-term week and finals week, just sit there.  All the other testing days, whether mandated by the state or given by the teacher.  Field trips.

Movies.  Guest speakers.  Half days.  Snow days.  Delays due to weather.  Evacuations due to threats.  Assemblies.  Goof-off days like the last day of school and the day before Christmas break.  The list seems endless.

I have evolved techniques to get through the rest of the year.  Technology is my friend.  My classes spend Mondays in the computer lab doing “research.”  Some weeks, we need to do more research.

The Scantron machine is also a friend. After collecting the tests, I run them through the machine.  I don’t think that I’ve graded a test in years.  Ditto for papers.  I found a computer program that grades them for me.

I celebrate everyone’s birthday.  Cupcakes are cheap.  And they’re tax deductible.

It’s wonderful to have good friends.  One of my friends is an assistant principal, who makes out my schedule every year.  Every teacher has a duty, such as a study hall.  My duty is to help the assistant principal.  I go out and get coffee, breakfast, whatever she needs.  We sit and eat, gossip while she qvc shops.

I found myself discovering all sorts of little freedoms.  I use my prep period to run errands, go to the bank, pay bills, get some shopping done.  Sometimes, I go home and let the dog out.  Unless it is pouring outside, I take care of me during my prep.

I became sly and wily. I park my car in back of the school behind a dumpster.  Being able to sneak in late and sneak out early is worth the awful smell.  I shirk every responsibility that I possibly can.  Only if it is absolutely necessary and I need a spawn of Satan kicked permanently out of my room do I write a report.

What could be easier than all this?

I do this because it does not matter.  I could stay at school until ten o’clock every night, designing lessons and correcting papers and nothing would change because at some point, at the end of some very long day, it is up to students.  My students were a bad influence on me.  They have dragged me to their depth.  They and the parents, administrators, education professors, and politicians who abet them are the villains of this tragedy.

Listening to their vulgar, slang-filled conversations, I look at my students as a form of entertainment.  I hear about everything in their lives, from acts of physical intimacy to bowel movements.  At sixteen and seventeen-years old, their slates are still blank.  I do not believe that they have been endowed with complex brains.  There are students who sit in class, staring straight ahead, doing absolutely nothing.  I used to think that they were thinking deep thoughts.  Now I realize they think about nothing at all.  They are like old men in wheelchairs that you see in nursing homes.  One day I expect to see someone drool.  Their frontal cortex, that part of the brain which runs short-term memory, motivation, and attention, seems severely stunted.  I am convinced that our closest genetic cousins, the chimpanzees, are more mentally active than these kids.  Sometimes I give them little art projects where they can color.  Based upon my experiences in the classroom, I am no longer sure that I know human beings when I see them.  The ones that I don’t like I largely ignore.

I learned this all in just half a year.  The outrage at student apathy vanished.  I stopped trying to fix people and became happy in my impotence.  I’m just a teacher in a classroom.  If students do not see that education is in some sense a matter of survival, then I cannot make them see it.  It’s not my job to save people’s lives.  I am not a venal person.  I am a realistic one.

All of my teacher friends are like me, but not all teachers are like me.  There’s one teacher who constantly says to her students, “Thank you for the gift of you.”  You’ll never hear me say that.  Another one crouches besides her students as she talks to them. It’s not a pretty sight.  You’ll never see me do that.  Then there was the teacher running after the student who was walking briskly away from her: “Please, let me help you,” she beseeched the girl.  You will never see me plead with a student.  There was also the teacher who said to me, “While we’re here, we’re everyone’s mom and dad.”  I’ve never had a thought remotely like that.

Some teachers get genuinely upset at snow days or two-hour days.  “I have to get through the curriculum,” they gripe.  The only thing that perturbs me is having to make up a day in June.  I love delays.  “Twenty-minute classes are my kind of day,” I think.  We don’t have to make those up.

I recognize that my apathetic students are casualties of failed parenting and pedagogical practices.  When everything is handed to them, from food to study guides, students cannot be induced to work.  The more they are provided for and the more indulged they are, the more lazy they become.  Socialist-inspired handouts have killed desire in students.  Now, they don’t care.  So I don’t care either.  No one can be as invested in his education as the student himself.  My classroom just holds a collection of bodies.  Dedication is unnecessary when you are working with kids who don’t give a damn.

Guest Post by an American Teacher: Children From Hell

The following is a Guest Post by an anonymous American Teacher who does not want to be identified. I do not endorse the opinions expressed. I present them in order to stimulate discussion on an issue of interest to readers. Comments are, as always, welcomed. –Ted

I am not the norm.  In the free-for-all of other public school classrooms, there is all manner of dining.  Not in mine.  Food is for lunchtime and in the cafeteria. I do not allow students to munch in my room.  So when Dylan brought in a hoagie from Subway, a truly awful transgression, I told him to go to the cafeteria.  He ignored me, his body hunched in an obstinate fashion.  I told him again.  Students turn nasty when corrected. Dylan put the sandwich in the bag and chucked it at me.  My stomach lurched.  It is unsettling to have something thrown at you.  You can’t suddenly switch to having a civilized class.  And writing reports on students usually causes an uproar with parents. Students always have the last word and the version of the teacher gets scant attention.  With parents backing them, there is no price for students to pay.

I have met students like Dylan not just once or twice, but again and again.  These are the Children from Hell that it is my burden to manage and accommodate.

A false impression, that the Obama administration created the discipline problems in public schools that allowed for the likes of Nikolas Cruz to run amok, reigns among some on the American right.  It is true that Obama signed off on programs such as My Brother’s Keeper and used his power to investigate racial disparities in public school discipline; however, discipline problems were wreaking havoc in America’s schools long before he took office.

Sometime between when I graduated high school and when I began to teach high school, wisdom died.  The problems of the street and home entered the calm and boring classroom; student performance declined; the expectations of teachers were lowered.  The public schools changed direction because the bedrock of society, the family, was crumbling.  The younger generation depends upon the older to do the right thing, but today the moral authority of the parents is nonexistent.  In the absence of a sense of right and wrong, families stopped working with schools towards compatible goals.  They became adversaries.  Nothing is worse than a parent not supporting the school their child attends.

As any administrator will tell you, they can’t control the parents. All that they can do is go after teachers. Go after us they did.  We are saturated with workshops on classroom management and differentiating instruction. It is easy to see through the nonsense.

Mountains of gobbledygook have been produced on the subject of classroom management, the tricks that education consultants swear will get kids to behave.  By its very nature a political term, classroom management dictates the way people speak about student misbehavior in class.  Instead of the onus on the student to behave himself, the onus falls on the teacher to manage the class.  The public is seduced by the shift because it lets parents off the hook for their children’s misbehavior.   Administrators breathe the air of classroom management because they don’t have to discipline students.  They can send the teacher to a reeducation camp.  If the student does something wrong, the teacher is either not engaging enough or is not managing the students properly.  Maybe they are even looking at the student the wrong way and the student is feeling uncomfortable.  The same classroom management strategies are uncritically repeated in education classes and workshops year after year, but the information is of little use.  There are no tricks, just a teacher putting up with increasingly bad behavior.  Nevertheless, the rules of the classroom have been changed. It is no longer possible to say something critical of students. The term classroom management has even ensnared the teacher into believing that disruptions are somehow his fault.

At the time that the moral authority of the family lost its compass, we also began accommodating students, completely accepting their differences, from the socio-economic to the ethnic and cultural to the bad day.  A bad day can be very bad, very bad indeed.  It might simply mean that the student was concussed in a car accident the previous week.  The student may have trouble refraining from cursing out a teacher for the length of the concussion.  Or she may feel anxious about returning to school and need home-tutoring for a month.  Let me tell you, it is not easy being a teacher, having to accommodate all of these misfits…oops, I meant scholars.

When the moral authority of the family collapsed, dysfunction hit the schools. One thing that students never fail at is dysfunction.  Now it is up to the school to fix it. Upon arrival, students get to go to counseling, lounging in peach-painted offices instead of history class, sitting on soft cushions embroidered with flowers rather than upright in a chair in front of a heavy text. They can leave regular class and go to their own sort of personal AA meetings with a school psychologist or social worker.  Giving students this space, to ramble on about the problems in their lives, simply means the problems develop a stranglehold on them and their schoolwork never gets done.  To feel better about yourself you actually have to accomplish things.  Perhaps a little repression is not such a bad thing.  Maybe therapy should be illegal in the public schools.

Classroom management and accommodating students changed the political climate of education.  Expecting the school system to become the parent is an impossibly tall order, but as parents do less and less parenting, they more and more expect the schools to raise their offspring and then they want to dictate to other adults about how to do it. Parents want to be pleased and to please them you have to tell them what they want to hear or they are all over you like a rash.  These parents have broken the teachers’ authority and thrown the whole system of public education into question.

Although difficult to find, there are still mommies and daddies in the same home, but there are also parents who have affairs and leave home.  Others either have criminal records or are in jail.  Too many just want to be their offspring’s friend.  Because telling one’s child ‘no’ is absent from this parenting curriculum, lippy children are never out of print.  Children are not getting nicer and nicer.  It is not wonderful to be with them, particularly when they throw things at you.  The respectable and well-brought up do not come to us.  We are sent Satan’s spawn.

Perhaps it was the way that I looked at him, perhaps it was the tone of my voice, but nevertheless, that Spawn of Satan who chucked his food at me should have been compelled to say aloud, in front of his class, an apology.  Instead he was simply shuffled off to some other class.  No doubt the shuffle has left him with a scar.

Public schools have been manipulated into trying to cure familial problems; however, schools cannot mend the problems of dysfunctional students and their parents.  One institution cannot save the other.  And progress, new-fangled pedagogical and social ideas, is destroying us.