11 March 2010

Thinking about things at a Detroit Public School

I stopped daily accounts because it felt like the thing to do. I've been back at work and it's been pretty awful. I'm not panicking or lashing out, but it all seems pointless. Standing and looking at the faces of all these kids who are so far behind, so disruptive, so totally unaware of how their poor education and aggression will lock them into the ghetto, prison, or the graveyard. Today a drunk mother told me that hell yes some doctor told her her boys needed some drugs, but her boys weren't taking no drugs. I started to talk to her about ritalin, but finally said the hell with it. What's the point? She wasn't listening to me, she won't listen to the doctor, and she won't listen to the judge when he pronounces sentence on her boys. And her boys don't have a damn chance because of her. They lost the Great American Parent Lottery. So let's fire all those bad teachers who have failed to teach her boys to read and add.

Today the temperature was in the 60's. The gym teacher and a 4th grade teacher took their classes outside to a park next to the school. The seventh grade girls were on the playscape with the 4th graders. The older boys were on the football field. The gym teacher heard some firecrackers going off. He looked around and saw a guy with a .22 on the basketball court shooting at some other guys. The shooter was about 100 yards from the football field and about 150 yards from the playscape. The school is about 500 yards from the court. The gym teacher got the boys to the playscape and then got them and the other kids to lie down. When the gunman started walking away from the school, the gym teacher got the kids up and sent them running to the building. None of the kids were hurt. No one called the police. The incident won't make the papers or TV news. Just another East Side shooting. The sun comes up. The sun goes down. Someone shoots someone on the East Side. No news here, it just happens everyday. Time to fire all the teachers in those failing East Side schools. Bring in those Teach For America Poverty Missionaries. At least the East Side can assuage the consciences of those Ivy League darlings when they scuttle back to their real lives after a year or two among the savages. Great stories for those Manhattan cocktail parties.

A cabal of wealthy folks and their non-profit minions have gathered together in some comfy boardroom to visit with old friends, enjoy a relaxing catered lunch or two, and come up with a plan to fix the Detroit Public Schools. In a nutshell, the plan calls for chartered schools, getting rid of "bad" teachers (while never defining what a "bad" teacher is), bringing in hundreds of Teach for America Whiz kids, and chanting "Change! Change! Change!" three times while clicking their heels. I think there may be some pixie dust involved. Hey, it worked for Obama.

Now let's see. I have 48 5th graders. Five can do division with a three digit dividend and 1 digit divisor. (That's 438 divided by 5 for all you TFA geniuses. I doubt you covered how to teach division in your grueling five weeks of training.) I guess I'm a bad teacher. I will fire myself in humiliation. Does it matter that when I tested this group in September on their mastery of the 4th grade curriculum the results were about what I've come to expect? The test has 79 questions covering the 4th grade math curriculum. The high score was 41. The second highest was 32. The median was 24. These kids shouldn't have passed 4th grade. I found the final Math grades for 32 of the kids. 8 A's, 10 B's, 5 C's, 4 D's, 5 F's.

Most of these kids are failing 5th grade Math. I guess I should be fired and that 4th grade teacher should be given a bonus. Her grades prove that she is a better teacher than me. I know the parents are happier with her.

Other than that things have been great. At least once an hour one of the dozens of kids that are running through the halls at any given time will slam my door shut or pound on it if it is already closed. My radiator leaked for weeks and now the back fifth of my room is closed off due to buckling of the flooring. Mold is rapidly spreading over the area and my mold allergy is going nuts. My students are jammed even closer together. I don't take them outside everyday or show videos like my teaching partner, so the students complain every time they come to my room. I point out the quaint notion that school is for learning and they are way behind, but somehow that doesn't matter. Oh well, I'm sure the TFA teacher they have next year will quickly discover the magic formula for teaching success: videos, playtime, good grades, cheating on standardized tests, and then run on home to that Wall Street job as soon as you can. Good Luck, young dreamers. It's all yours.

1 comment:

booksavvycylon said...

I came across your blog when searching "fire bad teachers" in Google Blogs (after reading the article from Newsweek). I cannot begin to imagine what you are going through, just know that there are many others that understand your bewilderment at bureaucrats trying to "fix" schools with magic. For what it's worth, I am proud of you for everything you do for your students. Just showing up and being a consistent figure in their lives is a step in the right direction.