Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why is the Teacher Always Blamed?

  I had a lengthy conversation today with an old friend, let's call him Niles. He a quiet, dignified intellectual. He's also a completely demoralized high school teacher.
Niles: Atlas, the students are beyond vile. The administration is clueless. The staffs are clueless.
Atlas: You must never blame the students, Niles. It's completely verboten.
Niles: Why and when did it all start?
Atlas: I distinctly remember it first being said during a staff meeting right after Bush, Jr. signed in the No Child Left Behind Act. The principal said that the Quality Reviewers were coming in to interview everyone and would be asking for input into how to improve the schools, and that under no circumstances were we to mention the students or their parents being at fault. The QR people had relayed this to the principal, as had the chancellor and the UFT. The chapter leader then got up after many of us vocalized outrage. We were told we simply could not do this as it would jeopardize our funding as a school and ultimately our jobs. 
Niles: Yes, that was the start of it, but how did everything become the teachers fault?
Atlas: Well, that didn't start right away. At first, we told the QR people that we need to take out more of the bad eggs from the school population and get better students.
Niles: How did that go over?!
Atlas: Not well, as you can imagine. We had another staff meeting in which we were told there were no more zoned schools and that we couldn't get rid of any kid, regardless of their lack of desire to be in a vocational school. Also there would be no more tracking and special Ed would be a service rather than a place. Tracking would not be allowed and multiple lesson plans would have to be developed for each class to meet the needs of the varied students. The start of differentiation!
Niles: Yes, I remember the teachers balked.
Atlas: Of course, but the by product of all this was plummeting statistics on every level. So someone had to be blamed. The students and their parents were off limits. So teachers were the default scapegoats. This was right around the time Bloomberg went into office. He upped the ante by using the media and the UFT's naïveté.
Niles: What do you mean?
Atlas: Guiliani didn't give us a raise, so people were eager for one. Bloomberg made a Faustian deal with us via Randi and it was all downhill from there. Bloomy stigmatized the veteran teachers as being subpar, closed the schools and turned most of us into ATRs. 
Niles: And by controlling the individual school's population he skewed the statistics to show marked improvement.
Atlas: Exactly. But the UFT never pushed back effectively after having that 2005 contract passed. Mulgrew said teachers weren't to blame, but he bought into the 'never blame students or parents' directive.
Niles: The UFT should have been screaming from the rooftops! Students actions or inactions are on them! If a parent doesn't parent their children, that's on the parent! 
Atlas: True , but I think Mulgrew's well meaning response was 'Well, we shouldn't play the blame game, and if Bloomberg keeps blaming us through his and his friends media outlets, we'll just ignore it.'
Niles: The result being that we are to blame for everything wrong with public schools and the public response was schadenfreude because of our preceived short work day and time off.
Atlas: Yes, it really comes down to a lack of leadership. No one wants to be the sole guy to stand up and scream from the rooftop. That's what we have leaders for. 
Niles: I blame the UFT for all it. Our sole focus was on pedagogy and the UFT's focus should have been on us.
Atlas: Niles, we have to remember our worth as teachers and people, even if those around us don't. Try to have a relaxing vacation! 

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Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.