I have decided not to continue teaching. I know that I went through a lot of money and agony to renew my teaching certificate, but I was not psychologically prepared for today’s students.
After one class meltdown in 2nd period geometry last Friday I told the administration that I was considering not signing a contract unless conditions improved. (So far I had been substituting for myself as my paperwork was being processed by the district.) One of the assistant principals gave a scathing talk to those kids Monday and the class became attentive.
Note: the three assistant principals are a Hispanic male, a black male, and an Anglo female, to cover all bases. This assistant principal had been the woman.
Today my last period geometry class had a melt-down. I went to the (Hispanic) assistant principal, who had counseled me that the kids had problem backgrounds and needed support, etc, etc, and reiterated my position. He said that would be a win-win situation as a math teacher had just been let go from a junior high in the district due to decreased enrollment, so they would get her for next week, and could I please come in on Tuesday (Monday being Labor Day) to transition her.
What constitutes a meltdown?
- More than half of the students coming in late.
- A few students texting on cell phones (not allowed), putting on makeup (not allowed).
- Most students not taking out their handouts from yesterday when requested at the beginning of the period.
- 95% of the students not having done their homework.
- A few students not sitting in their assigned seats (assigned so that they would be away from friends and more apt to do the assignments.)
Oh – and the only A-student in that class had been busted for drugs yesterday.
So after a raucous beginning, and a difficult attendance-taking (as I had not learned all 138 student names so far), I had to walk around the classroom of 15-year-olds, cajoling them to take out their homework, removing cell phones and makeup (which I did allow them to retrieve at the end of the period), and handing out paper and pencils to those in need. (One boy rolled his paper into what he called “a joint”.)
Then since only a couple of students had any homework to check, we went over the next concept, segment addition. As in AB = 4, BC = 2, so what is AC? Boisterous talking mostly in Spanish around the room. Kids covertly changing seats. Simply not copying the problem from the board. The boy who had rolled the “joint” walked out of class.
My friends who have retired from teaching have all said I told you so. From e.e. cummings:
him; he couldn’t
believe it (jesus
told him; he
told him: i told
him; we told him
(he didn’t believe it, no
sir) it took
a nipponized bit of
the old sizth
el; in the top of his head to tell
And they say that it is not because this is a South Side school (hence Hispanic, 72%), but that schools throughout the city have deteriorated. When I taught 30 years ago there were one or two problem students. Now there are hoards.
The school where I will no longer be teaching prides itself in reducing the geometry failure rate from 60% to 40%. That means that in a class of 36 kids (the largest size now allowed), an average of 14 or 15 would be failing. Are they acting up because they are failing, or failing because they’re acting up? Are the teachers to blame for the failure of schools?
President Bush’s No Child Left Behind mandated that all students graduating from high school be able to comprehend what they read, be able to write coherently, and be able to do a modicum of math, including algebra and geometry. To this end, Arizona had not only mandated that all high school students must pass the AIMS test to graduate (40% of this particular school’s students pass), but to prepare for the test at the end of the sophomore year the students must take algebra in their freshman year and geometry in their sophomore year. If they flunk algebra they are “supposed to” repeat it in summer school. Few do. They are not allowed to take it again in their sophomore year. They must take geometry! So the kids are programmed to continue to fail.
But it didn’t start in high school. Many of these kids don’t know 6 x 7. Most of them don’t know how to add fractions. The failures started early on, but the teachers have no time to work individually with kids given the class sizes, and the kids are age promoted. According to the NEA, Arizona has the lowest current expenditures per pupil for 2010-2011 in the nation, at $6,448.
http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/HE/NEA_Rankings_and_Estimates010711.pdf. This year, because of budget cuts, education in our state has been cut $530 per student.
Do the parents care? We had Parent Night last night. (I worked a 12½ hour day, from 7am to 7:30 pm.) I had parents of a dozen students show up to my classroom. Parents of 12 students. Out of 138 students. Their kids, of course, were doing well. I was told that a daughter said that I explained math so well, etc, etc.
Have you seen the documentary Waiting for Superman?
Of course those charter schools will do well. They parents want their children there. They want their kids to study, and they will make sure that they do their homework.
So I have given up. I can’t and won’t do it. Possibly I am a failure, a sellout. But I have had an inside look at what will happen to America’s place in the world. Are those kids in China studying? I’ll bet they are.