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Brickbat

(19,339 posts)
Thu May 23, 2013, 08:09 PM May 2013

Retiring principal: ‘It is harder for us to be nice to kids’

Heartbreaking.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/22/what-has-changed-is-that-it-is-harder-for-us-to-be-nice-to-kids-departing-veteran-principal/

When I look back over my notebooks and journals from the past 21 years there are plenty of things I regret. What I do not regret were the times we educators chose to be kind to a kid. The times when we gave a child a second–and then third and fourth chance. The times we decided to let a kid go on a field trip, ignoring some misdeed that might have excluded him from the trip so that a child who had never been further than the county line could see the world writ large. You know the drill.

School should be a place for all sorts of kindnesses. After all, children are forced to attend, with little or no choice over the building, staff, or bus driver they draw. School is one of their first experiences with government, with strangers in close proximity, with authority outside of the family. School should be a place of challenge, but also a place where children are supported to try, and try again. Students should leave us knowing that for this time in their lives they were in the company of people who genuinely liked them and worked in their best interests.

When people ask me about what changes I have seen in the two decades I’ve worked here, I know they expect me to say something about how kids or families or teachers have changed. Wrong. Kids are still interesting, if a bit more docile, and interested in the world around them. Families still want the best they can marshal for their children. And teachers are here because they think they can make a difference.

What has changed is that it is harder for us to be nice to kids. With elevated standards and increased testing, we find ourselves with less leeway with which we can help a child navigate. With ‘zero tolerance’ laws and other Draconian rules, the mistakes some children make can no longer be forgiven. The rapid-fire social media culture means that if we ever err on the side of mercy or charity, it will quickly be seized upon by those who are just looking for us to make a mistake. And the emphasis on punishing schools for things like dropouts makes it that much harder to enroll a student whose residence is just a bit suspect.
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Retiring principal: ‘It is harder for us to be nice to kids’ (Original Post) Brickbat May 2013 OP
Much more difficult now Ron Green May 2013 #1
Yup. If someone does that today, Art_from_Ark May 2013 #6
True NewJeffCT May 2013 #20
My students give me hugs all the time. LWolf May 2013 #23
Glad to hear things are at least going well on the hug front... villager May 2013 #27
I'm hanging on. LWolf May 2013 #28
At the first parent teacher conference each year, I tell the teacher it's ok to hug my son. SunSeeker May 2013 #32
We're a school of huggers. noamnety May 2013 #35
That was the first thing that came to my mind also. Curmudgeoness May 2013 #36
'With elevated standards and increased testing, elleng May 2013 #2
More fallout from neocon mean spiritedness BeyondGeography May 2013 #3
Plenty of blame to go around, we have plenty of pearl clutchers right here on DU Exultant Democracy May 2013 #8
Exactly!!! gopiscrap May 2013 #19
It's true. The politicians... and the people who OWN them... have to get over the idea that they.... Smarmie Doofus May 2013 #4
If you talk to anyone about education, they have an opinion. And the bought and paid for world wide wally May 2013 #10
To a certain degree Spike89 May 2013 #24
Teachers have always sulphurdunn May 2013 #43
I agree with all of that Spike89 May 2013 #45
Education is no longer about kids. Its about $$. And we ALL know how well that works. MichiganVote May 2013 #5
Thank you. woo me with science May 2013 #11
+ infinity BrotherIvan May 2013 #22
Its not too late. It will never be too late. MichiganVote May 2013 #30
This brings tears to an old man's eyes. JEB May 2013 #7
Talk to any teacher who has been around for 15 or 20 years and they will all say the same thing... world wide wally May 2013 #9
I used to give all-essay Final exams. Then a new principal asked for exams that anyone could grade/ WinkyDink May 2013 #26
Just Retired Cybergata May 2013 #39
kr. yes, heart-breaking. anti-human policies for anti-human times. the fruits of neoliberal HiPointDem May 2013 #12
Huge, huge K&R woo me with science May 2013 #13
I agree with you. bbkenn92 May 2013 #42
Great, great letter n2doc May 2013 #14
Morning kick. Brickbat May 2013 #15
du rec. nt xchrom May 2013 #16
k&r for exposure. This is very important. n/t Laelth May 2013 #17
No mercy for a mistake BanzaiBonnie May 2013 #18
Starting my 28th year next year Ishoutandscream2 May 2013 #21
K&R nt CokeMachine May 2013 #25
Excellent commentary! CrispyQ May 2013 #29
Yes libodem May 2013 #31
Great article! PennsylvaniaMatt May 2013 #33
Trust is basically dead defacto7 May 2013 #34
sad kick.. . . . n/t annabanana May 2013 #37
I tried volunteering at a school last year. BlueCheese May 2013 #38
k&r'd snot May 2013 #40
k&R midnight May 2013 #41
Who is "us," really? blkmusclmachine May 2013 #44

NewJeffCT

(56,825 posts)
20. True
Fri May 24, 2013, 10:00 AM
May 2013

My cousin's husband dropped out of the corporate rat race maybe 15 years ago, and went into elementary school teaching, partially so he could teach his own two sons for a year. He's really got a gift of getting along well with kids, but also not being a pushover for them, either.

But, he's one of the few male teachers in the elementary school, and he says he feels obligated to make sure there is another adult in the room if he has to talk to a student one-on-one.

I think his biggest complaint about the job is the amount of paperwork they have to do every day as compared to 15 years ago when he first started teaching.

LWolf

(46,179 posts)
23. My students give me hugs all the time.
Fri May 24, 2013, 12:09 PM
May 2013

They initiate them.

Of course, I'm a 53 yo grandmother, and they think I'm ancient.

 

villager

(26,001 posts)
27. Glad to hear things are at least going well on the hug front...
Fri May 24, 2013, 12:38 PM
May 2013

...in the "new" school district (though, gosh, I guess it's already been awhile!)

Hope all is well on other fronts, too!

LWolf

(46,179 posts)
28. I'm hanging on.
Fri May 24, 2013, 12:48 PM
May 2013

Budget and pay cuts have left me in a bad financial place, and the work-related stress do to increasing deforms diminishes the quality of life, to be frank. I'm hanging in there, though, and haven't given up. I hope things are well for you!

My dog turned 10 this spring; not the pup you'll remember. She's still pretty energetic, though, if not up to her early form.

SunSeeker

(51,045 posts)
32. At the first parent teacher conference each year, I tell the teacher it's ok to hug my son.
Fri May 24, 2013, 04:21 PM
May 2013

My son loves hugging his teachers. I tell them my kid gets lots of hugs at home and finds them very comforting. All of his teachers in his elementary school have been the sweetest women you can imagine and have all hugged my kid and other kids in the school. But the school is very strict about punishing unwanted physical contact. Any kid who makes the mistake of hitting another kid will immediately find himself in the principal's office, and in a world of trouble. The key thing my kid's school has a zero tolerance for is bullying--verbal and physical. My kid tells me bullying in his school hardly ever happens because of that. And when it does it is immediately reported--usually by both teachers and other students--and punished.

It's sad that some schools don't want to take the risk of allowing "good touching," but I can understand why. It takes a lot more supervision and judgment to assure that it is in fact good. Some schools just don't have the resources for that, so they ban all touching.

 

noamnety

(20,234 posts)
35. We're a school of huggers.
Fri May 24, 2013, 05:13 PM
May 2013

Sometimes kids will charge me and announce it's HUG DAY! and they're hugging me and other people with no warning. Sometimes I'll work late with a student and give them a ride home so they aren't stranded, sometimes they get out of the car, then lean back in and say "we should hug" and we do the awkward car one.

I don't know if that's normal at high schools, but it is for ours.

Curmudgeoness

(18,219 posts)
36. That was the first thing that came to my mind also.
Fri May 24, 2013, 05:17 PM
May 2013

I did not teach for long, but it was drilled into me that I should never ever ever have physical contact with a student. And one student even threatened me for touching his shoulder when he was looking at another student's paper during a test just to let him know that I was aware of his actions. I just did not want to be a disruption, but I was close to having a real problem.

I couldn't deal with all the rules, and decided that teaching was not what it used to be.

elleng

(128,844 posts)
2. 'With elevated standards and increased testing,
Thu May 23, 2013, 08:13 PM
May 2013

we find ourselves with less leeway with which we can help a child navigate. With ‘zero tolerance’ laws and other Draconian rules, the mistakes some children make can no longer be forgiven. The rapid-fire social media culture means that if we ever err on the side of mercy or charity, it will quickly be seized upon by those who are just looking for us to make a mistake. And the emphasis on punishing schools for things like dropouts makes it that much harder to enroll a student whose residence is just a bit suspect.'

Exultant Democracy

(6,594 posts)
8. Plenty of blame to go around, we have plenty of pearl clutchers right here on DU
Thu May 23, 2013, 10:36 PM
May 2013

who for example argue in favor of cutting all sports from public school programs. My father who graduated from an Ivy league law school would have never been able to attend or accepted into any college if it wasn't for sports. Our side also has a cadre of knee jerk PC police who do their best to squash anything they deem offensive.

 

Smarmie Doofus

(14,498 posts)
4. It's true. The politicians... and the people who OWN them... have to get over the idea that they....
Thu May 23, 2013, 08:42 PM
May 2013

... have any useful role to play in how schools are designed and run.

The truth is they understand *nothing*.

Teachers go into teaching and not investment banking because they care about kids. Investment bankers and politicians go into investment banking and politics because they care about INVESTMENT BANKING AND POLITICS.

It's a titanically bad idea to turn education policy over to people so inclined. Schools need to be places where teachers can teach and not obsess about not meeting political benchmarks and aligning the instruction with politically-inspired "standards". And they need to be run by principals who know how to teach and can develop that ability in others.

That ain't happening anymore.

I wonder why.

world wide wally

(21,696 posts)
10. If you talk to anyone about education, they have an opinion. And the bought and paid for
Fri May 24, 2013, 12:52 AM
May 2013

politicians get to dictate what is taught in the schools. However, if you talk to your car mechanic, dentist, or air conditioning repair guy. You just take their word for it and tell them to do their job. The politicians don't have anything to say about it.
Maybe someday people will show the same respect for what teachers say about what should be going on in the classroom.... But I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Spike89

(1,569 posts)
24. To a certain degree
Fri May 24, 2013, 12:29 PM
May 2013

I agree without reservation that schools/teaching can easily become over politicalized. That really isn't anything new and it probably isn't something that can be "fixed". Public education is at its very core somewhat coercive--the system takes your child and immediately becomes a major influence on them. It is natural for parents to be highly involved and interested in how schools are being run. Yes, I know that parents have some options, but not all can afford private schools (and even if they can, private schools can be just as politically volatile), and home school isn't going to work for many.

Car mechanics and air conditioning repair people, even working on just a piece of equipment, do have regulations and laws governing how they do their jobs. Dentists are required to undergo rigorous training and licensing and do face very strict government controls over what they can and cannot do to/with their patients.

Teachers are given the care of children--they should be respected, but they should also be held up to scrutiny, highest standards, and expect a huge level of oversight. They should also be paid better.

 

sulphurdunn

(6,891 posts)
43. Teachers have always
Sat May 25, 2013, 09:16 PM
May 2013

been held to high standards, oversight and accountability. I just spent the entire month of May doing standardized tests so I could show that the kids knew the material I wasn't permitted to teach for the entire month because I was testing and formatting data to prove they had learned the material I couldn't teach. Franz Kafka would have been amazed at what public education in America has become. Yes, we should be paid more. We should also get rid of preppy billionaires and their political butt boys who know less about public education that the average teacher has forgotten.

Spike89

(1,569 posts)
45. I agree with all of that
Tue May 28, 2013, 10:45 AM
May 2013

I'm not a fan of standardized testing and those are not the standards that I feel teachers should be held up to. Students and schools are not "standardized" by any means--obviously some schools have more resources, more engaged parents, and overall strong community support. Those schools almost always produce better standardized scores than schools in poor areas without the same level of fiscal and parental support. You can't use standardized test scores to compare the teachers across districts.

 

MichiganVote

(21,086 posts)
5. Education is no longer about kids. Its about $$. And we ALL know how well that works.
Thu May 23, 2013, 09:08 PM
May 2013

So stop kidding yourselves about testing and teacher achievement in place of student achievement. For those of you who have kids in ANY US school. Shut up and pay attention.

Your kids are at risk of irreparable ignorance with the current administration emphasis on reducing costs for so called achievement. Want a better car? Takes money.

Your kids are worth more. Demand it.

woo me with science

(32,139 posts)
11. Thank you.
Fri May 24, 2013, 02:24 AM
May 2013

We are all, every single one of us, worth so much more than these soulless corporatists would have us believe.

We cannot allow ourselves and our children to be valued based on the profit we bring to a CEO.

It is time to stop this madness. It is well past time.

This OP made me cry. I have been angry all evening, and now I have tears in my eyes.

We have to take our country back from these vipers.

 

JEB

(4,748 posts)
7. This brings tears to an old man's eyes.
Thu May 23, 2013, 10:32 PM
May 2013

I remember the many kindnesses and many chances given me as an unruly kid. No telling what becomes of kids like me today.

world wide wally

(21,696 posts)
9. Talk to any teacher who has been around for 15 or 20 years and they will all say the same thing...
Fri May 24, 2013, 12:45 AM
May 2013

it used to be a lot more fun.

Yes, fun is also important when you are a child or an adult teaching them. The curriculum now is more stringent and narrow and the pressure on teachers and kids is nothing short of obscene. I always wonder how these standardized tests have come to dictate not only what a child should know, but how a teacher must teach.

Think about the word "education". It is not a stringent and narrow set of information, but a world of knowledge. Not what to think... but HOW to think.

I could get into my long sermon about education, but I'll spare you that for now. Just remember that not only do we feed body, mind, and soul... we also educate them.

 

WinkyDink

(51,311 posts)
26. I used to give all-essay Final exams. Then a new principal asked for exams that anyone could grade/
Fri May 24, 2013, 12:36 PM
May 2013

correct, complete with an answer sheet.

So I had to turn to multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, easy-peasy-to-grade formats. Mind you, this was for senior British literature.

Gone went my prior ability to, let's say, give a struggling student the benefit of the doubt when he answered a bit "imaginatively" in an essay.

Cybergata

(1,465 posts)
39. Just Retired
Fri May 24, 2013, 06:36 PM
May 2013

. . . and the main reason is that I don't enjoy it any more. Oh I still love the kids, more than I can ever say. I've had supportive parents. It is the "stringent and narrow set of information" that made me retire after 38.5 years. About 10 years ago, I never would have imagined retiring, but the testing and educational priorities have made me angry all the time. Kids shouldn't be around someone who is angry all the time.

 

HiPointDem

(20,729 posts)
12. kr. yes, heart-breaking. anti-human policies for anti-human times. the fruits of neoliberal
Fri May 24, 2013, 02:26 AM
May 2013

economics.

neoliberalism = death

woo me with science

(32,139 posts)
13. Huge, huge K&R
Fri May 24, 2013, 02:28 AM
May 2013

Thank you for posting this. We are becoming a cruel, profit-centered, mean-spirited nation, ceding our government and our nation and our way of life to corporate motives and corporate morality. We are being turned into nothing but entries in a profit ledger, replaceable, disposable cogs in a machine, and they are doing it to our children, too.

They are doing it to our kids. They are doing it to all of us.

We need to stop them. We need to stop defending the indefensible based on party. We need to stand up for what is right and against what is wrong, no matter who is doing it. We have to talk to Republicans. We have to join across party lines. They are assaulting us across party lines. They are assaulting our children. They are assaulting our elderly. They are assaulting all of us.

How long do we let them keep doing this? How long?

bbkenn92

(12 posts)
42. I agree with you.
Sat May 25, 2013, 03:24 PM
May 2013

We the people need to VOTE out these mean-spirited lawmakers, refuse to buy products of mean spirited companies... We do have immense power and we should not only use it, but show our children how to use it!

n2doc

(47,953 posts)
14. Great, great letter
Fri May 24, 2013, 05:29 AM
May 2013

The comments section has a lot of people who have had bad experiences, so they think the whole profession is rotten. But teachers are humans, and there are a range of personalities in any school. We can't make it perfect, but giving up and punishing everyone isn't the solution.

Ishoutandscream2

(6,641 posts)
21. Starting my 28th year next year
Fri May 24, 2013, 10:09 AM
May 2013

And he's so right. It was much more enjoyable teaching in the 80's until the mid 90s. Then standardized testing reared its ugly head here in Texas.

CrispyQ

(35,933 posts)
29. Excellent commentary!
Fri May 24, 2013, 01:46 PM
May 2013

I could write my own paragraph three, filled with Mrs. Murphy, Miss Ward, Mr. Sauer & on & on.


Zero tolerance is no way to deal with children. They're children! This county has gone insane.


libodem

(19,288 posts)
31. Yes
Fri May 24, 2013, 04:08 PM
May 2013

Corporate Model vs Government Model of education. I hate the whole for profit mindset that has tainted all our institutions with Naked Capitalism. We need to begin a paradigm shift in this century or "We The People", are going down the sinkhole of obscurity. We won't HAVE a Democracy.

PennsylvaniaMatt

(966 posts)
33. Great article!
Fri May 24, 2013, 04:24 PM
May 2013

I especially agree with the culture of zero tolerance.

The only part I take objection to is where the principal writes "The rapid-fire social media culture means that if we ever err on the side of mercy or charity, it will quickly be seized upon by those who are just looking for us to make a mistake."

I'm currently in high school, and will be graduating in a few weeks. What I have found at my school, and at others, is that with the emergence of social media, it has NOT been an outlet where schools are criticized for being too lenient or merciful, but just the opposite. Rather, I have found that it has been an outlet where schools are criticized for being too harsh or critical, with strict and sometimes ridiculous enforcement of "zero tolerance" rules, etc. I'll give you an example. Just yesterday was the 8th month anniversary of the day a girl at a neighboring school committed suicide. To commemorate the day, a student at our school (who knew the girl very well) wore a headband with her name on it. He used to wear it all the time right after she died, and nobody said anything to him about it being a violation of school rules or anything of that sort. However, yesterday, the guidance counselor coldly said to him "It's time, you need to move on", eluding for him to take off the headband. He quickly shared the story on Facebook, where he received much support. There were also instances where students were giving their opinions of teachers on social media sites. When the school found out about this, they were quick to falsely label it "libel" and threaten suspension.

Sometimes there are instances, maybe with cases of bullying, where a school is criticized by a parent of the bullied child for not doing enough, but from my personal experience of being in high school today, a lot of the harshness that is directed toward students is not done because the school is afraid to be lenient, but rather because there are some mean spirited people in positions of authority.

defacto7

(13,485 posts)
34. Trust is basically dead
Fri May 24, 2013, 04:25 PM
May 2013

all because of a small minority of perverted sociopaths, an unethical media and the zealots who empower them all.

And because of that, the future could be very bleak indeed.

BlueCheese

(2,522 posts)
38. I tried volunteering at a school last year.
Fri May 24, 2013, 06:17 PM
May 2013

After the standard criminal background check, I was told that I wasn't ever supposed to be in a room alone with a student. That sort of seems reasonable, but of course the students don't know that. That leads to awkward cases when you're with several students, and all but one leave. Then you end up quickly trying to shuffle the other kid out of the room, much to his or her bewilderment.

I remember as a student I went into teachers' classrooms all the time to ask questions. I wonder what the policy was then?

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