Some at the meeting wondered whether the school district does enough to train teachers to deal with unruly students. Having taught public school myself, I wonder whether in our current world of backboneless administrative backup, there's any amount of training that would prepare a teacher for that. So, decibel three: A lot of us are sick of teachers having to discipline narcissistic, uncontrollable and mean students with the little pack of "appropriate" tools they are given.
While I cannot condone a teacher's use of the F word in the classroom, in this particular situation, if the facts are what have been reported in the media, it would seem a different, lesser punishment might be called for in Collins' case, such as a temporary suspension.
The Collins case and the reaction it has received points out some of the biggest flaws in No Child Left Behind. The out-of-touch politicians on both sides of the aisle who created this law have no clue what teachers and administrators have to deal with in schools these days.
Teachers deal on an everyday basis with students who have no qualms whatsoever about dropping the F word or any other word in a classroom and who do not care about whatever punishment they may be given. In-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, talks with parents, many of whom can't be bothered, everything is tried, but many of these children simply do not care.
What could be the reason for that? The sad thing is the culprits are many- students with drug problems, parents with drug problems, students from broken homes, students who are victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, a culture in which the movies that the students watch and much of the music they listen to encourages vulgar language and poor behavior, homes that do not have any books or reading material. That's just the beginning of the list.
Every method is taken to deal with troubled students. If critics could see just how many times, against all odds, teachers and administrators have been successful in turning these young people around, we might stop hearing this nonsense about failing schools. It is a miracle how many of these children are not left behind, thanks to the efforts of teachers, many of whom have been the target of verbal abuse from the same students.
Teachers receive training in how to deal with students who act out, but the methods administrators used to help teachers in the past are sometimes unworkable now. At one time, a principal could solve a problem with two unruly students in a classroom simply by taking one of the students and putting him or her in a different class. What do you do when that number swells to six or seven troublemakers? There is not a teacher in a public school who has not faced this problem. It is remarkable how many students receive a quality education when the battle lines are drawn each day between teachers who are determined to provide a quality education and sullen, resentful students who get their way at home and see no reason why things should be any different at school.
But teachers keep on trying. They realize that despite the ever-growing number of troublemakers, the majority of the students are interested in learning...and dreamers that teachers are, they keep thinking they may be the ones who can reach some of these seemingly unreachable students.
What reward do teachers receive for their trouble? They have to listen to politicians blame them (though they disguise it by directing their venom at these "evil" teacher unions) for everything that is wrong with public education. Public school teachers have to listen to the constant push for educational vouchers, since seemingly all private schools provide a superior education, a myth that has been perpetuated through the deep pockets of people like Dick DeVos of Amway and his All Children Matter group and the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame, as well as the politicians who have been the recipients of that money. When teachers do receive well-earned raises, they are almost always accompanied by requirements that they do even more work than they already do, and that they have to fill out reams of paperwork to prove they have completed that work.
Teachers have to listen to critics complain that they are only in it for the three-month summer vacations or the short hours. If teaching is done right, and in most cases it is, teachers are working far more than the 8 to 3, nine-month schedule of myth. They are sponsoring before-school and after-school activities, taking the time to grade papers, to take classes and attend seminars to improve their work, and doing many more things that self-serving politicians, willing to use the children to fuel their ambitions, completely ignore. It is laughable in Missouri, for instance that legislators, who receive $31,000 a year for 75 days in session try to leave the impression that teachers, who are in session for 180 days a year (counting six days of in-service training) and many of whom receive less than the legislators, are willing to give the impression that teachers do not work enough for their pay. (And yes, I am aware that our legislators work on many other days when they are not in session. You would think the legislators would be aware that teachers do the same thing.)
When good teachers, and apparently Mike Collins is one of the best, make mistakes, everything has to be done to get them back on the right path and keep them in the classroom. The best thing that could be done for Mike Collins and the rest of Missouri's teachers would be for politicians to begin focusing on the underlying problems for student misbehavior and low grades. So many of these things have nothing whatsoever to do with the schools. Unfortunately though, this is not a problem that can be simply solved by the passage of feel-good legislation. This is something that needs total community involvement and until that happens, a good many children will continue to be left behind...despite the best efforts of Missouri's teachers and administrators.