Some of you in my dwindling fan base may recall that I’ve taken up for public school teachers in previous articles, and here I go again. Wife’s a teacher and she tells me I have to do this.
Naw, not true. Actually, Wife gets nervous when I do a column about teaching. I think she worries she’ll have to go in to work the next day and say, “I had nothing to do with that …”
Hello, all you teacher-bashers out there, think you’ve got what it takes to be a public classroom teacher? If you do, check out this post from an education-related Web site called
“Have you heard about the next planned ‘Survivor’ show?” the post asks.
“Three businessmen and three businesswomen will be dropped in a classroom for six weeks,” the post continues. “Each business person will be provided with a copy of their school district’s curriculum and a class of 28 students. Each class will have five learning-disabled children, three more with A.D.D., one gifted child and two who speak limited English. Three others will be labeled as severe behavior problems.
“Each business person must complete lesson plans at least three days in advance with annotations for curriculum objectives and modify, organize or create materials accordingly. They will be required to teach students, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards, document benchmarks, communicate with parents and arrange parent conferences.
“Participants must also supervise recess and monitor the hallways. In addition, they will complete drills for fire, tornadoes and shooting attacks. They must attend workshops, faculty meetings, union meetings and curriculum development meetings. A professional growth and learning plan is due before the winter holidays. They must also tutor those students who are behind and strive to get their two non-English speaking children proficient enough to take the state proficiency tests.
“ … Each day they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science and social studies into the program. They must maintain discipline and provide an educationally stimulating environment at all times.”
My point is not to say, poor teachers, no one knows how hard they have it, blah blah blah. Indeed, every job on the planet generates its own unique challenges and difficulties. Think juggling cats is easy? (It does come with a lifetime supply of Purina Cat Chow, though.)
Teachers are among a group of professionals who perform their duties while being gleefully bashed within an inch of their lives — bashed by bashers who have never been in a classroom in all of their entire adult lives. Well go on, get your loudmouthed butts down to your nearest school and give it a shot.
An article by ice cream executive Jamie Robert Vollmer, posted on numerous Web sites, deals with teacher bashing. Now an ex-basher, he describes telling a group of teachers, “If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn’t be in business very long!”
Public schools needed to change, he was convinced, and “educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement!”
According to Vollmer’s article, a veteran high school teacher asked him if his company used “premium ingredients.”
“Super premium,” he assured her. “Nothing but triple A.”
“When you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?” the teacher asked.
“I send them back.”
“That’s right!” she barked (I’m quoting from his article here). “And we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude and brilliant. We take them with A.D.H.D., junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it’s not a business. It’s school!”
Vollmer wrote in his article that he has visited hundreds of schools and learned that “a school is not a business.”
“Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night,” Vollmer wrote.
“None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post-industrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with the understanding, trust, permission and active support of the surrounding community. For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.”
Finally, a housekeeping matter.
Critic No. 42, I do indeed know the difference between “calvary” and “cavalry.” I am sorry — sorry! — about the mistake. If it will make you feel better, you can hold my sword good and steady so I can fall upon it.
I’m not excusing the mistake, don’t you know. I shouldn’t otta have made it, but I otta did, and I can’t find anyone else to blame it on.
And I am mildly curious: was there anything about the article and photos you liked, or was the mistake all you found on which to comment?
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.