The case of Natalie Munroe has certainly caught my attention. After all, I’m a teacher and a blogger, and my blog is not remotely anonymous. People know who I am and where I teach.
And it’s not like I never complain here; I do (and will). I kvetch about the CSAP and curriculum and parents. I have a whole rant on my old blog about “how to survive Mrs. Reed’s English class.” (It includes such instructions as: “If Mrs. Reed tells you to ‘write this down,’ WRITE IT DOWN.”)
I will say that I don’t generally bitch about my students here, and the reasons for that are twofold: 1) I love all my students and genuinely like probably 98% of them, and 2) my blog is not remotely anonymous, and I need my job. So when I have real little turkeys (like the one who cussed me out in front of the whole class last year and was, in fact, removed from my roster), I don’t serve it up hot here. If I had written about the event last year, I do not think I would have used the word “turkey” to describe him.
I don’t know anything about Ms Munroe, her school, or her students, so I can’t speak for her. I certainly get frustrated when I feel my students aren’t giving me everything they’ve got, but most of the time, I don’t think they know what they’ve got. They live in a country where being a critical thinker is “elitist” and where reality for many successful professional adults is determined primarily by what they “feel” to be true rather than anything at all verifiable. The kids are just taking their cues from their culture, and I can’t despise them for that. Besides, my job is to push them beyond that as far as I can get them to go, and they won’t let me do that if they don’t trust me. Kids aren’t stupid; they know if the teacher dislikes them, and then there goes the trust. At least, that’s what I have found to be true in my classroom.
We had parent/teacher conferences last night, and I am sensing a change on the horizon. Three parents, with no prompting from me, expressed dismay at the quality of writing they see their children producing at school. I have more D’s and F’s than I’ve ever had, and I actually had parents thanking me for being so demanding. Say what??? They’ve caught on. All the puppy-kitty writing their children have been doing to prepare them for the CSAP has left them with skills that will never withstand what is expected in the first year of college.
I wonder how long it will take our central administration and the school board to figure that out as they continue to gut the curriculum of anything of substance. We are phasing out the novel, but we have short story unit for next year where the two works currently recommended are actually chapters from two novels: The Kite Runner and Tenth Grade. In the instruction, it says to tell kids that because of the length of short stories, they often don’t have exposition. Where do these people get their degrees? Short stories all have exposition. Chapters from novels often don’t because the exposition is elsewhere in the novel. That’s why kids should read the whole novel, nitwits. As for writing, who needs evidence and analysis? It’s not on the CSAP, because a state test can’t accommodate research, so all we’re supposed to teach is style. No wonder parents are distressed. I am, too.