Not the Expected Weekend

I left work on Friday figuring I was going to the DMV, and then to my lady’s house to squire her and her progeny on a tour of the colleges that hadn’t rejected but might do more than wait list our favorite teen.

On the drive to my lady’s house, I watched cops pull over no fewer than three other vehicles — once the vehicle right in front of, once the vehicle right behind, and once the vehicle on my immediate left.  There was a phenomenal sense of being protected, even right under the very noses of the authorities, from reprisal for the ease with which I sailed along the highways and byways on my way north.  Thank you to the powers that guided and guarded me on that trip.  Yikes.

Saturday dawned with the news that our favorite teen had been wait listed with favored status at one school, accepted at another, and been emergency-rescheduled at work.  So instead of doing our expected heart-break tour of schools that weren’t even on the Safeties list a few months ago, we could rest easy, and return to our regularly-scheduled plans for the weekend.  The teen went off to work, and we went to our previously-scheduled Saturday evening engagement.

During the course of which, I was treated to the rare and unusual treat of experiencing a full-on anti-teacher rant.

The ranter in question is not a raving lunatic.  He is a capable and competent parent, a genial and interesting soul, a productive member of several communities, and a hard-working member of society.  He’s not a conservative by any means, and moved himself, his family, and most importantly his children out of a state where he felt the government had grossly overstepped its bounds in the name of small government.  Midway through the rant, he realized I was a teacher, and backpedaled a little, distinguishing between ‘educators’ who instruct students how to learn, and not just what to learn, and ‘teachers’ who merely teach to the test.  I’m not offended on my behalf — he’s a friend, and I hear where he’s coming from — but the conditions which he described in his children’s school are just ghastly.

The kids see the teachers as behaving more like bullies than the parents.  Some of them are the typical time-servers — more interested in finishing their service so they can draw a pension.  Some are ambitious would-be authority figures, looming in classes and hallways, trying to earn enough notches in their belt and hoping to be seen as suitable for ‘vice-principals’ or ‘heads of schools’. Some are timid, broken teachers, burned out by not enough care for their professional development and bad working conditions.  Others are convinced that the students are vicious little bastards, fit only for the army or the prison.

A long time ago, I said that I didn’t know of any bad teachers.  I’m retracting that remark, as best I can.  Increasingly, it’s clear to me that our profession, and the public school systems in this country in general, are in serious trouble.  Yes, we’re under assault from right and left, but that’s in part due to our own failings.  It’s easy to blame NCLB, or the standardized testing, or idiocies like New York’s publication of teacher ratings data.  But really, a lot of those things wouldn’t have happened if our profession was honored and respected.  And if our profession isn’t honored, and isn’t respected, it has something to do with the experience of this friend of mine, this concerned parent, who feels very strongly that his kids are more at risk of psychological attack from the adults in the school than from other kids.  That’s a problem.

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