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Confessions of a teacher: what is happening in U.S. schools

October 12 2011

During his 30-year career educator John Owens had visited more than a hundred countries, to meet with several heads of state and to gain wisdom, which I believe Owens is noteworthy. New York City Department of Education found it in another way: Owens was considered "unprofessional", "nesubordinirovannym" and "culturally insensitive".

For the time Owens did not understand what the system works: in the field of education, all teachers are bad by default, until they prove otherwise. It would seem, for 30 years, John had ample opportunity to prove their "goodness", but officials argue hard.

"I could have hurt ourselves in the cake, explaining the children the rules of spelling and making sure that they are not digging into the phone in class. Instead, I asked them to write mini-essays of 80 words on the subject," if I refused for a year from a mobile phone for $ 500. "By the end of the lesson all - even those who never did anything at school and at home - I have handed over their leaves.

When I was reading these essays aloud, the class then roared with laughter, then subsided, then violently indignant. It was almost magical. And for this I could close my eyes to a missing comma ", - says Owens, one of his last lessons.

"I - an old white guy from the suburbs, but I can not be called lazy. Just like a madman. I get along well with children and love of literature. But from my experience, over the system of assessment of knowledge wisely so students, parents and taxpayers and can not imagine. If Mayor Bloomberg and his team intend to get rid of bad teachers, I can say that at least one item they have succeeded: they got rid of me. Here's my experience in New York City school.

Looking for work

- You came in for an interview about the job a teacher? - Asks me short man in his forties with an Indian accent.

- Yes, - I answered eagerly. - I - teacher of English.

- Run! - Said the man, sitting next to me. - True, run! Headmistress you put "U", it puts all the "U"! I'm 22 years working in this system and have never seen anything like it!

Just a few days ago, this teacher was punched in the face of a pupil of the summer school. However, most important, what he thought it necessary to warn me, were the principles of the headmistress.

Despite the fact that the press is powerful teachers' union team, the main power is concentrated in the hands of those who may be slapped you "U" - unsatisfactory, "very bad" - for your work. For new teachers, this estimate means the professional death. This means that you are no longer in the system.

Sitting waiting for the interview in the waiting room director Latinate Institute (a fictional name I will give for the convenience of the school), I tried to imagine what awaits me. I've seen enough already absurd and unjust things. Therefore, only smiled in answer to his companion.

Prior to that, I sent my resume to dozens of schools. Despite the fact that the Department of Education has its own base of teachers, the final word still rests with the school principal. The idea is to enable the Director to select the most state teachers with great care to comply with teachers 'tone' and the mission of the school.

Latinate was a special school: there took in children that other schools do not have to - ferrous and non-violent. Judging by the fact the same with what I encountered in hiring teachers approached the same way as the choice for day laborers greening works.

One fine day in August I received a call from the Latinate, invited for an interview and offered to hold a trial lesson, with the theme I chose the well-known book "The Diary of Anne Frank." I started the lesson this way: "Imagine that you have to go into hiding. You do not know how long can not return home. Must take what you can carry in a backpack and do not forget about food. What do you take?".

- I take my phone - says one student, patting his pocket, looks from BlackBerry.

- Well, - I say - but you're hiding. On the phone your location quickly detected.

- I would take a lantern and a rope, - says another.

- I would take chips - his voice a third.

- Care must be taken about the food - I object.

- I still take them.

- I would have picked up eye shadow and mascara.

Frank's family could not flush the toilet, not to discover his hiding-place, I told the students. When one of them asked for a toilet, I told him that he will not leave - as well as could not get out, and Anne Frank. Hearing of this incident, the assistant principal told me that I can consider myself taken to the state. "I think you know your subject - he said. - At our school is very important to good classroom management. You deal with it." And I signed a ten-month contract by 46.5 thousand dollars.

If the students with whom I have just spoken, knew what would happen next, I was not about any idea. Latinos, African Americans and immigrants from Africa, it seemed, were not hostile - I thought they just bored to learn. And I, like every new teacher, felt that I needed to just energy, good ideas and a demonstration that life and literature related to each other.

Weekday School

- What the hell, mister? - Roars my student. - What do you pyalites there?

- Take the phone away, Natasha - I say coldly.

Natasha put her phone between her legs. She claims that I was watching it there, but not on mobile phone.

- You are a pervert, mister.

The class laughs.

Natasha, the most mature looking of all tenth grade, who I met learned how to express anger well and disgust. She and three other girls are in no way can take the English and pass a course in the second, and some - and the third time. It looks like they can go for another round. I left them after class and told the director about their behavior. I also talked to their parents.

Mr. Rashid, a wiry African immigrant, came to my school right in the dusty work clothes. His daughter was part of the same problems quartet. All he could tell me - I say, everything I know. But just can not imagine what to do.

My supervisor at the Department of Education told me to sit down by the girls. The next day I did. A few seconds later turned into a class Moroccan bazaar, and then came Mrs. P. - founder of the school. A day later she called me into his office and immediately said: "What are you trying to portray? Transplant the whole class?". I explained to her the problem, but she just waved her hand: "You just need to have lunch with the girls. You have to show them that you do not spit on them."

Great Expectations

My acquaintance with Mrs. P. was held immediately after I was hired. The meeting took place at the teachers in suburban New Jersey. Although the funding of our meeting was on the shoulders of taxpayers, Mrs. P.did everything to make sure: we work out every crumb and every thread in the hotel bed linen endless presentations, discussions, and drill. The main thing - discipline and classroom management.

Serve everything in a positive way, told us. Do not say "no." If students run through the corridors, it is impossible to say "Do not run" - to "Please go in peace."

In addition, teachers need to solve all the problems with discipline, whether it is communicating with parents or dinner with delinquent students. "I worked in the South Bronx 24 years and a half - said to me, an English teacher who worked in the Latinate past few months. - And yet nowhere have I seen such a thing. For students who do not want to learn, we can not do anything about it."

Obviously, Natasha was just one of them. Soon, Mrs. P. gave me the eighth grade instead of nine.

Eighth rebels

Despite the fact that vosmiklashki younger, to cope with them no better than a tenth. One of the most senior, vile and crazy girls - 16-year-old Africa, part of the same "group" as Natasha. In the middle of a lesson Africa rose from his seat, walked to his locker and opened it.

- Please close your locker and sit in the place - I say. Africa ignores me.

- Please close your locker and sit in the place - I repeat, going to her. She turns and growls:

-Back, Mister, back! - She clearly wants war. The class held its breath, all eyes stared at me.

- Back? - I ask. - Who wrote the song this song - Back it up? - And continue to: - You're a big fine woman, when you back that thang up. Call me Big Daddy when you back that thang up.

The class laughs. Taken together, start humming the hit 1999 of Juvenile:

Girl you workin with some ass yeah,

you bad yeah

Make a player spend his cash yeah ...

A minute later, Africa is already sitting in his place and yelling at the others: "Shut up! He can not lead a lesson." Since then, every time she says it, I notice the class: "That's why I love this woman." However, after several weeks of Africa stopped going to school. I never knew what happened to her.

With other students I was no easier. I could not get them to put in place and a phone while you are a semblance of order. I transplanted them, and seated otsazhival, but with these uncontrollable detmi I could not cope. Sometimes, however, their parents were a far greater problem of b than the original eighth-graders.

"Please sign the original and take a copy" - said to me one morning, the head teacher, holding a letter from Mrs. P. It there was a meeting with teachers, parents of schoolchildren. At the meeting, I stressed how important it is to observe students in the classroom quiet and behave, citing the example of one class into a good school, where children learned to-do parents. Those students come in and immediately focused on his studies, with the result that they got more knowledge - I did not have to waste time then to calm them down. "Please explain to your children how important it is to behave well in class" - I said finally.

Dear Mr. Owens

"Dear Mr. Owens! This letter, we can state your inability to demonstrate cultural sensitivity.One of the mothers, in particular, complained about the insensitivity of your comments on our students compared to students from Chappaqua, catching in your words racial subtext - that is what our students (mostly African Americans and latinomerikantsy) did not succeed so well as White students . Parents feel insulted because of your remarks. "

It does not matter that I never mentioned race and Chappaqua, where I do not - I was officially recognized as a bad teacher. "Controlled chaos is unacceptable - the head teacher told me. - You have to manage a class of its authority by force." Well, of course - that the force of his authority.

The next day I told her eighth-graders that if they do not desist, I will leave them after school. It has not worked. I warned them again. And again. At the end of the school day, I stood at the door. "No one goes away - I said. - All remain here for another ten minutes."

Eight and a half minutes, when the class burst into Mrs. P. "What's going on here?" - She cried. Her long, thin eyebrows raised so high that it looked like ski jumps. The children vied rushed to explain to her what was wrong. I went outside with the force of his authority. And the appearance of Mrs. P. made me look pretty stupid.

Mrs. P. came to the conclusion that I should not be left with one child, and described the incident the police and the Department of Education as "corporal punishment". As a rule, this meant beatings or other physical violence. Mrs. P. also said it had not been able to find other words to describe my behavior. There was a disciplinary hearing, which I "lost". However, as my representative in the United Federation of Teachers, this is not the most terrible term. In my personal case, for example, through the efforts of Mrs. P. were such epithets as "dangerous", "suspect", "barricaded" and "rebellious."

Special Education

Little did I know that took a completely wrong course with the eighth grade. "Oh, you can not keep them in custody - said to me a teacher who specializes in" special teaching. "- For years, this class is punished, and they hate it. This tactic works with the other eight classes, but not with this ".

Another thing that I did not know - is that many of this class of problem were in special education. Perhaps they suffer from attention deficit, dyslexia, or any behavioral problems. At least seven children of this class of students were classified as requiring special treatment.

In theory, this classification could be a blessing. The child receives personal attention from specially trained teachers and the necessary assistance in order to catch up with their peers, and even surpass them. I've got buddies in a teacher only six months later after the arranged in Latinate. However, two thirds of the time available for lessons, she still could not do their duties.

Sia, the big, smiling, cute bear, desperately needed special attention. He said, clapping and even undertaken more in the class struggle. "I do not know what to do," - his mother was moaning every time I called. And I especially did not know.

Attack of the killer papers

As the months passed, my own business grow all new papers documenting my failure in an attempt to become less poor teacher. I was astounded by the number of documents. Instead of checking homework, I made countless records, references and tables.In my experience working in large corporations, I've dealt with large amounts of data, but have not yet encountered a system such as a school, where all efforts were directed to only one: to cover his ass.

I do not hold any hope. No doubt I'll get "U", and maybe even arrest me, if Mrs. P. prolobbiruet "corporal punishment". Therefore, once I had the chance to return to the publishing work, I decided to leave.


I have not told the children when I leave, but they knew themselves. My - is - I wrote a ninth-card: "We will be silly to miss you," "I learned a lot about how to write with feeling and emotion," "Please, Mr. Owens, do not go Do not make me cry!" .

Edgar - a Dominican, have a weakness for voluminous hairstyles and sun glasses, adopted a bespoke cake with the words "Thank you, Mr. Owens." The boys shook my hand, hugged the girl. Christopher, whose father had died, thanking me for what I taught him how to tie a tie. Ricky also did not understand how this is done, despite his ingenuity. "Please show me again" - he said. Tie a knot on a strip of cloth, I tied in a knot and my emotions.

A good teacher? A bad teacher? It depends on what is understood in this. As far as I know, in all my personal case there is only one piece of paper, where I come not so much a monster. In his note to the head teacher said that I made a passing grade in the Latinate "safe haven".

Translation, published in the portal

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