Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bad Teachers

Schoolgal asked me what I’d consider to be a “substandard” teacher. My reply was too long for a comment, so I’ll put it here.

I apologize to all the fine NYC teachers who may feel I’m stereotyping. I’m not. Most NYC teachers I’ve met are good, many are outstanding, and I consider that a minor miracle. Here’s a fact, though—there is very little screening beyond ensuring minimum, or sub-minimum state standards are met. The Daily News wrote of thousands of teachers who failed the LAST test multiple times who were allowed to teach NYC’s children.

When I talk about bad teachers, I don’t mean the ones who forget to write an aim, or don’t open the windows to the specified height, or allow kids to wear hats in the classroom. I don’t mean teachers who give spotty lessons now and then. We all do that sometimes.

Let's say I go out to lunch with a Spanish teacher. I converse in Spanish with the restaurant employees, but he cannot. That may not be much, but it qualifies.

Let's say another day I find him gleefully telling anti-Semitic jokes to a bunch of young Latinas, and encouraging them to respond with Hispanic jokes. Let’s say the next day he’s sitting in front of his classroom eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs and reading the cereal box while the kids in his class are doing God knows what.

Or what about the one who calls a female student the most vulgar word I've ever heard in my life, a Spanish word I'd never heard before that manages to be both sexist and racist at the same time? The one who takes his shirt off in front of his classes to show them his muscles. The one who calls a kid out to fight him behind the school in front of the class, and then says his wife will beat the kid up too.

Or one who wears sunglasses in the building, talks to herself half the time, whistles the other half, spends her free periods in the bookroom in the dark and refuses to teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

Let's say a Taiwanese teacher of Chinese shouts in front of God and everyone "I hate Chinese," and proceeds to denounce the majority of our Chinese-speaking students as shiftless commies. Let’s say she treats them as such and manages to stay in the system until retirement.

Maybe a teacher posts on the board an offer to write college recommendations for 50 bucks a pop. Let's say that teacher is from Spain and regularly tells Dominican and South American kids they are ignorant and don't know their native languages. Let's say further this teacher makes disparaging remarks about their parentage, of a most unpleasant and vulgar variety.

Let's take a teacher who teaches a foreign language, but is verbally incomprehensible both in that language and English as well.

Let's throw in a teacher who allows students to throw chairs out the window and play handball against the back wall. Or one who dresses as though he’d slept in a garbage can, and eschews personal hygiene to such an extent that no one wants to be within six feet of him.

How about the one who has an affair with a young student, leaves her when she demands he marry her (his wife and baby notwithstanding), then, when thrown out by now clued-in wife, begs the student to take him back? It makes little difference the student, by then, had the good sense to refuse.

How about the history teacher who berates speakers of English as a second language for their unforgivable lack of English ability, then stands up in the middle of the lunchroom with a rousing rendition of Deutchland Uber Alles?

Let's take the one who teaches a college writing class, but being incompetent in written English, has high school students grade the college papers in the department office.

Or let’s not take them.

But NYC took them all.
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