Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Wire Season 4

by guest reviewer Schoolgal

When a TV show isn't afraid to show the reality of teaching, it gets my attention. A sub-plot of season four deals with a former Baltimore cop who becomes fast-tracked as a Junior High School math teacher in an inner-city school. The administration welcomes the fact he was a former cop and hires him right on the spot. Despite his background, he cannot control his class.

Along comes another character... an academic with a grant under his belt. He and his team are given permission to pull the most disruptive students, or "corner kids" out of classes and put them in a controlled environment. The result--the cop is finally able to teach. He is able to motivate his students as well as conduct workshop style lessons--that is until the whole school must put teaching on hold to prep their students for the upcoming assessments. Sound familiar?

Although he worked hard with his students, they score what is the equivalent of 1s and 2s. This teacher did everything right, but still his students could not pass. Why? The series delves into the home and street lives of these students. Those forces (drugs, poverty, abuse and of course crime) outweigh any progress he can make.

The "controlled class" does not follow any curriculum. Instead, the facilitators' objective is to socialize the students so they can function in the real world. Unfortunately the superintendent, who only wants to see immediate results, puts an end to the experiment. Now these students must also follow the test prep schedule. The superintendent fails to see this experiment as "valid teaching" because to her, test results are more important.

After the final episode, I watched the DVD's bonus features. The show's creator was both a former cop and teacher. The producers as well as the actors and some Baltimore politicians examine what is wrong with the education system. And guess what? They were all pro-teacher. They didn't place the blame for failure exclusively on the teachers. They expressed respect and gratitude for a very difficult job under difficult circumstances.

My question is, why close so many NYC schools and displace all those teachers? If the system needs revamping, include those teachers in the process. Not everything should be about scores. The overall development of the child should be our first objective.

It's sad when a TV drama understands the needs of teachers and students more than our own mayor and union president.
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