Wednesday, December 10, 2014

(Blog): MATHice in Scienceland

Only three days into my new substitute assignment, and I have a few observations. Now, i don't want to get political or start anything -- that's not me. I try to roll with it, whatever it is, and not stir the pot. Especially, considering that I have to revisit this pot for the next month. But, here goes ...

One of the school's Living Environment teachers has been out sick. (I don't know how many the school has.) I've covered her classes every day this week, so far, and likely will continue to do so. I don't mind, but the kids do. They're objecting to the work posted on the board with no one to teach them. They're frustrated and confused and don't like to be told to read the text book. Some of them do what they have to do and try their best. Some of them, I think they just want a teacher to tell them the answers to the questions. And some don't seem to care at all. And none are happy that there's a math teacher in their science class.

Today, I tried to talk to a few of them. It was a good day for this because many of the freshmen were gone on a trip and some of my classes had fewer than a dozen students present. Unfortunately, they just wanted to complain (which is fine, so far as that goes), but they didn't want to hear any solutions -- not the ones that are possible or likely. They need to step up and take matters into their own hands, but they don't have the maturity for it.

Have you heard me complain lately that today's freshmen are less mature than the junior high school students I needed to get away from a dozen years ago?

I don't have all the facts, just some anecdotals. At my last school, while they were losing teachers to budget cuts, I knew that the Living Environment (aka Biology) teachers were safe. (This is my impression, mind you, not a statement of facts.) They were needed more than any of the other science teachers because they were the freshmen class, and everyone has to pass that class and Regents exam. If I extrapolate this, Living Environment teachers are likely in high demand, meaning that they have options as to what school they teach in. Which means that they'll leave a poor school in a heartbeat if something better becomes available.

Without passing judgment, I tried to explain to the kids that if someone was looking for a position, would they pick a school that's been around for 50 years or one that was reopened in the past five? That's not the perfect measure for adults, but that's something the kids could understand without feeling insulted.

Not all 50-year-old schools are great, but they've "reorganized" the poorer performing ones in recent years. But if you're looking for a position (which I've done too much of in recent years) and you see a school where, say, 80% of the kids graduate in 4 years and 70% go on to college, and a second one where, say, 40% of the kids graduate in four years and who wants to contemplate the low number going to college, which do you think the teacher is going to lean toward? If one school has staff who have been there for more than a decade, and the other is only five years old and no one's been there for more than three of those five years, which do you think the teacher is going to lean toward?

If a teacher were to walk into my classroom while I was subbing and saw what little respect the students had not only for me (the sub), but for the property of their actual teacher and (let's face it) for themselves, would they want to come to this school?

End result: if the school is poorly-performing, then you aren't going to be able to attract a qualified teacher whose future depends on the performance of immature individuals who have been taught to respect themselves above all else to the exclusion of having any respect for others, without actually recognizing that they aren't respecting their own future as they find "disrespect" in everything anyone tells them that is contrary to their own preconceived (and immature) notions of reality.

Is that the school's fault? Is it the kids' fault? The parents' fault? The teacher's fault?

I don't know. I'll play it safe. I'll blame Bloomberg. He didn't create the mess. He just made it worse by trying to remake the schools in his own image. And he's not my boss anymore, so I can get away with that now.

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