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Tag Archives: HBO

26 – The Fast Track to Nowhere

Okay…I’m a glutton for punishment…I’m watching Hard Times at Douglass High again (Ahhh! The joy of HBO re-runs).

“No teacher will receive a proficient evaluation as long as there are a high number of failing students in their class. Whose fault is it? Certainly not the student’s.”

These words were spoken (almost verbatim) by an Assistant Principal at Douglass during a Department Head’s meeting. I don’t know how I missed that segment the first time around…maybe that was when I took the dog outside or answered a phone call.

Oh the temerity! In fact, now that I am watching this documentary for the second time, I recall hearing that very sentiment echoed by the Principal during a faculty meeting. Are these people for real?

How can a teacher be blamed for what ails each and every student…because that’s what it boils down to…she’s (the Principal) asking teachers to be responsible for students who do not attend school on a regular basis, for the parents who are unable to get their children to school on a regular basis, for students who decide to hang out in the hallway instead of come to class, for students who refuse to do their work, for students who are more concerned with gangs/drugs/the opposite sex/crime/pregnancy (take your pick)…WOW! Or more like…HELL NO! Really?

I don’t buy it. I don’t buy her concerned act anymore. The first time I watched the documentary, I was too busy “watching”…not analyzing. Anyone who says, “Grades and making up assignments are up to the teacher, but I don’t change grades…” Is announcing to me that YES, YOU DO CHANGE GRADES! In every other “normal” school I have worked, there has been a solid grading policy in place…and not even the principal adulterated that system. After I put a grade in…it was in! If you (the student) did not find my work important enough to do, then you failed and you repeated…or you PAID FOR SUMMER SCHOOL! It’s called being held ACCOUNTABLE!

Anyone ever wonder how that Fast Track deal works? What kind of message does that send, anyway? There is no Fast Track program or Blaming System in the “real world”…not for people like me. I am a law abiding, hard working, tax payer who NEVER received any Fast Track or Blaming System benefits!

My students learned how to work the system at an early age, and they will continue to work it at my expense! Whenever I have attempted to explain the importance of timeliness, integrity, responsibility…many of them remind me that they will receive a “check” and that Section 8 will cover them. They did not need to hear me extolling the importance of paying mortgage on time, a car note on time, a phone bill on time, ANYTHING on time…because it did not apply to them…they don’t see that at home…apparently, where they live, no one is being made to be held accountable for much of anything.

So, somewhere along the line the government said, “Hey, these people over here aren’t ever going to really do anything with themselves…so let’s just continue to support them (minimally)…and then maybe they will just kill each other off.” But HA! Fuck you government and taxpayers…they figured out a decade’s worth of lifetimes to live and create their own alternate reality within the current existence that the rest of the world embraces as “reality.”

Now, the government wants to penalize ALL of us by: (a) including their test tube children in the scores along with the rest of ours (NCLB), (b) doing nothing to eradicate the giant crutch they have created, (c) scaring GOOD teachers into submission of the Stepford Wives Fast Track program…everybody’s doing it…just change the grade…no one will know…who cares if those kids only read on a ninth or tenth grade level upon graduation…

I wish I had a magic wand filled with all the answers…I don’t (obviously)…but I do know crap when I see it…and I’m seeing it! I believe our education issue supersedes the realm of actual education and begins in the home and the community/society in which children are reared…maybe we do need NCLB…but for parents!

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Posted by on June 29, 2008 in Work

 

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25 – Everything Is Equal Here

I watched a documentary that aired on HBO entitled, Hard Times at Douglass High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card Monday night, and it was like stepping back into my prior school year. The documentary chronicles a year in the life of the urban high school located in the inner city of Maryland. The school is being threatened with the potential of a state take-over due to failing test scores, poor attendance, high drop-out rates, etc.

“…The film captures the complex realities of life at Douglass, and provides a context for the national debate over the controversial No Child Left Behind Act, focusing on the brutal inequalities of American minority education, considered an American tragedy by many.”

“Brutal inequalities of American minority education…” I’m not sure how I feel about that phrase…especially after what I have experienced. I certainly will admit that there are aspects of Douglass High that lend themselves to being labeled as sub par…they perpetuate the imbalance of social and educational equity among students. However, I also believe that the failure of Douglass and other schools can not solely rely on a definition as narrow as a “brutal inequality.” The problems that educators see in schools are the same issues that students are dealing with in the streets…these kids are not leaving their personal baggage at the door before walking into the classroom because they carry too great a load.

More students experience unstable lives outside of home: teen pregnancy, drugs, alcoholism, gangs, non-traditional families where the grandparents are the parents, incarcerated parents, personal incarceration, hunger, homelessness, etc. School is a non-issue when facing the big bad of the issues I previously named.

Why read? Why do homework? Why respect teachers when no other adult has shown you any respect?

That documentary made me want to cry because I was surrounded with the memory of the despair those kids wore every morning. As one person, I could only brace myself and eventually fight to save myself…I feel like I failed them because I could not save them. And the startling aspect of my experience was the realization that many of them didn’t want saving nor did they see any reason as to WHY they should be saved. They didn’t want to function in my world…your world…our world. They perceived themselves as fully functioning beings within American society…???

That school was A LOT like my school…and believe it or not…from what was shown…those kids were better behaved! My tenth graders acted like that obnoxious boy who was always in the hall…about 75% of them acted that way. My fearless leader would NEVER make a home visit to discern the ailments of a student…he was there to collect a paycheck. I will say that ALL of our teachers were certified, save for one…and ALL of them were phenomenal people and teachers. They taught on a different frequency (kind of like incorporating a sixth sense)…the inner-city will do that to an individual.

In the documentary, there was a teacher who (after three years of teaching at Douglass) resigned in the middle of the school year. I almost left my school, too…

You know…if I were the one examining Douglass, or the inner-workings of Inner City High School USA…I would have to examine the structure of American society. Politicians say these catchy phrases to make people think that things in this world are change-able…but are they really? Were these structures set up on purpose? Are some people just meant to fail based on the unfortunate event of WHERE they were born? I mean seriously…how many thugs REALLY make it out of the ghetto?

…It’s a struggle between the powerful and the subjugated (oh…wait…that sounds a lot like Marxism)…shhhh! I really didn’t just say that because this is a democracy where everything is equal! 🙂

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2008 in Work

 

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