This is what I’ve noticed in my almost 15 years of teaching in Philly schools.
In all the articles I’ve been reading, in the Inquirer, PSU, and Chalk and Talk, I find one element missing. It’s not about money. It’s not about certified teachers. It’s about the idea that Philly is forced to teach all children. I agree with this, but with a caveat; there are some students who need to be taken out of traditional schools and placed in alternative settings.
Who am I talking about? The unruly students whose names come up repeatedly in the discipline office, year after year. They are a major disruption to the majority of students who want to learn. Notice I said majority. I believe in giving chances. But enough is enough. I’d like to think that if the parents of the students who cared about school sat in on class and witnessed these disruptions, they would be appalled enough to raise their voices in protest and anger. Their children are being denied a full education because of a handful of disruptive students.
I go back to my first year as an appointed teacher. There was a woman who was going to ‘model’ a lesson for me. The lesson took place after lunch, and it took her almost one half hour just to get to the motivator; she had already lost her temper with two children. The principal, who was next door, had to come in and see what all the noise was. Her lesson was interesting, but the disruptive students made it impossible for her to teach.
This is why the majority of students do not get a decent education. We don’t hear about these problems in the suburbs, just in the inner city. Why do these problems exist? Because parents of failing students NEVER show up to school. Parents who are fed up with their children, tired of teachers calling, don’t know what to do about their children. These parents then turn around and blame the school for not providing for their child.
I do believe every child can and wants to learn. I also believe that students who are disruptive should not bounce from school to school, but be placed in an alternative program where their needs are better addressed. Maybe we should build more alternative schools for these inner city children. If after one year the student has been suspended multiple times or called to the office multiple times (some schools don’t like suspending), the student must be transferred to an alternative school.
I can not tell you the many times I have had incredible lessons that died before they even got started. I can not tell you how many times I’ve watched students shut down because of the few that made it impossible to teach. It’s not fair to the children who come to school to learn, and it’s not fair to the teachers who spend great amounts of time finding lessons that are not only interesting but allow for critical thinking. Teachers and students should not be held hostage by a district that says, “we must teach everyone”.
Government is about the good of the people versus the good of the individual. Maybe the district needs to change its policies so our attention lies with the good of the class, not with the good of a few disruptive individuals.