Do Teachers Need a Home?

I don't mean housing, though some of us teachers could use some decent housing! When I say a home, I mean a classroom that a teacher can expect to have, year after year. I am sure many of you realize that teachers get moved around from room to room, sometimes from school to school. This does not promote nesting! And yes, a nesting teacher is good! Nesting by means of creating a classroom that fits the teacher; a well fitted classroom feels as good as well fitted suit. And tends to look just as good.

I have moved several times (by choice, and not by choice) in my career, each time having to lug tons of materials, computers, tables, chairs, desks, file cabinets, and the rest. I am a relatively young and strong man, so much of the work is do-able, but difficult. And I sure never get any help from my district! Oh no! Each time I move I lose something too--usually something I have purchased with my own money that I cannot afford to replace as the cost of living rises, and my pay doesn't keep up.

Parents and principals use the classroom to gauge the teacher--duh! But, the classroom is not a sign of the quality of the teacher. Some teachers are single parents (me), some are old, and some have physical limitations that preclude fixing up the old portable they are stuck in. There is something good in having a classroom that you can continually tweak, but not constantly remake.

Management (principals, superintendents, board directors) have a dog in this fight. They use the power of teacher-portability to threaten, punish, and reward teachers. Yes they do! Principals fear angry parents, and will screw a teacher to save their own rear from an angry parent who may just go over the Principal's head. BLAME THE TEACHER! Parents and principals can blame the teacher, thereby excusing themselves from any responsibility or culpability regarding the success, or lack thereof, of the student. Principals often do this because they are unable to accurately assess a teacher's skill (and back the teacher up) because of all the administrative nonsense they must contend with, or because they have been out of the classroom for 20 years and have no idea how hard it is to teach such diverse populations, or just want to be loved by parents, the ultimate--though unequipped--arbiters of Principal success. Often, teachers are set up to fail by the practice of moving teachers from to room, grade to grade, and school to school. Teachers have tenure, yes, but that is about it.

Here is a question that I believe is an analogous one to the question of whether or not teachers should be portable: Imagine you have been diagnosed with cancer. Your HMO (in its wisdom) has offered you a choice of oncologists: 1)an oncologist who has been specializing for 15 years, or 2)an oncologist who was a pediatrician 3 months ago. Which oncologist would you choose?

So, let it be said that I am one teacher who would love to specialize in one grade, in one room. Let me make that room awesome! I will make it fun and interesting. I will have a vested interest in the school. Parents, students, teachers, and administrators will all benefit from allowing me the courtesy (though it should be an expectation) of staying put to do my job, which I do quite well!

Stop Blaming Teachers and Schools!

So it goes like this: everyone seems to believe that teachers/schools are the problem with education. It is not true. If it were just the teachers or schools then we could just fire all of them and things would improve dramatically. We all know deep down that this is not the case. In fact we all know that the problem is with society. I’m not blaming the children. But I am also not blaming the teachers. Nor am I blaming the schools. If we as a society want children to succeed we need to give them the opportunities to succeed. School is not an opportunity in and of itself. School is mandatory. The opportunity comes when parents provide it, and/or when students seize it. Schools require that parents prepare their children for school. If parents don’t work at preparing their children for school by reading to them, talking to them, and enriching them then they will not be competent readers or speakers, skills required for success.

Since when did schools become the place where children receive all their enrichment? When I was a child, in the 60’s and 70’s, my parents provided music lessons, extra enrichment classes at the local junior college, and summer camp, just to mention a few (of course my parents read for pleasure, we had a bookcase filled with a wide variety of books, my parents read to me, and so-on). Students come to school today without ever having been read to, without ever seeing a book, with apathetic parents, or parents too busy trying to make ends meet, and jacked up on soda and candy—IN THE MORNING! My mother also packed me a lunch. She did not fill my lunch with crap. My mother did not let me watch TV all day either.

In my classroom, which is a second grade classroom, I have students reading at a first grade level and students reading at a fourth grade level. I am expected to differentiate instruction for all these children. I also have students who do not speak English. I do not speak their language. This is a difficult situation isn’t it? Do you honestly expect me to be able to reach all children and give them what they need in this kind of situation, especially when their parents can’t or won’t give them what they need? Am I to be teacher, health care advocate, therapist, parent, pencil buyer, clothes washer, backpack opener, and homework helper? I submit that it is neither possible nor practicable to expect a single teacher to save 25 children a year instead of the parents of these children trying to save them. In fact I submit that the expectation of “saved-by-teacher” is a damaging and stifling wish, and impossible to achieve.

We need to figure this thing out. We are not going to fix education (education being the filling of society’s collective mind with good and correct information) by blaming schools and teachers. And since it is society that needs fixing we should be focusing on that. Let me list some of the problems that have no genesis in school:



Poor nutrition

Too much television (which is filled with dehumanizing images)

No supervision






Video games

Uneducated parents

No vested interest in society

These are just a few of the problems our society suffers (yes, repetition as literary device can be annoying). We also need to blame advertisers. We also need to blame corporations who only care about the bottom line. Advertisers, corporations, the media, they all participate in the ruination of our society. They do not care about us; they only care about their bottom line. You know what I say to their bottom line? I say forget their bottom line. Their bottom line is causing society to bottom out. Society needs to wake up. Wake up! Read a book! Talk to your children! Eat real food. Stop blaming everybody else for your problems. Quit buying spinners, and new clothes, and new cars, and plasma screens, and bling. Stand up to your repression. Much of your repression is self-induced and self-perpetuated. Try to dig yourself out of your hole. Don’t expect a handout--attempt to deserve one. You don’t deserve one just because you are feeling, or in fact are repressed. The only thing you deserve is respect. I do have respect for everyone. You need to respect yourself however if you expect genuine, unfettered respect in return. Your lack of self respect causes me to respect you less.

Wake up America. Take responsibility for yourself America. Remember there is no difference between the United States of America and the people of the United States of America. The government is "we, the people". We can change it if we don’t like it. We need to change it if we don’t like it. But before we can change it or even determine whether or not we like it we need to be informed of it. The only way to be informed is to inform yourself. Nobody is going to open up your skull and drop in information. Besides, who will interpret it for you? You need to open your skull and suck in information. Students (or probably more accurately, parents of students) at school seem to expect teachers to learn for them. Teachers do the teaching; children need to do the learning. Teachers don’t make students learn. Just as the evening news doesn’t make you know what’s going on in the world. You need to diversify. Watch the evening news, read a newspaper, read a news magazine, listen to N. P. R., talk to someone smarter than you, get off your fat ass and inform yourself.

I have a child in public school, in the same district where I teach. I would be ashamed to send him to school without having checked his homework for completeness (not correctness). I would feel derelict and negligent if I was unaware of a filed trip, or a school function in which my child were participating. I would feel terrible if I let my child eat the nasty food provided by the school for lunch, and I would not send donuts for breakfast! My pride is involved here as much as my hope (not to mention my responsibility) for my child’s success in life. I know that as his parent I need to do all I can, and maybe more, to insure that my child will be able to support himself and make wise, informed decisions as he becomes more independent. Parents who do not share these feelings are either lazy, stupid, selfish, or all 3!

Oh, and one more thing. Stop accusing us teachers of racism, especially us Jewish teachers, who get it more frequently than our gentile colleagues do. It is not racist when a white (or Jewish) teacher suspends or punishes a black child for wrongdoing. Parents, some of whose initial reaction to a negative report about their child is to blame the teacher, or claim racism, are perpetuating the problems I am discussing in this blog. I do not know of a single incident of disciplinary action taken by a teacher out of their need to show their racist bent. But I can recall many parent-initiated conferences with upset (upset with the teacher, not their child) parents of the disciplined child; conferences are for helping a student, not for yelling at a teacher who is doing his/her job. Teachers are required to discipline students who do not allow other students to learn in an environment that is conducive to learning.

Basically, what this whole tirade boils down to is a plea; take responsibility for yourself and your family and your children. Don’t expect schools, teachers, or the government to be responsible for you or your family or your children; because the schools and the government are you. So if you want schools and government to take care of you, by definition, you need to take care of you. Blaming the schools and the teachers is not going to help you. You’re the only one that can help you. Wake up. Wake up! Make your children proud!

Update: More here.

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