Subscribe to this Blog
Today's Blogs
    The Checkup:

When Teacher is the Bully...

It's the end of the school year. Time for field trips, special events and getting ready for the summer. But for a couple of kindergartners in the news recently, it's the end of a particularly rough first school year.

Take 5-year-old Alex Barton. Alex, who is autistic, was sent to the school office in May over his behavior. When he returned, his teacher stood him in front of his classmates and had the classmates tell Alex what they disliked about him. And then, the other children voted Alex out of his classroom.

Or Gabriel Ross, also age 5. He told his parents over and over he didn't want to go to school and his teacher was mean, so they sent him to his Indiana school in mid-April with a tape recorder in his pocket. What they got back was an earful. The teacher, Kristen Woodward, is heard calling him ignorant, selfish and pathetic and telling him he's not going to have any friends.

Now, before parents of incoming kindergartners start to panic, it's important to remember that our schools are filled with great teachers. But still, sending little ones off to school means entrusting them to a large group of adults you know little about.

Navigating school means navigating lots of relationships, says school psychologist Rhonda J. Armistead. Beyond their own teacher, who holds an important role of power, there are other kids, hall monitors, cafeteria workers and teachers they don't know. So, if a child comes home upset about school, the cause could be widespread.

A child's relationship at school, though, starts in his classroom. And that teacher has the biggest impact on his school performance.

"Teachers really do need to understand how incredibly important the relationship they have with their students in the classroom is. Caring, warm, responsive relationships contribute to higher levels of learning in the classroom. The relationship can produce higher demands and expectations. Kids do things because they want to please their teacher and they will take on more challenging tasks, like school more, will have greater level of engagement" if that's a good relationship, Armistead says. Armistead is a school psychologist in the Charlotte and Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina and president of the National Association of School Psychologists.

So, how do you assess if that relationship is working well for your child?

"When kids talk positively about school experience, then that's a good indicator," Armistead says. And look at your child's motivation and output in the classroom as an indicator of teacher/student interactions.

Armistead stresses the importance of letting your child's teacher know you're involved. Teachers are human, and vulnerable, she says. And they internalize the interest that parents show, whether it be via e-mail, parent conferences or acknowledgments of papers sent home. A parent's goal should be to become a partner with a child's teacher for that school. year. And in having conversations with the teacher, parents will be able to judge how well the teacher has developed a relationship with your particular child by how tuned in they are to your child's strengths and areas that need support.

If a child comes home saying he "hates school" and doesn't want to go, what should a parent do?

Says Armistead: "Children can have these feelings based on any number of factors in the school. Schools have different climates. Most likely issue is with the adults or with the peers they are mostly engaged with. Think of schools as systems with lots of interactions and you have to peel away to figure out why your child has those feelings."

Talk first with your child to get them to express their feelings. Be calm and reassuring to get them to tell their feelings and they will tell you. That gives you an indication of how to proceed and what source to pursue.

How do you ensure your kids have a good learning relationship with their teachers at school? How have you handled less than ideal educators?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 4, 2008; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers
Previous: Bunk Bed Boo-Boos | Next: Four Years AND Forty Pounds

Comments


I am always amazed at the utter stupidity of some people, lately teachers. I can't imagine how livid I would be if I were these kid's parents.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Wowie, wow, wow!!

Posted by: chittybangbang | June 4, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

This is what happens when you mainstream.

Posted by: Perhaps | June 4, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Are these teachers getting death threats?

Posted by: Stunned | June 4, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I liked the teachers that just taught the subject over the ones that were warm and engaging. The "nice and sweet" teachers played favorites. Ever heard of the teacher's pet? It works both ways. There's one thing that all kids recognize and that is when they are being treated differently / unfairly than other students.

If your kid feels so unjustly treated by his teacher that he is willing to point it out to her face in a conference, it's time to document the evidence, write the email, and make the appointment. It could make the situation worse, especially if your child has a mean, evil teacher, and that's when it's time to coach your child on how to handle mean, evil people. Life is unfair, and it's only a matter of time before you child learns this ugly little fact.

Posted by: DandyLion | June 4, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

this is shameful...this should NEVER happen in a classroom, however, it doesn't happen all the time. these are a few cases (and a few cases too many). and honestly, as a teacher, we vent. we talk about kids in our classes to other teachers. but we do it on our own time when the kids are out of the room.

Posted by: pre-kteacher | June 4, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

These stories are indeed horrible. ,As a teacher, I could also share some doozies about parents! (I also like to think of myself as one of the "great" teachers - but I do take the odd day off to take care of my sick toddler.) I love to hear from parents, within reason. Constantly calling me at home, stopping by my table at a restaurant on a rare date with my husband and expecting a conference then, demands for me to call you back within the hour all will not be conducive to the discussion of how your child is doing. On the other hand, when I call you about your kid, call me back. You have one kid (or two or three...) and I have 35 kids. If I'm calling you, it's important.

Posted by: Wow | June 4, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

pre-kteacher

"this should NEVER happen in a classroom, however, it doesn't happen all the time."

How do you know?

Posted by: Is it really news that teachers can be bullies? | June 4, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

When I had lousy teachers, my parents sympathized, told me to keep my nose clean and avoid attracting negative attention, and sent me on my way.

There are jerks everywhere. It sucks that they'd be teaching kindergarten, but it's just unrealistic (and probably unproductive) to try to keep jerks out of our schools, when they've so successfully penetrated every other aspect of our lives. Better to learn early how to deal.

Posted by: WDC | June 4, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I was bullied by my second grade teacher. Horrible year for me. I remember her making me stand in front of the classroom while she berated me for not bringing enough cupcakes to my party so everyone could have one (I offered her mine). *Sigh* Petty little meanie.

And this was at a private school. It is everywhere.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | June 4, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I have heard the story but not the conclusion. What happened to these teachers in the blog? Fired? Disciplined? How did the school officials respond?

I think it presents a teaching moment so to speak for everyone - children and parents and other teachers. No one wins when the teacher is a bully.

Posted by: andrea | June 4, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

This is so timely! I'm counting down the days until our youngest can be done with a certain fourth grade teacher. I wonder how much of the problem is that poeple self-select into the teaching profession and the person who chooses a teacher is most likely to identify with the students that remind her (or sometimes him) of themselves. My daughter is a future MIT nerd who loves science and math and isn't big on lip gloss, nail polish or hair ribbons. Little Miss Southern Belle, this year's teacher, was never intentionally cruel but clearly had favorites (other Little Miss Southern Belles). The problem, the way I see it, is that the people who would be most likely to identify with the autistic student/the eccentric student/the struggling student are probably those least likely to become teachers. They tend to be bubbly poeple who like pop culture and LOVED school. I'm particularly uncomfortable with those teachers in the middle school who are always trying to show how 'cool' they are. They tend not to look out for the shy child, the one who's being bullied, and on some occasions, I've even seen them condone the bullying, if not actively joining in.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

The autistic child was asked to no longer "kick students, throw crayons, eat crayons, crawl under the table, kick the table of other students ... [or] disrupt the class,"

While the teacher's behavior is inexcusable, it sounds like she was at the end of her rope. This child should have either been in a special ed room or with a full-time aide. It's not fair to the other students.

The welfare of the other students is not a consideration when mainstreaming disabled child is considered. As someone who was molested by a mainstreamed child in middle school, I can say that there is collateral damage that occurs.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

My fifth grade teacher did this sort of thing to me. I'm still pissed -- in fact I'm more angry about now that I'm an adult than when I was in her class. I know I should let it go.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | June 4, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

When liberal pundits look for horror stories they look for instances of authority figures who abuse their position. This is one. But they ignore the problems that really exist and that cause much more harm- the lack of authority and discipline in the public schools, beginning now at the lower grades. Teachers are increasingly women who rely and sweetness and light to control children who in essence are thugs. Classroom noise and disorder deprive children who behave and who want to learn from getting an education. But liberalism is more concerned with the dysfunctional than the normal- the latter pay the price.

Posted by: mhr | June 4, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Andrea:

Here's the latest that's been reported on these cases:

From CBS News on Alex Barton: "School district officials tell the newspaper Portillo, who's been a teacher for 12 years, nine at Morningside, has been reassigned to the district offices, and that an on-going investigation of the incident could take up to two weeks."

From NBC, Fox News and the Courier-Journal on Karen Woodward: She was suspended with pay pending an investigation. The Indiana Teachers Association, which is representing Woodward, filed a grievance to argue that she was unfairly disciplined by administrators in the district.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | June 4, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

mhr

"When liberal pundits look for horror stories they look for instances of authority figures who abuse their position. This is one."

Nope. Two instances. A poor start.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I learned at a very early age (3-4) to sit down, shut up, and hide in books. At 53 I'm still called anti-social, stuck-up, arrogant, and nerd, among other things. The shell is now nice & thick, and I haven't cared what anyone (including family) has thought for decades. I have had (and still have)a lot of fun! Y'all missed out!

Posted by: lunasatic | June 4, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

As a teacher with over 10 years experience in the classroom, it really does go both ways. You get teachers who are cruel bullies who play favorites and take pleasure in keeping kids under their thumb. On the other hand, you have teachers that are bullied by parents and students who are out of control. While the teacher was clearly out of her mind to invite the other children to berate the child, one does wonder what kind of crap this kid put her through if this seemed like a good idea at the time. There are students who are simply out of control and teachers do not have the authority to do anything about it. Unfortunately, teachers sometimes use sarcasm and insults because they have no other recourse for discipline. It doesn't make it right, of course, but as someone who found herself contributing to the "dark sarcasm in the classroom," I think it points to a larger problem within the system. That is partly why I resigned as a high school teacher. I didn't like who I was as a public school teacher. It's a bad system all around.

Posted by: jutho | June 4, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

"There are jerks everywhere. It sucks that they'd be teaching kindergarten, but it's just unrealistic (and probably unproductive) to try to keep jerks out of our schools, when they've so successfully penetrated every other aspect of our lives. Better to learn early how to deal."

Here, here. Better start learning that lesson early. Teachers aren't saints and neither are parents.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | June 4, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I had an eighth grade teacher who I thought hated me, and so would really yell at me in front of the class. And maybe she did hate me. But now that I look back more than 20 years later, I think that maybe, she didn't take so well to the few instances when I basically tried to tell her how to do her job:

"You can't give us the quiz today -- we had a snow day yesterday (when we would have reviewed the information beforehand)."

"This question (on a quiz, which I pointed out in the middle of the quiz) didn't happen in the book." Didn't occur to me that maybe she just wanted to see if we had actually read the book and were paying attention.

So maybe she shouldn't have told me to "get down off your high horse." Well, maybe I shouldn't have been on my high horse to begin with. I'm not saying that what these teachers you mentioned did was right. But, as some others have said here, there may have been some extenuating circumstances.

Posted by: KLeewrite | June 4, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

jutho

"While the teacher was clearly out of her mind to invite the other children to berate the child, one does wonder what kind of crap this kid put her through if this seemed like a good idea at the time."

Is "what kind of crap this kid put her through" the standard for emotional abuse?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

@Jutho...i couldn't have said it better. i had a kid this year that was a behavioral nightmare. daily, if not 2-3, phone calls to mom, talking back, rude, disruptive. this is pre-k, too.

i was at the end of my rope and between me and the principal decided she would do better in another class. she is still the same, but, at least my class is peaceful now.

@is it really news...i don't know, if it was happening at my school and my principal got wind, you bet there would be consequences.

I am sick to death of being bullied by the kids and the parents. i got into this job because i love working with kids, and seriousy, not many people could survive one day (or even an hour) teaching 20 incredibly active 4-5 year olds. when it stops being fun for me (that was almost this year) i will find something else to do with my life.

Posted by: pre-kteacher | June 4, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

my 4th grader hates school. always has. He had some horrific experiences in preK and a private K and still isn't completely over them.

I agree that the boy with autism should have at the least had an aide. Do you know how hard it is to get such help for kids who have disorders that lead to meltdowns etc? schools seem to rely on sending to the office which doesn't solve the problem, just get the child out of the teacher's hair. And when you have a 'behavior' disability that comes along with a learning disability they will treat the behavior and ignore the academic issues.

It took us 4 years to get the school to give us something other than a behavior plan to help him (and he learned self-regulation in the meantime so 98% of the time his behavior ranks among the best in the class). Recent academic frustrations now leave him ready to give up on school. I'm hoping the new changes will turn things around even thought they come several years too late.

Since we've been in public schools, we've had some wonderful teachers but the system isn't very accommodating to kids with these behavioral challenges. I am not saying they should be allowed to disrupt the class....I want my child out when it happens. But rather than saying you were bad now go back and be good (or did you forget your meds?) we should be looking for reasons behind the behavior (frustration? over stimuation).

Posted by: anonymous | June 4, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Too bad I did not think about sending a recorder in my child's pockert when he was in 2nd grade. Even now, 3 years later, he occasionaly tells stories about that year. At the end of the school year he basically got Stockholm syndrom and emphathised with his teacher how hard it was to work with such "bad kid". We chose her because she was strict, but she exceeded her reputation. Not only she was watching our son like a hawk, but other kids quickly realized that the easiest way to curry a favor with her was to gang up on him. Fortunately she did not break his spirit, but I wonder how less strong willed kids fared. On the other hand, having witnessed the dark side of life, the boy now appreciates good teachers much better, and he can see that glint in the eye when people in authority positions are likely to everstep the boundaries. Will serve him well when making hiring decisions.

Posted by: Nine | June 4, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The Teacher's Union is defending Ms. Portillo and will continue to do so. I don't care if this kid ate crayons, flung his hands around and hid under a desk all day, you do not humiliate and gang up on a 5 year old. Ms. Portillo could not handle the situation and instead of admitting it to a superior and working through the proper channels she berated and humiliated a child, she should be fired.

Teacher's Unions have been running public education into the ground for decades. Tenure is their excuse for not firing incompetent, mean and outrageous teachers even if it to the detriment of hundred of children.

Posted by: Get Real | June 4, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

KLee: She still shouldn't have yelled at you. My kids call out answers ALL THE TIME, and I have had to perfect the LOOK, so they know, non-verbally, that this isn't the best time to bring it up (during the test).

I agree that the current structure puts too much emphasis on mainstreaming at a total disregard for the learning experiences of others, and even really for the student, since the teacher then has to juggle class behavior with mainstreamed behavior with teaching with mainstreamed teaching (it's not just kids with behavioral problems being mainstreamed -- kids with severe learning disabilities as well. Yay for social promotion?).

I would also like to point out -- again -- that the education required for a K teacher v. a 4th grade teacher is wayyyy less, and there are not necessarily communication classes involved in that.

Posted by: Kat | June 4, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

While I agree that parents can be a nightmare -I have many friends who are teachers- this was not an article about those people. It was about the teacher(s). And, the fact that teachers may be subject to verbal abuse, harassment, etc. by parents does not excuse the sort of behavior exhibited by the teachers in this posting.

School is supposed to be a nurturing environment for children to learn and grow. Kids should not fear their teacher, fear going to school, or be subject to being berated in front of the class like this. Sorry, that's my view and it is not going to change (and no, I never was in school but I saw other kids that were and there was nothing to be gained by it. One teacher -a nun- designated a table of boys the "reject table." That is just one example.)

While there are "bad" teachers and "good" teachers, in my view, what was described in this pose is a form of abuse that exceeds what is bad. If a teacher cannot handle her children witha degree of cool -whether those kids are mainstreamed or not- it is time to look for another profession.

Posted by: Jen | June 4, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

There were some bad ones and some great ones in my time and my kids get the same range. Overall, I find teachers responsible professionals but that doesn't mean they don't make mistakes or that they necessarily "like" all of the kids. Both my children have learned that certain teachers "click" with them and others don't. teachers frustrated with my son's creative spacey flippant attitude are relieved 4 years later to have my well-organized, attentive daughter in their class. And the reverse...my daughter says that the art and music teachers don't like her and she doesn't like them...same ones who seemed to bring out the best in my son. My rule is..we can accept this range as long as a teacher does not actively harm (emotionally or physically) my child. Only one time have I said...enough! you hate disorganization so much you hate my disorganized child and you are publically humiliating him and excessively punishing him for his disorganiztion...and had my child removed from the class.

Posted by: samclare | June 4, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: JEGS | June 4, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"As a teacher with over 10 years experience in the classroom, it really does go both ways. You get teachers who are cruel bullies who play favorites and take pleasure in keeping kids under their thumb. On the other hand, you have teachers that are bullied by parents and students who are out of control. While the teacher was clearly out of her mind to invite the other children to berate the child, one does wonder what kind of crap this kid put her through if this seemed like a good idea at the time."

That's an interesting way of justifying unacceptable, unprofessional behavior.

Isn't one of the things we all learn in kindergarten, ostensibly, that two wrongs don't make a right? It's entirely appropriate to expect an adult to know her limits and exit her classroom - her workplace -- before behaving in this manner toward a minor. In other workplaces, adults are expected to act like adults. Since when do teachers get a pass on exhibiting good judgment and self-control?

Posted by: MN | June 4, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Nine, what you describe is happening to my child this year. And when the children began to gang up on my child and I complained to the administration about it, the response was to ask the teacher to advocate for my child. Well, since she is the one who taught the children to gang up on my child, how helpful do you think that is going to be? I have been waiting for the end of the year since December.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Everybody had teachers who liked one student better than another. Kids can be really difficult, and as we all know, teachers are under incredible stress these days with all the testing and evaluations......

I would say this is more than just a problem with the teacher. Where has the principal been all year? Hiding in his/her office?

I think if a child comes home and reports problems with the teacher that it's time for a parent to "volunteer" in the classroom.

While teacher might not let loose with his/her worst behavior with visitors there you are likely over the course of time to get a feeling about how well they're able to manage their classroom and whether what you've been hearing from your child is fact or fiction.

Posted by: RoseG | June 4, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like there need to be cameras in every classroom and the principals and superintendants need to monitor the teachers in addition to the student bullies. I sure hope the teachers's unions are not supporting the bad teachers. They need to be warned and there needs to be consequences, like having to teach the makeup courses over the summer holidays for 5 years in row for those who offend a second time. Just like the old days of keeping students after school, the teachers who mess up should be the ones who lose their three months of summer holidays. Many use the three months to take continueing education and work on updating their course materials. Those who have to teach the summer sessions for the students who need to make up for some problems during the academic year, are the ones who will have to work extra hard. But rather than fire them, give them extra work. We cannot afford to throw away good teachers, who just need an ATTITUDE adjustment. Many of them probably also should be required to take some counseling, interpersonal relations skills, anger and temper management, ... There is an old saying those that can do, and those that can teach. This might be one of the reasons why we in the USA are falling further and further behind countries like Finland, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany, where those who can teach in high schools, many with PhDs in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering. We need to provide full ride scholarhips through the PhD level for top high school students who commit to becoming high school teachers. Part of their education should be working at top government labs, so our high school teachers in the hard sciences (Chemistry and Physics), mathematic, computer programming and engineering are the very best. Then we will no longer need to import Indian, Chinese and Eastern European graduate students, as our high school teachers will be better, rather then worse, than the high school chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering and computer science teachers in India, Russia, China, Eastern Europe, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany. As it now is, many of our mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer science and engineering teachers do not have BScs, much less MScs or PhDs in the fields which they are teaching. Is it any wonder our high school students have a culture shock when they go to top private universities (USC, Cal Tech, Stanford, Northwestern, Rice, ...) and top state universities (UCLA, USCD, CAL-Berkley, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Wisconsin at Madison, ...). Time to require all of our chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering teachers to have minimally BScs in the fields they teach and pay those who have MSCs more, a pay grade higher, and pay those with PhDs even one higher grade. The top high school students should be encouraged to take Advanced Placement mathematics (calculus, linear algebra and differential equations), physics, and chemistry, to better prepare them for the rigors of university education, like they do in Russia, Iran, Germany, Finland, South Korea, Japan, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Posted by: Aussie2020 | June 4, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I think there are indeed two sides to each of these stories. While the teachers obviously crossed the line and treated the children poorly, I think it needs to be asked why. Why would people who obviouly love children (otherwise why would anyone want to be locked in a room with so many of them for hours every day) act this way. What did the children do?
Also, so many parents today believe that their "little angels" can do no wrong. These people can watch their child kick another kid or break something and be like "aww, isn't he adorable." It is possible that these two boys were atrocious. I don't know, I wasn't there. I do know that we had mainstreamed "Level 5" kids at my high school. Their classroom was across the hall from my calculus class. We couldn't take an exam or have a single lecture without being rudely interupted. A few of the kids would routinely steal things out of lockers between class. But they never got in trouble. It was everyone else's problem to deal with. I don't agree with that. This one boy clearly should be in a special program if he cannot properly integrate into the regular class. It isn't fair to the other children.
Speaking of the other children...how bad must it have been for them to witness their teacher behaving in this fashion. Yikes!

Posted by: 21117 | June 4, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

JEGS, The story you posted is a poor example of a teacher being fired unfairly or school system/Principal bullying. The article presents more questions then it answers.

Apparently the teacher in question had negative performance reviews and his actions during the event were deemed inappropriate. Just because a student is bilingual (hispanic) and punished does not mean racism was involved, and apparently the bilingual students were not the only ones punished in this manner.

You can argue whether making a child eat on a mat on the floor is appropriate punishment, but the article is short in length and on information.

Posted by: Get Real | June 4, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Almost 40 years later, I can still picture my 6th grade teacher, who took great pains to humiliate me in front of the rest of my class. I was a little bit too smart and too strange to blend in with the pack, and she made sure that I was ostracized by the rest of my class. She reduced me to tears on more than one occasion, and I still remember the day she sent me back to second grade writing class because she didn't like my penmanship (I also remember the kindness of the second-grade teacher that day). This was not a teacher who loved her job and was just pushed over the edge -- she was a tyrant who enjoyed her power over the kids in her class.

To those who are trying to pin this on the kids here, you could not be more wrong. The teacher has a role of absolute power in the classroom, and to abuse this power by bullying your students is despicable. I don't care how atrociously a child behaves -- a teacher has an absolute responsibility to treat all of her students as human beings. There is NO EXCUSE for humilitating a child in the classroom.

Posted by: Steve | June 4, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Get those kids with bad behavior out of school. No more mainstreaming - it negatively affects the good ones who are there to learn. My tax money shouldn't support a kid who keeps my kid from learning. News flash: if the bad behaviored mainstreamed kid pisses off the wrong person, he'll just be offed on the street!

Posted by: shame shame | June 4, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

This has nothing to do with mainstreaming kids. This happened when I was in school and there was no maintstreaming of special education students.

Not to mention, there has been incidents with bullying teachers with kids who do not have any delays whatsoever.

It is mainly about power and a lack of accountability. It is really sick but I can see where it can happen.

I do believe the vast number of teachers are good people who do not berate or abuse their students. But for the ones that do, I hope to god they get fired. My guess is they don't.

But I am with DandyLion-document, document, document. And worse comes to worse, make your story public. It might get you some action. Clearly the teachers sited in this example are horrible and need to NEVER to be allowed to teach again.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 4, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

This kind of thing makes me see red. I really think if it happened to my child, I would want to physically harm someone. Teachers are in a position of trust and are looked up to by their students, at this age, anyway. These foul excuses for human beings! They belittle and verbally and emotionally abuse children and they ought to be stuck in solitary confinement and subjected to the same torture they put upon these dear little children.

I hope that these teachers are never allowed to set foot in a classroom again. Sadly, it will probably happen anyway. There's something truly wrong here.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 4, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"I think there are indeed two sides to each of these stories. While the teachers obviously crossed the line and treated the children poorly, I think it needs to be asked why. Why would people who obviouly love children (otherwise why would anyone want to be locked in a room with so many of them for hours every day) act this way. What did the children do?"

What did the CHILDREN do? Are you kidding me with this?

Children do not always know better. It's best that they are guided by someone in a loving and instructional manner. Not abused, not belittled, not battered. Truly, your comments frighten me, those of you who say it's the child's fault. To me, this is something you'd hear from a chronic child abuser. Do you really not see a difference between the actions of an adult and the actions of a child?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 4, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

When I was in the 5th grade I had a terrible bully for a teacher. She would pick pick pick on me so much that I stayed home as much as 20+ days one year (I forget the exact amount) and had rampant emotional problems and massive weight gain of at least 15 lbs. It wasn't until the 6th grade when I still had her for English (it was a split program) that the principal called both my parents in for a meeting with her and the principal neatly and cleanly shot down every one of her arguments against me. My parents told me almost 15 years later about the meeting and as she detailed every situation over and over again it became clear to everyone at the table that she had a problem with me and not just me, but with all boys.

Why did she have a trouble with rambunctious boys? Her husband was having an affair. My sister had her years later and everything was smiles and wonderful and she even was given an award for MoCo teacher of the year in the 1990s. But the year I had her she was a horrible, bigoted, prejudiced bully.

And once my parents explained how she was chastised for her treatment of me at this meeting then my self-esteem changed. Had I only known what I know now at age 12.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

one does wonder what kind of crap this kid put her through if this seemed like a good idea at the time.
---------

A sane person doesn't wonder that.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

My youngest son has Tourette's Syndrome, OCD, and ADHD. In fourth grade, his teacher came to me and said that if he just stopped ticcing, humming, and moving all the time things would be fine, I told her that if he could stop ticcing, humming, and moving all the time he wouldn't have a disability! The good news is that this teacher "got it" at that moment. Many other teachers did not. Teachers, like anyone else, can and do make mistakes, have bad days, and speak imprudently. However, teachers can also bully, and this opens the door for a culture that tolerates bullying. I worry about getting my three disabled children through well-intentioned but smug systems with as little damage and as much education as possible. The systems I have dealt with in four states basically do not work well for children with special needs. Yes, they do enormously better than they did thirty-seven years ago, but that's not enough when it's your kid who comes home hurt, again, by the system that is supposed to help.

Posted by: schoolsocialworker | June 4, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

"one does wonder what kind of crap this kid put her through if this seemed like a good idea at the time. "

Typical defense of an abuser.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

My sister's first grade teacher started class after spending the summer on a Kibbutz and spent, literally, the entire year berating the non-Jews in the class. One incident was that for the holidays the Jewish kids got white paper bags and blue construction paper to make stars of David for this gift bag, but the non-Jews got plain brown paper bags and crayons to decorate with Christmas designs. At the pageant all the parents sat stunned while the kids sang Israeli and Jewish songs under a star of david flag holding bright gold menorahs but a Frosty and Rudolph song under a Christmas tree that was, as I remember it, made out of sloppily painted newspaper. I remember my mother asking afterwards what the heck was up with this Christmas pageant about Israel and the woman explained that there could be no religious symbolism allowed, so she couldn't do any Christmas stuff because it represented religion. As opposed to a Star of David flag which somehow didn't relate to Judaism.

I think she initiated a ban on easter cupcakes and the like, where the principal had to step in and rescind the band. This was about 1977.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I was struck by the fact that the little boy was five before anyone thought to evaluate him for autism. Symptoms of autism typically present around age two, and it is important to address them as soon as possible. Was this child eating crayons, hitting others, and hiding under tables for years before entering school? I gather from news reports that the diagnosis is, indeed, autism. Didn't his family notice something was wrong before he entered Kindergarten? Did he have a pediatrician or preschool teachers who might have noticed something wrong?

If the child finally starts getting treatment as a result of this teacher's mishandling of the situation, she may have unintentionally done him a favor.

On the other hand, it was harmful to the other children to put them into a position of voting another child "off the island." This sends the terrible lesson that conformity outweighs compassion.

Posted by: kaleberg | June 4, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh, we definitely need to go back to the days where when kids disrupted a class, they were taken away. No, not if it's one offense, but if it's continual, and there is no teaching being done because of a student, then, yes, take them out.

Mainstreaming for certain kids is okay, but not all - that's the problem today, we seem to want everyone to have the exact same things, when that is entirely ridiculous. Every person is an individual, and when a certain way isn't working with a child (i.e., 30 kids in a class with desks all facing the same way, etc) - then they need some 'alternative.' Not better or worse, just different. Where I went to high school, it was extremely competitive and many bright students couldn't handle the situation, and there was an 'alternative' high school, where there were maybe 30 kids.

And it worked really well for a friend of mine. She had a different experience, but a good education nonetheless (and some of those grads went onto ivy league schools, in case anyone was wondering). However, today, we seem to think that everyone should have the same education, which doesn't work. Oh, well.

And there's absolutely no excuse for a teacher acting this way. In a job situation, an employee has many choices, but a child certainly does not. It's so sad.

Posted by: atlmom | June 4, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"Children do not always know better." That is the story of a parent who's child can do no wrong. It is completely insane. My daughter is not perfect and when she gets in trouble, she probably deserves it. Luckily, my husband and I have a clue and have taught her how to tell right from wrong. In fact, this lesson was taught at a young age. I agree that infants and toddlers do not know any better but neither of these childer were infants or toddlers.

Posted by: 21117 | June 4, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

It's not a new thing that teachers are bullies. The problem is that they teach life lessons way too soon. Many years ago when I was in high school, a math teacher was openly prejudiced against certain ethnic groups and told ethnic jokes in class. At the same time, my chemistry teacher was predisposed to badmouth members of another racial group. As a member of an ethnic minority, it made me wonder how I could get fair treatment at the hands of both these instructors. Earlier, in a parochial elementary-junior high school, the teachers (nuns) were favorably disposed to protect several bullies against their own travasties against other students, because the bullies were members of the school's basketball team. In effect, they could hit you, but you could not strike them back. Moreover, the head of the church's choir was also predisposed to scream at boys whose only crime was that their voices were changing. The lesson I learned, for better or worse, at a very early age was that life is unfair, people in charge have the capacity to be unfair, and to protect myself as best I could. It also touches off a sense of cynicism about the system and about those in charge. In fact, students in these situations learn quickly how to manipulate those in power, and they do so out of a sense of self-preservation, not because they are bad kids. I remember getting in trouble and being told to write a 1,000 essay on how I could be a better student and person. After I wrote and turned in the essay, a proud moment was that the teacher in question, with a tear in her eye, termed the essay the most "sincere thing" she had ever read...even as half the class snickered behind her back.

Posted by: Bernard | June 4, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes the personality of teacher plus student is toxic. I have seen it myself. An otherwise ok teacher HATES some kid - hates the child with the power of a thousand white-hot suns. When a child feels that hatred, they start misbehaving. When a child feels that they cannot possibly meet the teacher's expectations (either because of disability, lack of socialization or training earlier at home, or just because the teacher's expectations are ridiculous) that child will sometimes act out very badly. It is as if the child feels that it would be less damaging to be seen as deciding not to comply rather than being unable to comply.

What a well-intentioned and professional teacher does in those situations is to work extra, extra hard to love that child and find reasons to praise them. If the teacher can't do that, the child needs to be moved - and a good teacher will see to that him/herself. Most none of them will, because admitting human frailty in that regard is going to require a bunch of questions that will not be easy to answer. That is where trust between a teacher and a principal are critical, and where leadership has its place.

But what a teacher can't do is what these two teachers did. Everybody can feel pushed to the edge: but if you can't keep it together, get out. For your own good, and that of your students.

I say this as the child and grandchild of teachers, and as a parent of special needs children. But also as a former gifted kid who could very, very clearly see how much some teachers feared and hated her. And I never acted out in any way.

Teachers are human. Abuse is human. That doesn't make it ok, and asking what these kids did to provoke it is incredibly wrong-headed. If a student makes you want to do or say these things, get HELP.

Posted by: Bad mommy | June 4, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Steve- it's no surprise that a chunk of teachers are burned out, or tired, or resentful, or just unhappy with their jobs and it shows clearly. They grade unfairly, they have unreasonable assignments, make unreasonable expectations and then shame students for not living up to them.

And I'm not surprised to hear that a few are just abominable. My only real story is my sisters 4th grade teacher tried to make her write right-handed and my mothers fury came down hard and fast.

I'd say it's definitely good for parents to talk to their kids about school and what's bothering them. And if you don't have those lines of communication, then you missed some important steps in the early years because I know enough parent/kid relationships where they DO happily talk about those things to know it's not just "kids don't want to talk to parents."

Posted by: Liz D | June 4, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Also, the idea of an 'education' degree sometimes skews our teachers. I have spoken to some teachers and it is interesting what they learn.
Having a math background, I thought - hey, it might be a career to look into, middle or high school math. But the school systems pretty much discourage that - they think an education degree is the most important thing (at least, many of them) rather than knowledge of the subject at hand.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

""Children do not always know better." That is the story of a parent who's child can do no wrong. It is completely insane."

You don't know what you're talking about. My kids get in trouble all the time, break rules and get time outs. And all the while, I strive to be a loving and teaching parent so that they understand that bad behavior is not tolerated. It's much more pleasant that the alternative, abusive route both of these teachers took.

So don't lump me in with that lot.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 4, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Actually the article goes on to say that Alex was being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. This is often not diagnosed till the child is older because Asperger's syndrome does not carry the same early developmental delays in communication. Often people with Aspergers appear to weird or eccentric. Not necessarily disruptive.

Again, the article did state he was in the process of being evaluated. That might explain why he was in a classroom with out an aid. Not that excuses the school system. It just might explain why he was still in a mainstream class with out proper supervision.

I don't know as much about Aspergers as high functioning autism. But I believe I read that the unacceptable social behavior often increases in time for Asperger cases (especially for boys). So his behavior may have been getting increasingly worse over time and the school and the parents couldn't keep up with it.

Neither of this explains or excuses the teachers individual behavior. What she did was completely unprofessional and down right sick. Saying life is unfair, does not excuse abuse. Life is unfair, that doesn't mean a parent or a care giver can beat a kid up. Seriously, this particular woman should not be teaching.

It is a drastic case when your talking about a disabled child. But frankly, teachers have been bullies since the beginning of time. Look how many people are posting their own personal stories and these people are not disabled.

Again this is about power and a lack of self control and accountability. Yes, this child should have had an aid but that doesn't change the fact the teacher was completely wrong.

And who the heck holds a five year old up to the same standard as a legal adult. This was not a high school senior. This was kid who was in kindergarten.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 4, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Its really weird and creepy that some people are defending these teachers. Weird and creepy...

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to teacher's unions it has become too hard to fire bad teachers and too hard to reward the really good ones. They are the biggest problem with public education today, and have gone a long way towards lowering the esteem in which teachers are held in our society.
My math teacher for two years in high school was the president of the local teachers union. If he spent 30 minutes a week actually teaching it was a miracle. I remember at at the end of the year our AP calculus class took an exam on basic arithmetic because his grade book was so empty he was in danger of being reprimanded. I refused to take the exam and ended up graduating as class salutatorian instead of valedictorian over it, something I still take great pride in. I had some great teachers, people I still aspire to be like, but he was ended up being a cautionary tale for me, what not to be like as an adult. I hope he's found something to do with his life that he actually enjoys, because it's just pathetic to watch someone drag around doing something they hate day after day.

Posted by: rumicat | June 4, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Foamgnome already addressed some of the issues with the boy in Florida. His diagnosis actually came through about a week after the news broke.

My son is 5 and will start kindergarten in the fall. He will most likely end up with an Asperger's diagnosis in the next year. We started pushing for some sort of evaluation when he was 2, but were told by several doctors he didn't need it. Got some therapy for him--speech and occupational, but without a diagnosis and out-of-pocket. Finally made it to the top of an evaluation waitlist--a year after we first tried to get his name in and just before moving. Now we're on another waitlist in our new state, shorter than the last one, but probably six more months before his first appointment.

With something like Asperger's, the child's differences may not be obvious until later than in a child with more severe autism. This can lead parents to start the process later. There are actually lots of cases of kids not getting diagnosed with Asperger's until much later.

Posted by: Mouse | June 4, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow, sorry I missed today. We are dealing with this now. And in my own experience, this is one of the most naive comments I've ever heard on this blog:

"Why would people who obviouly love children (otherwise why would anyone want to be locked in a room with so many of them for hours every day) act this way."

Obviously love children? Hah! More like obviously love having absolute power.

Please don't get me wrong -- not saying this about all teachers, Lord knows my mother is one, and the vast majority of them get into the field because they truly do love kids and teaching. But every once in a while -- maybe one out of ten, maybe less -- you get one that you just look at and think, "why the heck did you sign up for this, when you obviously don't even LIKE kids?" And after a year of dealing with one of them, it's become clear to me that it's about the power, about being the boss. She doesn't like kids (spent an entire field trip berating the kids for interrupting her text messaging). But boy, she likes that the kids have to do what she tells them to do.

Which is why my girl has become her particular target: basically, my daughter is a lot smarter than the teacher is, and is therefore a threat, and is therefore the constant focus of sarcasm, blame, punishment, etc. Again, don't get me wrong; my daughter talks too much, fidgets too much, gets bored easily, etc. And yet somehow, her other two teachers have both told me that she's within the norm for 6, and have figured out ways of managing her. But teacher no. 3? She told me that my girl was the "biggest behavior problem" in her class. And all I could think about was of the week before, when I'd walked into class and seen a little boy kneeling on top of a little girl, with his hands around her throat, screaming, "I'm going to kill you!" And I thought, ok, if you think a case of ants in the pants is the worst thing you have to deal with, then boy, we're not even living on the same planet. And, of course, this brilliant teacher's idea of an appropriate punishment for a child that's too active is to take away recess. Yep -- apparently, the cure for hyperactivity is taking away the only 20 minutes they have to get the wiggles out. Frankly, she reminds me of Eric Cartman, constantly demanding that the kids "respect my authori-tay," without actually ever doing anything to earn it.

So, not surprisingly, we're moving my daughter to another school next fall. Which makes me sad, because her other teachers are so great, but I will not subject my daughter to another year of passive-aggressive bullying.

And in a truly wonderful example of karma being a beee-yatch: last week my daughter came home telling me that she was worried about Ms. B; I asked her why; she said, "because she's lost her voice." Why? "From yelling at us so much." That was one of those classic parenting moments where it's all you can do to not let your child see how hard you're laughing.

Posted by: Laura | June 4, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Its really weird and creepy that some people are defending these teachers. Weird and creepy

Defending and understanding are two different things. Anyone who has spent time with kids know they can aggravate the crap out of you. These teachers were dead wrong but I do understand the frustration and disagree completely with the actions they took.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree that volunteering or otherwise being present in the classroom can really open your eyes. Start your day by listening to a "teacher" berate someone else's 3 year old for not wanting to sit on the potty, including threats that imply that Mommy is complicit with the berating and ridicule. Then notice the 3 year old sit on the potty crying for no less than 5 minutes without any teacher intervention. Then on another day listen to the same teacher tell a crying 3 year old to "suck it up".

Very young children in daycare, preschool, pre-K, or kindergarten are learning a lot about their world, about communicating with friends, and communicating with adults in positions of authority, and about self-regulation. They are not little adults and should not be expected to behave as little adults. They are too young to understand that some adults are evil, especially if they are with evil most of the day 5 days a week. Ridiculing a young child or voting him out of the classroom--that's evil, abusive behavior that says nothing about a child or his or her behavior. It does however say everything about a teacher's personality disorder. The question of justifiable or not justifialbe actions in the recent news events is not subjective--there are established, evidence-based guidelines for managing problem behavior in the classroom http://www.naeyc.org/academy/standards/standard1/ and these teachers were either not trained properly or chose to disregard common knowledge.

The teachers of very young children should absolutely be expected to handle the ups and downs, difficult students, difficult days, broken crayons...in a consistent professional and constructive manner.

I would happily pay higher taxes to support better salaries and benefits, stricter licensing requirements, and lower staff:student ratios (1:20 in pre-K? That's terrible. For a pre-K group size of 20 the recommended ratio is 1:10!).

Posted by: Not Perfect | June 4, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Get Real: Teacher's Unions have been running public education into the ground for decades. Tenure is their excuse for not firing incompetent, mean and outrageous teachers even if it to the detriment of hundred of children.

I went to union and non-union schools, and I had good and bad teachers in both. Of my 14 non-union Catholic grade school teachers, I remember one who used humiliation, one made fun of me for being shy in front of the class and would slam a baseball bat on desks to silence the room, five who would scream like banshees because they couldn't manage their classrooms, and one who barely taught math or science all year, instead telling us about his mountain climbing expeditions and hair raising stories about his relatively recent tours of duty in Vietnam -- that was our fifth grade teacher. (Only one nun in that group of Catholic school teachers, by the way.)

Teachers unions aren't to blame for mean teachers. They advocate for better pay and professional development, and they fight for teachers to be seen as professionals, not babysitters.

It's the low bar that's set for teachers that tends to draw a lot of people in. As someone with a degree in English, I can't tell you how many people told me to get my teaching certification as a "fallback" if other jobs didn't work out. People don't get it.

Posted by: Tracy | June 4, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

To clarify my post, I was quoting the poster "Get Real" in that first para.

And let me concur with the posters who wonder about the teachers who seem to hate kids. I remember plenty of those as a kid, the ones who seemed to resent us. (And I was one of those shy quiet ones with good grades.)

If you're a teacher who is miserable, you owe it to the kids to get the heck out.

Posted by: Tracy | June 4, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Get Real:
I posted the story because it summed up the incident. The question of racism is up for debate; what concerns me is having children eating off the floor as a form of punishment. You're right that the story leaves many unanswered questions, some which do not even get answered in subsequent articles - like, why was the entire class being punished in this manner? Why did the teacher not agree with the form of punishment? Why didn't the kids at least have trays to eat off of?

Posted by: JEGS | June 4, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

"one does wonder what kind of crap this kid put her through if this seemed like a good idea at the time. "

Typical defense of an abuser.


Posted by: | June 4, 2008 1:54 PM

Agreed. This is the same rationale spouted by spousal abusers who justify their actions by saying, "She drove me to it. If you were married to her, you'd smack the crap out of her, too."

Why do I need to "understand" this behavior? I don't need to know that a murderer was raised by a single mom in a poor neighborhood either. Actions truly speak louder than words.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I think this kind of thing does happen all the time.

I know it happened to my siblings and me. One brother, in particular, was a typical ADHD-type kid long before such a diagnosis existed so he was always in trouble. But some teachers were determined to literally beat it out of him (permissible in those days).

I was quiet and bookish, but even I got my share of beatings, humiliations, having my mouth washed out with soap (for telling another student to shut up), etc.

On the other hand, being a teacher today is a tough, largely thankless, and grossly underpaid job. A lot of parents can't/won't discipline their children at home and leave the task to the teachers--but then complain about the way they're doing it. I think it's often hard to know if we're getting the complete picture from these news stories.


Posted by: tough call | June 4, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

fr Steve:

>...Almost 40 years later, I can still picture my 6th grade teacher, who took great pains to humiliate me in front of the rest of my class. I was a little bit too smart and too strange to blend in with the pack, and she made sure that I was ostracized by the rest of my class.

Hey, Steve, you and I must've had sisters for 6th grade "teachers". Mine berated me in front of the class because I didn't snap to her little lockstep about drawing using shapes. Held it up, called the class's attention to it, and said (and I quote) "A kindergartner could do better than this". Two years later, in 8th grade, I won a city-wide competition for my age group for a painting I had done.

I bumped into this woman a number of years later at an art show that my sister and I were displaying at, and I turned my back on her. Doubt if she knew why.

Posted by: Alex | June 4, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Tracy, if you had read my post you'd understand that I was not saying Teacher's Unions were responsible for mean teachers, they are responsible for defending them. Tenure is the lynchpin of their defense, it matters not that a teacher is a mean, unqualified, rude, child-hating thug, it matters that they have a lifelong paying union member that they can "represent."

If you think that Unions are out for the best interest of teachers and children's education, I have a bridge in NY I'd like to sell you. The NEA is a shake down, pure and simple.

I will agree that people should take teaching more seriously and not as a fall back job. However, I don't agree about pay. Teacher's starting salaries in this area (wasington metro area) are equal to starting salaries of Police Officers. Which one has the more dangerous job, and which one gets an 11 week vacation annually?

Posted by: Get Real | June 4, 2008 6:08 PM | Report abuse

If you don't like kids or you can't handle stress well, then do us all a favor and don't teach.

I had the meanest teacher ever in 5th grade and I swear, I'm still trying to get over some of the bile she had me believing about myself.

I feel like being sick whenever I think of that little ADAH kid being "voted off the island" in front of his classmates. It must be hard having him in the classroom, but she could have easily called a conference with his mom to sort something out. That was just abusive. Goodness knows what the poor kids took away from that whole situation.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

My kindergarten-age son and I once saw an autism teacher at his public school go ballistic--overreact verbally and abusively --at one of her elementary school charges, at 8:10am, after the boy had asked her a simple question/request.

That boy might have tried to push one of her buttons with the question (which I think was 'Guess if I'm wearing socks!"), but it was clear that at 8:15am, on the playground, before class started, the teacher's buttons were hair-trigger, rarin' to be pushed.

The same teacher one minute later tried to be sweetness and light to my son and I, who were standing an arms length away from her display. My son wisely wasn't having anything of it, didn't trust her.

I feel for the kids in that teacher's class.

Posted by: THinkingInPhilly | June 4, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

"However, I don't agree about pay. Teacher's starting salaries in this area (wasington metro area) are equal to starting salaries of Police Officers. Which one has the more dangerous job, and which one gets an 11 week vacation annually?"

I've never understood this argument or comparison. What are the academic qualifications of a police officer? Can officers earn overtime? What kind of overtime do they earn on holidays? Can they retire after 20 (and not 30) years?

Both starting salaries are low, so what is the point? That teachers' salaries ought to be lower still?

Posted by: Kate | June 4, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

No doubt about it, Kate, public safety officials (police, firefighters, EMTs) are all grossly underpaid, too. Our values are all out of whack.

Posted by: tough call | June 4, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

salaries and vacation are a highly debated topic. teachers are paid for 10 months of work, often working close to 11 months. we do not get 2 months of paid vacation, if we want to be paid, we have to either opt for 12 month pay (where they hold back a portion of your paychecks and send them out over the summer) or get another job. We are also not paid for any of our holiday time, we are paid for the actual day (New Years Day) but not the week off.

so, we do not get paid vacations or paid holidays. teachers are also not paid overtime, often going in early and staying late on their own time. teachers also take a large amount of work home with them at night to complete on their own time.

while we are supposed to have a 1/2 hour of duty free lunch, that often never happens. kids get sick, you are running errands, calling parents, working on cumulative folder and report cards, cleaning out our classrooms and getting them ready for summer cleaning.

i love my job, i wouldn't trade it for anything, and seriously not many people could do my job (or even want to).

Posted by: prekteacher | June 4, 2008 8:09 PM | Report abuse

yeah the unions are the worst thing for the kids. A union prez once said, actually that 'once kids start paying dues, then the union will start representing the kids.' So, no, they don't have the best interest of the child at heart. Which is a crying shame. If we could reward good teachers and get rid of the bad, things would be much better. And many people who leave teaching would not do so.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Just out of curiosity, is there anyone here who got through 12 years of school without running into at least one teacher who singled you out for ridicule? I had, as far as I can remember, 2 in elementary school, 2 in jr high, and none in high school.

In elementary school I had a 2nd grade teacher who was convinced I was a bigot so my parents pulled me out of his class. He was convinced I said something racist, but I am positive he confused me with this other kid. I remember I went out of my way to befriend all the Latin and Asian kids, giving them my deserts at lunch, so the teacher would shut up, what a d*ck he was.

In Jr High I had two teachers who were convinced I, and several of my friends, were misogynist. I remember with one teacher I went so far as to ask her, frustrated, what I did that made her so angry and I can remember her steely-eyed stare as my friends looked on, "You know what you said, don't deny it." to which my friends fell down laughing because no one knew what the hell she was talking about- she spoke in riddles like that. I remember flunking that class and getting an A in summer English. that teacher never came back.

The other one berated all the boys in the class equally and made us read a romance novel in English class, which the parents vetoed to the principal and I think we read 1984 instead.

Posted by: DCer | June 4, 2008 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Look, some teachers are good, some are bad. Some of the people you work with are good, and some are bad. The key is as a parent, to take action and be fully aware of what the issues are. Sometimes it could be your kid, sometimes it could be teacher. It's your responsibility as the parent to sort it out. And if the problem is the teacher, change it. Don't wait till the end of the year- change it now. It may not be easy- it will probably be very hard. But it is possible. And there's always private school for a year if it's that bad. But "sticking it out" is not the best solution- don't waste a year. Take action. I'm a teacher and the daughter of teachers. You're the parent- address the problem. And remember, sometimes the problem is your kid. Sometimes it's the teacher- but it's up to you to make a change.

Posted by: Tiffany | June 4, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mums and Tots,

We must live in such an age of luxury that childish nonesense on the part of teachers and students attracts the ire of so many. Was the autistic boy harmed? Perhaps he was singled out. Perhaps he felt like he was a fool. Perhaps he was a fool that should have been enrolled in a 'special' school. The kid will survive. The teachers will look for new jobs.

As far as you helicopter mums who police your child's school, I can only laugh as your children receive less and less because our teachers just don't want the hassle of dealing with parents. Your kid will receive his A, will pass his AP (Did you know you often need only a little more than 50% of pts on that silly AP test to pass!! IB is even less rigorous.), and still know less chemistry, physics, and calculus than the immigrant child educated in a shack in India.

In conclusion, while some soccer mom rants about her son's low English grade to an overworked teacher because he might not qualify for a soccer scholarship at one of our fine higher institutions of learning, some country boy just had his hand blown off in Iraq, some 10 year old Chinese child just completed her 18 hour shift making the beads we hurl upon the streets of New Orleans, and another drunk driver killed a child.

Aeschylus said, 'there is learning through suffering.' How far we have come from this truth, a truth few wish to acknowledge.

Posted by: The Master | June 5, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse

"I've never understood this argument or comparison. What are the academic qualifications of a police officer? Can officers earn overtime? What kind of overtime do they earn on holidays? Can they retire after 20 (and not 30) years?

Both starting salaries are low, so what is the point? That teachers' salaries ought to be lower still?

Posted by: Kate | June 4, 2008 6:36 PM"

Kate, I find it hard to argue with your incredibly naive and ignorant statements concerning Police Officers, their education levels and pay. When you grow up perhaps you will understand that these men and women put their lives on the line everyday, they carry a gun for a reason. It is assinine citizens like yourself that question their intelligence and worthiness that are an embarrassment.

If you think that retirement is an incentive to go out and patrol streets and serve and protect sorry a** citizens like yourself for a lousy 40K a year, I am not sure what to say to you. You should be thankful that people take these jobs.

When teachers make more money in starting pay then Police Officers there is a problem, and it starts with imbeciles like yourself.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | June 5, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Pre K teacher, you are completely misrepresenting teacher pay. Our county is nothing like yours, and taking pay over 12 vs 9 months is semantics. Perhaps you should look into neighboring counties because you are getting ripped off.

Our teachers get paid holidays, sick days, vacation day and 10 weeks off over the summer. It is the same all over the wash-metro area.

Perhaps you are a pre-k teacher that is not a county school, in which case, get another job.

Geez, think we were born yesterday?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 8:03 AM | Report abuse

It is assinine citizens like yourself that question their intelligence and worthiness that are an embarrassment.
----

wow!

Speaking of questioning intelligence- how could you misread that post so badly?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I will never understand those people that harp relentlessly on what a "sweet deal" teachers get and how they don't deserve it. If you think it's so great, why don't you become a teacher yourself?

Why are you harping on teachers, of all professions, rather than overpaid athletes who don't usually finish college or even make it there, or CEOs who run companies into the ground, then walk away with golden parachutes? Meanwhile, their subordinates lose their retirement funds as the company stock price plunges.

In my mind, these are some real "profession" problems in our society.

Posted by: SJR | June 5, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

This happened to me with my 7th grade math teacher. She was supposed to retire the summer before my year and couldn't so she decided to make all of us miserable because she was. It took me years and a switch to another school system before I finally stopped thinking that I was too stupid to do math.

I don't think we can ever underestimate the lasting effects bad teachers have on children.

Posted by: kallieh | June 5, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Why are you harping on teachers, of all professions, rather than overpaid athletes who don't usually finish college or even make it there, or CEOs who run companies into the ground, then walk away with golden parachutes?

------

Isn't it self-evident though?

I chose not to support the Baltimore Orioles when their salaries went crazy. I chose not to shop at Home Depot anymore when Bob Nardinelli lost his mind and don't buy from Circuit City anymore when they fired all their good people. But the only way I can encourage change in public schools is through activism and discussion.

Do you really believe there is any other reason than that? Some conspiracy?

Posted by: DCer | June 5, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

SJR,
You're arguement against CEO and athlete's pay smacks of socialism. Why don't we all share the pot and be miserable? Like there is a finite set of money in the world and teachers and jerks like yourself should get "their fair share" because they are super-duper people.

As for "why don't you become a teacher," what a moronic question. Why don't you become a Doctor, or Lawyer, or Indian Chief? Probably because you don't want to, or don't have any interest in those professions. It is called a life choice.

And guess what Mr. Smarty pants, if the teachers and unions didn't complain so much, maybe nobody would have to point out that their complaints are hollow and empty. I can think of nothing worse then being a teacher, but for those that make the choice, they should know it is a calling or passion job. News flash, you won't get rich being a teacher. Wow. It's called puvblic service.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"Teachers are increasingly women who rely and sweetness and light to control children who in essence are thugs."

The kid was FIVE, you moron.

Posted by: Lanie | June 5, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

fr June 5:

>...And guess what Mr. Smarty pants, if the teachers and unions didn't complain so much, maybe nobody would have to point out that their complaints are hollow and empty...

Guess what, Smarty pants, most complaints by teachers are indeed valid. Try having to supply your own paper, color pens, tape, notebooks, etc out of a salary that is NOT paid 12 months out of the year. You have teachers who are having to work two jobs just to make ends meet, they do NOT get paid summers, and they DO work after hours correcting papers, trying to get ahold of YOU because precious little Johnny can't see the board so he's failing reading and every other subject, attending PTA meetings, prepping next day lessons, changing out the room decorations, etc.

Posted by: Alex | June 6, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

One, the tone of these comments are becoming really rude and combative.

Two, I am a teacher. Nothing I do is good enough. I work INCREDIBLY hard every school year to help guide young students into productive, hard working, kind, and thoughtful citizens. I do WHATEVER I have to to help them on that path, and I am very invested in THEIR future. My job is all about them, and helping them.

I am very lucky to have great parents and great administrators helping me when i falter, when i have questions about my own development as a teacher, and to celebrate our class's successes.

But these conversations, such as the comments above, create an atmosphere where teachers are really demonized.

Teaching is leading a group of 20-26 or more, really diverse individuals who are developmentally ranging from one to two years above or below their "age," into doing cohesive things together to become more skilled for society--you know, reading, and math, and the like.

I have families who run the gamut of "school is free daycare" to "shouldn't my kid be doing algebra now?" I have kids with special needs, kids who are being diagnosed for special needs, "perfect" kids, quiet kids, etc.

I love this job because it helps me to give kids the skills and lead them on this fantastic journey. I am helping to raise them. I love it because it challenges me to be a writer, and actor, a scientist, a manager, a singer, and a million other things I have to be GREAT at to show kids how to do it!

But I hate this job because no matter what I do someone will always be there telling me that it wasn't good enough, that the mistakes I made are big enough to erase all the rest of that hard work, that the impatience that I have is a fatal flaw in my performance, and most of all I either have to be perfect or LEAVE.

I can't say that what the teachers said/did to their students was an example of what good teaching could be. Those are wasted opportunities that all teachers have had. But instead of vilifying them, is there a way to help them to become better teachers? Education in working with students with Asperbergers/Austism? Better classroom management seminars? Observations at schools? Feedback that's helpful, and not hurtful?

Every year I think about leaving the classroom, and it's not the kids that make me think about it.

Posted by: Teacher | June 6, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I hear you. I once was in your place, but I finally left, in large part because of the nasty attitude of parents and others in the community at large who have little or no respect for teachers. Having had a person from another profession tell me that teaching is a part-time job because you only work 8:30 to 3:00 each day and have the entire summer off is just one of the insults I endured. And it was one of the nicer ones, too.

Try having a lawyer parent berate you over the phone--while informing you over and over about how valuable his time is-- because he's not happy with how his darling's final grade came out. Argh. You have my sympathy.

Would I go back? Not on your life. I loved teaching, but the rest of what went with that job sucked the joy right out of it.

Posted by: To Teacher | June 6, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Teacher, by all means, you should leave teaching. I imagine your incredibly combative and rude tone is used with the parents as well as other teachers. In short, your obnoxious.

Bad attitudes can dictate your life, and I am pretty sure your attitude is affecting your student's lives as well.

I know a few teacher's like yourself that have chips on their shoulders. I wish they would all quit. Thankfully most are not like you, most have the correct attitude and demeanor to deal with parents, students and the administration.

I find it curious that you sympathize with a child abuser and blame parents for all your problems. Grow up baby girl, that's life. There are crappy people everywhere. If you can't take the heat, get out of the classroom and stop spreading your infectious bad attitude on unsuspecting children.

I submit that in a few years, if not already, you will be one of the awful teachers people on this board are posting about.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 6, 2008 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Alex, Wawawa, ohhh, teachers have to work after hours? Too bad for them. Do you know how many other professions bring work home, most that I know. It is called part of the job that comes with the territory.

If you and Teacher are going to complain so much, and teaching is so cruel, horrible and rotten, for the love of the students, LEAVE. Exit stage left and make way for someone that can handle the day to day grind.

I am really, really glad the teachers I know are not of your variety (if you are a teacher? Or just a sympathizer of the whiny ones?). Most have backbone and level heads and do not sweat the small stuff. Most are PROFESSIONALS, not professional crybabies.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 6, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Alex, I missed that some teachers have to work two jobs. Join the club. If you want to live a life of luxury, get another job dumbass.

And yes, teachers DO get paid during the summer. If you don't choose to take your pay over 12 months, change it. That it is a 9 month contract means nothing about pay, it means you can find summer work, which other civil servants can not do. Consider yourself lucky.

Good luck spreading those lies elsewhere.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 6, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

"It is assinine citizens like yourself that question their intelligence and worthiness that are an embarrassment."
--
It is "assinine" that you misspelled "asinine" lol .............

Posted by: Anonymous | June 6, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

It is "assinine" that you misspelled "asinine" lol .............

Posted by: | June 6, 2008 7:41 PM

Oh, lol, hee-hee, speller-writter-grammar checker. Thank goodness you are here to keep us all in line with your input.

Notice how the lol is used sarcastically by snarksters, as in, lol, I am SOOOOOO cool and you are bad speller. Welcome to middle school, idiot.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Well I *did* learn to spell asinine in middle school :)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Well I *did* learn to spell asinine in middle school :)

Posted by: | June 9, 2008 6:14 PM

Sounds like you are still in Middle school, dude.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 13, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company