That’ll Teach Them To Hog The Sandbox

, , , , , , , , | Learning | July 9, 2020

Back when I was in elementary school, my fifth-grade teacher was a gruff older man universally loved by the students, well-known for giving his students nicknames that lightly poked fun of them and taking no nonsense from anyone. In contrast, I was a retiring, tiny nerd girl who loved nothing better than to curl up with a good book.

One day, near the end of the year, my teacher found a book about a popular sandbox game on the floor outside the classroom. He put it on the table just outside the room and made an announcement asking the owner to claim it. Weeks went by and no one did, though I did sneak glances at some of the pages when I could since I was a huge fan of the game.

The end of the year came and the book was left unclaimed. On the last day of school, my teacher made another announcement: if anyone wanted the book, they had to come inside right before the class kickball game and he would give them the book.

Needless to say, I showed up, only to find at least six other kids from my class who wanted the book — all boys with at least four inches of height on me. As soon as I walked up to take my shot at getting the book, they began to complain. My teacher said nothing as they told me to go away because girls didn’t play that game, with all the standard game-based sexism. Even though no one had ever told me video games weren’t for girls before, I stubbornly protested and told them that even if other girls didn’t play that game, I did, and I had just as much chance of getting the book as they did.

While they were still arguing and I was getting progressively more flustered, my teacher handed me the book. The boys stopped complaining, I started beaming, and I got to take the book home. I still play that game today, and the book — which I’ve read several times — has a permanent place on my shelf. Thank you, fifth-grade teacher, for not letting a couple of bullies ruin my day.

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Teacher-Parent-Principal Relations Are Hardly Elementary

, , , , , , | Learning | June 17, 2020

At one point in my career, my family and I were moved to an oil town in west Texas. There were lots of non-natives constantly moving into and out of the city; we contrasted with the locals who’d been there for years. At first, it seemed there were no issues, but I turned out to be wrong.

We lived in a higher-income part of town primarily for the elementary school. We moved in the summer and our daughter entered second grade on time. There were three second-grade teachers of about equal and above-average ability so we would have been happy with any of them. My daughter had a great year.

Third grade was a different story. As with second grade, there were three teachers. One was roughly equivalent of the ones we’d had before and she’d be fine. One of them was God’s gift to education. Her classes did enormously creative things, homework was both practical and fun, and people would kill to get in her class.

The third teacher, though, was the antithesis of the great one. Her classes were dull, kids learned little, and she tended to belittle her students. She was colloquially known as “The Blonde-Haired Witch” and we wanted to avoid her like the plague.

My wife had spent our daughter’s second-grade year volunteering at the school and got to be friendly with the office staff. Knowing what she knew, she tried to ensure that our daughter got into the great teacher’s class, or at least avoided the BHW. Alas, the principal got wind of what she was trying to do and called her into his office.

The principal was a weaselly piece of work. He had a Ph.D. in education from one of the lesser universities in the state and insisted upon being referred to as “Doctor [Principal],” which gives you an idea of the pomposity of the man. He laid into my wife, informing her in no uncertain terms that the class lists would be put together in late July and she wasn’t to ask about it again.

My wife was humiliated and angry, and got even more so when one of the office staff took her aside and told her in confidence that the super teacher’s class for the next year was already set; all the students were children of the local movers and shakers, with no one with our transient status allowed.

To make things worse, our daughter ended up with the BHW. We ended up pulling her out and homeschooling her for a year before moving again.

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Teachers Deserve To Be Millionaires

, , , , , , , | Learning | June 14, 2020

Here are some of the reasons I had to quit teaching. I was a pre-K teacher in an urban school. Kudos to those who are still sticking it out!

Parent: “I don’t discipline my child.”

Her child constantly attacked his classmates and would not follow directions. He ended up head-butting me in the face. I legit celebrated when I got back from sick leave to hear he had been pulled.

Another incident:

After writing out a child’s name on my welcome board, a parent screams at me that the M in the middle of the name should be capitalized.

The name was given to me in all caps.

Another incident:

Principal: “You need to get all of your kids to [end of kindergarten assessment level] by the end of the year!”

Me: “Uh, they are coming to me at a deficit and I only expect half of them to be testing at a kindergarten-ready level.”

I explain the rest of the assessment tool.

Principal: “All of them should be at the highest level of the assessment;why else would they include it?”

The principal repeated this idiocy for months and didn’t seem to understand rubrics. Then, she proceeded to give my team the least amount of planning time, refused to alter her own weekly training schedule, refused to give us substitutes to assess our kids, and still insisted the kids should test at end-of-kindergarten levels.

Another incident:

I have to chase one child who has run away from me on the playground and drag him back before he runs into the street. A white lady dragging a screaming African-American kid is NOT A GOOD LOOK.

Another incident:

One of my student’s personalities flips in January; he destroys my room once a week and I have to teach in the hallway while other teachers have to calm him down.

He later proceeds to trip my paraeducator, who falls and cracks her pelvis. That is the only time I’ve ever seen a pre-kindergartener suspended.

In the last week of school, I told his dad he might need some father-son time. Dad got the hint and didn’t bring him back.

Another incident:

I taught twenty-one four-year-olds by myself for a year since my paraeducator had to teach third grade, because teachers kept quitting.

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Explaining Himself In Excruciating Detail

, , , , , , | Learning | May 26, 2020

I am a math teacher at an elementary school. In the late 1980s, I had this one fourth-grader who was very brilliant but sometimes took directions a little too literally. One day, I had the class do a special math problem together after the lesson, where they not only had to show their work as usual but also provide a written explanation on the back of the worksheet detailing the purpose of each step taken to solve the problem.

While the class was working, I noticed that the brilliant kid took a little longer to solve the problem than usual. When he turned it in at the end of class, I saw why.

He had written an overly-detailed explanation explaining literally everything he had done. It was so long and detailed that he actually took up not only the whole backside of the worksheet — most students needed only little more than half — but also about a dozen lines on a sheet of notebook paper.

I laughed to myself and gave him a four — the highest score possible — because he had solved the problem correctly and, while very long, his explanation was ”technically” correct. I told him that the next time I gave him a similar problem, he only needed to explain the solution the same way that his math book explained how to solve example problems.

It’s been over thirty years, and he has since graduated from a nearby Ivy League college and gotten a career in statistics. His son now attends my school and will be in my class for the 2020-21 school year.

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Their Pronunciation Accuracy Is Low

, , , , | Learning | April 22, 2020

I’m a fourth-grade teacher.

Student: “How do you spell ‘muscle odor’?”

Me: “Sorry, what?”

Student: “Muscle odor.”

Me: “Um, what does that mean?”

Student: “It’s a kind of a gun.”

Me: “Oh. M-U-Z-Z-L-E-L-O-A-D-E-R.”

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