Thursday, January 14, 2016

Where's the Good News?

Something great happened at my school this week. A student was being abused, an administrator caught it, and she made sure it wouldn't happen again. While this administrator and I have spent many wonderful hours screaming at one another, I gotta say she should get a medal or something. You won't read this in the media, but I happen to know our UFT social worker was also involved. Also, I'll bet you dimes to dollars they heard about it via a guidance counselor or teacher, who's probably equally deserving.

This story covers it pretty well,  and actually mentions the school intervention, but this one focuses on the sensational and mentions the school only in passing. I wouldn't complain except that every time a public school employee does something outrageous it's all over the tabloids and TV. Often we're stereotyped and I hear people saying things like, "Those people spoil it for the rest of us." I really hate that particular statement. Just because we have the same job, if I do some stupid thing it doesn't mean we all do.

So where's the acclaim for my school? Shouldn't the papers be sitting outside right now asking us what it is that makes us so wonderful and good-looking? OK, honestly they probably shouldn't. The AP was doing her job, and took an extra step to take care for someone in need. That's a great thing. But where's the value for that? In the media all we see tests, tests, and tests. We know who does well on tests, and that's the relatively well-to-do and privileged. Frankly, there are fewer of them subject to the treatment the kids in the story suffered.

And when there are fundamental problems, and when the guardians are not doing the right thing, who's the next best protector for these kids? Well it's us, of course, those of us who work every day in public schools. You won't read a story about a teacher, counselor, or AP who reported a parent for dragging a kid out to deliver newspapers at 4 AM each morning, but nonetheless the person who noticed the kids sleeping in class every day had a part in this. You won't read about any public school employeee who actually found out why kids were absent from school for weeks, and you won't read about how that person made the kid come back, but a lot of us do things like that all the time.

We don't get to see the ACS complaints, and we don't get to see their resolutions, but people who work in public schools are mandated reporters, and  we're generally interested in helping and protecting children. Otherwise, why the hell would we choose to work with them every day? I know there's some stereotype about teachers who sit around reading newspapers while the kids throw paper airplanes.  Not only don't I know anyone like that, but I don't see how anyone survives like that. I don't know how anyone retains anything resembling inner calm with a bedlam-like class environment.

It's very clear to me a great thing happened here. Though this particular thing was extraordinary, readers of this blog likely know both good and great things happen in public schools each and every day. The scourge of reforminess, on top of general media disdain for union, has done a great job of keeping that out of the public eye.

Good things happen when admin and teachers work together instead of against one another. Maybe it's a model for the nation.
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