Monday, April 01, 2019

Musical Chairs

Suspension is once again getting a lot of attention. We shouldn't do it, they say. Students who get suspended are less likely to graduate, they say.I have no doubt whatsoever that students who get suspended are less likely to graduate. I'm not at all persuaded, though, that suspension is what causes this, More likely, students who, say, get into fights all the time are not as focused on schoolwork as those who don't.

I always remember a student who walked into a class I was teaching. He didn't belong there. I told him he would have to leave. He offered to blow my head off with a 45. I didn't take it well. I found out his name and reported him. When I asked what the consequence was, a dean told me they had called his parents. I thought that was pretty weak. The dean told me the kid was brain damaged. I told the dean any kid who talks like that doesn't belong in the same building with my students. Surely he got a good, stern talking-to for threatening my life in front of my class.

Another thing we do when students have problems is move them. In fact I know a student who was moved to our school. She had a very serious issue at her last school, so they sent her to us. It doesn't really matter what the issue is, so I won't address it. But guess what? When they moved her here, the issue seems to have followed her.

I know a guy who brought his family here from South America. They had issues over there. There was trouble finding work. So he came here and told me he was moving to Canada, where they knew people. They stayed there for a while, but he wasn't happy there either. So he came back here. Then he had other issues. Eventually the rest of his family went back to Canada without him and left him here. They had finally identified what the problem was. It was him, not the country. He wasn't happy anywhere.

Actually, I sensed something like that from the moment I met that guy. And I sensed something amiss with this student too. It turned out that the same problem that plagued her at the other school plagued her here. So what did they do? They moved her class. That didn't work either. She still has the problem.

I understand some things are tough to deal with. I have a lot of things on my plate I'd rather not deal with. But sometimes you have to face the situation. In New York City, there are things we just don't deal with. Overcrowding? I worked my ass off to stave off overcrowding in the most overcrowded school in the city. We made a little progress, and then the city just started loading us up again. We're going to get an annex in a few years, but there's no guarantee the city won't do the same thing, though they've agreed not to.

Class sizes? Screw you all, says the mayor, who now puts simplistic commercials on TV, touting mayoral control, which he now calls mayoral accountability. That's nonsense. This mayor has done a few things, but he's ignored a whole lot more, including an entire Bloomberg culture at the DOE. He's better than Bloomberg, but he's nowhere near what those of us who enthusiastically supported him hoped for.

The process of shipping kids from one school to another, from one class to another, from one situation to another without remotely addressing their needs is nothing new. This notwithstanding, it's an awful and pointless process. It's doing something simply to say something was done. It helps no one.

Every teacher in New York City knows this. It's amazing how few supposed leaders bother to even discuss it with us, let alone ask what we think.
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