The May issue of "Philadelphia Magazine" has a feature article about me.
I liked it and found it to be a pretty accurate depiction of what's been happening--certainly a more complete picture than other media sources have reported in the past, which I appreciate.
I was particularly interested to read the parts of the article dealing with what was coming out of my school, both from the principal and from some unnamed colleague. (As it were, I've been pretty completely cut off from school goings-on since February 9th. Not even my school "friends" feel comfortable talking to me in large part. The one or two who will chat try to keep things as non-work-oriented as humanly possible. I can't help but wonder if they were told not to talk to me. What is the school going to do if people talk to me? Fire the person for communicating with me? Think that by talking to me in any capacity means that the other person agrees with my every thought and action? Sorry, but that's absurd. But again, it makes me wonder what was said behind closed doors about this whole affair... but I digress.)
In reading the article, I found it particularly ridiculous to hear the principal describe the school as "almost utopian." Haha! Sorry, but NO place is perfect or ideal. What followed that statement was information that last year the school had a 99% graduation rate and that 94% of those kids were college bound. While I am in no way trying to discount these statistics or take away from the accomplishment of anyone involved, these facts alone do not perfection make.
Graduating and going to college--while good and admirable--cannot be counted as the mark of high esteem and success they once were. Most students (particularly those who can afford to pay for it), go to some form of college these days; they almost have to go in order to be marketable for a job. And check the stats--colleges are having to do more and more remedial work with incoming freshman students than ever before. Just because students are graduating and going off to college doesn't mean they are college-ready. Nor does it mean they will be a success; further, there are plenty of life paths that do not include college that will result in successful individuals. Thus, citing those stats does not mean perfection is present.
Nor does a degree--from high school or college--mean that someone is a good person. Their degree, in fact, may be the only positive thing he or she has going. (Consider, for instance, some of the nasty, disgusting comments (also quoted in the article) that were made by some of the students at this "almost utopian" place, or any of the stories of frustration I or any of my silent colleagues have encountered.) Yeah, it's so nearly perfect I could cry.
But in pointing out this bit of absurd diction on the part of the principal, I will note that as much as the school is FAR from a utopia, it is also hardly dystopic. It's a normal school with some normal problems, which, in itself, is a problem (see previous posts regarding the state of education today). But to try to act like the situation is otherwise is just sad and lame.
Also sad and lame was the claim that he "couldn't imagine an educator would feel this way--and then post it with such vitriol." What utter bollocks! Maybe he can't believe I posted it, but he can certainly imagine an educator feeling this way. First off, he was a teacher before he was an administrator; he knows what goes on. Second, he has also made comments behind closed doors as an administrator that have been critical about both students and their parents, as well as other staff. So the faux-surprise and holier-than-thou ruse that someone having a bad day could feel negatively about something pertaining to her job and then make negative comments about it to her friends was just, well, laughable to read.
I was also interested to see some comments from an unnamed colleague who remarked that it's a shame that, "when we want to scapegoat why schools aren't what they should be, we pick on people who have the least responsibility."
I think this mentality is part of the problem with education. Students DO have some responsibility in why schools aren't what they should be today. While they aren't solely responsible, they should shoulder a good deal of the blame. Yes, there are definitely some idiots making the rules and setting up the system to fail. But if ALL students made it their business to care a bit more and take their job as students more seriously, the system would also function better because there would be a demand that it do so; the people at the top would need to make a better go of it. But since so many people who should care don't (i.e. parents, students), it makes it easier for the people in charge to muck it up.
It seems that students are more concerned about the perception of themselves than about their actual behaviors and actions. Those students who were personally offended by my few frustrated postings about students (MANY of whom, I found it interesting and sadly amusing to note, had mis-identified themselves as the specific "target" of comments I'd made in a general sense, which is rather telling in and of itself) wonder if this is how teachers view them. Part of the animosity I've encountered has been because students allegedly now have a complex about the fact that others are thinking things about them, and how they are viewed. (What a concept!)
But to that I ask: why is that a problem? Shouldn't we ALL be concerned about how others view us and keep that in mind as we make decisions about our actions? I think it's a good thing that they wonder. They should wonder. Maybe it will help some of them not to spend class time twisting paperclips into the shape of people having sex or feel that it's appropriate to come up to a teacher after she's called home and brag about how they weren't punished at home for their behavior. Maybe then school could actually focus on what matters: learning.
Maybe this situation will be a learning experience for everyone involved.