Friday, February 10, 2017

Pockets of unmitigated disaster

Recently, the governor of my state called my local school district a disaster, an "unmitigated mess."  As a current employee of that district and a former employee of that district and a parent of three children in that district and the wife of someone who went through that district, I take some offense.

The governor's children do not attend the district nor, to the best of my knowledge, have they ever attended this district.  Him calling the district a disaster is like someone calling my brother a dickhead.  My brother might actually be a dickhead sometimes, but don't YOU call my brother a dickhead.

Still, in some ways, the governor is right in that there are pockets of disaster in the district.  Thirteen years ago, I had students in 6th grade who could not read.  How did they get through elementary school and be unable to read?  I don't know.  How could we pass them along to 7th grade if they couldn't read?  I don't know.  Those were never things over which I, as a teacher, had any control.  Is it dysfunctional?  Absolutely.

Now that I am subbing, I still see 6th graders who cannot read.  My 1st grader reads better than they do.  And it is horrible; it is dysfunctional.  It is one of the pockets of disaster.

Are the teachers to blame?
No, I don't think so.
Every single teacher I know works hard to help every student, including the boneheads who don't want to be helped.

I place a considerable amount of responsibility on the feet of parents who, in a perfect world order, would value education and help their children and have gainful employment and have enough money to take care of their kids and who wouldn't do drugs and who would make smart parenting decisions.

But there are plenty of parents who do not do these things or cannot do these things (many due to their own lack of education), which means it is left up to the district to take responsibility for all the things the parents won't do or can't do.

And it is darn near IMPOSSIBLE for any school district to do this.

Our district serves 100,000 students.  The next largest district serves 40,000 students....less than half of ours.  You have to add the student populations of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th largest districts in the state TOGETHER to get near to the size of ours.

It is an unenviable task.  I know there are plenty of good, dedicated people who slog through it every day.

I think the district could do some things differently, of course.  Maybe thinking outside the box a bit more in order to help those kids who are most the sixth graders who cannot read at grade level.  Maybe we need a special school where kids go and are in small groups of 5 until they can read at grade level?

But to note that one or two schools are gems in a district of close to 150 schools and calling the rest of it a disaster is just childish name-calling.

No comments: