Friday, February 26, 2010

Mythology


Two major events put teachers in the news this week. And what a paradoxical pair they were. In Colorado, again, a school shooting in the shadow of Columbine was thwarted when a pair of teachers tackled the shooter. Treated like the heroes they are, the nation is once again reminded what most of the people who teach in our nation's schools are like. They do what they must.
I don't think there is a teacher anywhere who doesn't think (and sometimes dream) about being in that situation. Given the amount of guns available in this country, it's not a stretch to assume that one, or some, are around you everywhere. It is unfortunately the kind of situation anyone who works with the public needs to think about...needs prepare for in your mind. Look alive.
What strikes me about this incident is that it is yet another example that debunks the myth that suburban schools are safer than urban schools. Seems to me that most, if not all of the worst school shootings have been in the frontier land known as suburbia. Sure, I know all too well how dangerous it can be to teach in the inner city, but most of the sociopaths seem to act out in those newer sprawling campuses that have everything. Why is that?
And then the other major story: Rhode Island School Board fires all teachers at high school. Here's the scenario; it is an underperforming school with awful test scores and a low graduation rate. (48%) In a high poverty area, Central Falls High School was in such a free fall that the board felt it was time to throw in the towel.
After my initial shock, I had to ask myself, honestly , how do I feel about this, and what is the real story here?
After much thought, I'm wondering if this drastic step just might afford the opportunity to see what happens when those who purport to know what's best have a chance. Certainly I'm not advocating removing teachers en masse. But when the finger of blame gets pointed their way so many times, by those who do not know what it's like and expect students to "perform" like trained animals, they just might get what they deserve.
The only question that I see here is just who will replace these dismissed teachers? You will not see anybody rushing to switch school and have a crack at Central Fall's problems. Everybody knows, somewhere, that there are greater variables at work here. Everybody knows that in this community with all it's socio-economic realities, it's history of being on the bottom, it's slew of intangibles that always add up to being abandoned, something has got to change. We'll be watching. But for now, I can't but help but wonder what it must be like for many of those fired teachers. What goes through the mind at the end of the school year as they remove their belongings, and then themselves from their classrooms? Will any of them think of their excitement as they began their careers? Will they flee from this deteriorating institution or will they walk away with bowed heads? Emotionally, what will they feel? I don't think the anger will be with them; perhaps some of their fondest memories will accompany them out the gate. Some might smile, knowing full well that they will be back again.

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