Thursday, March 04, 2010


I've got nothing profound to say atm about Liz Green's "Building a Better Teacher" piece in NYTimes Mag -- overall it is well written and researched. Typically in these stories about (or in this case, mostly set in) high performing charters, little lines like this jump out to me:

(Katie Bellucci) even sent a disobedient student to the dean’s office without a single turned head or giggle interrupting the flow of her lesson.

Umm... what? In the typical urban school sending a student to the office tends to go like this (I've been reading Filthy Teacher this evening...):

One of our discipline deans quit because she didn't feel she was able to do her job when every time she attempted to suspend a student, the admin told her that wasn't a possibility, even when students had committed violent acts. Our other discipline dean is no longer with us after participating in an incident I can't describe here. We received a notice from our principal Sunday night reminding us to take care of all discipline problems in the classroom, and to only ever refer a student after having taken the prescribed number of steps. Our stand-in discipline dean is a big red box that sits on the counter of the front office with a hole cut in the top and a sign on the front that says, "Discipline Referrals."

A classic example of our lack of discipline came for me on December 12th. A fourth-period student of mine, Star (see previous post on her), returned to class after having been absent for almost two months. The minute she walked into my well-run classroom, I'd lost 3/4 of the class to her jokes and side-comments. She likes to tell people she's bisexual, who she's slept with, what drugs she did the night before, and how bad of a bitch she is. After having asked my counselor to help me remove her from class, she began screaming, "FUCK WHITE PEOPLE! STUPID MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!" She proceeded to slam her stuff around and march out the door. My administrator brought her straight back to me and told me to keep her in class. I refused, explained the incident and went back to teaching.

Of course, if you're teaching at a school with a total student body of 76 students, six teachers and four administrators, it is probably a little easier for administration to help out with discipline issues.

Also, both those anecdotes come from schools considered on the cutting edge of reform.


Claus von Zastrow said...

It's also easier when everyone signs a behavior contract. Still, Green's account of classroom management was compelling. Few education reporters make it to her depth.

John Thompson said...

My thoughts exactly! Secondly, perhaps one reason why the new classroom management advice in the article was so compelling is that it isn't new. we've all attended PD that taught basically the same thing. Without disciplinary backing, however, these practices get overwhelmed. and how can discplinary backing occur without adequate alternative schools? Our district attempted a three legged stool, a) classroom management PD by Comer Schools, b) borrowing a Code of Conduct from another district to create consistent and credible consequences, and c) promising alternative schools consistent with State guidelines. When we cut alternative slots instead, all three legs collapsed