Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is this Public Education

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Is this Public Education

June 13, 2008 – 6:45 am by Brendan

Teaching in high school is one of those mythic jobs that that would top the nightmare list of many people. The Tampa Bay Journal has a special by Melanie Hubbard, an English professor, who tried her hand at teaching high school English. She thought she would test the waters with a bit of substitute teaching first. Let’s start with the basics; she was a substitute, she came in at the end of the year, she was working with mostly “at risk” students, she was not trained as a teacher.

So what happened down in this Tampa Bay high school? Was this one of those miracle stories where some lady off the streets comes in, touches the hearts of children and helps them achieve greatness? Nope. Her “regular” students knew all they had to do was pass a moderately easy achievement test and they would go on to graduate. They also knew that the school and everyone involved in it from teachers, to administrators, to parents, all the way up the line would do just about anything to get these students to pass.

What do teenagers do when you tell them all they need to give is the minimum effort in a class they don’t want to attend in the first place? They do anything they can to avoid work and keep themselves entertained.

Melanie may be a great English professor, but she was set up to fail. The expectations for these students was to already low. These students had spent the entire year and probably most of their school lives expected to do just enough to pass. Most of them also discovered the truth that even if they didn’t quite do enough they would still most likely pass. (Why do you think there are high school graduates who can’t read, but no 12 year olds in 4th grade. Not that any school would ever pass a child who didn’t deserve it.)

When Melanie signed up to teach in this school I bet she thought she might actually teach, I don’t think she expected to be hired as a glorified babysitter.

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