Monday, November 13, 2006

Aargh, It’s Time to Talk About Student Teachers

Oh, boy. Bunny came home from school on Friday in tears. She had been accused of cheating by her student teacher for using bulleted notes instead of an outline form on her US History test, and not only was she called in front of the class, but he hauled her out in the hallway and chastised her for not “liking” him, which put her in tears for the rest of the day.

Now, a little background…this is the second Social Studies course Bunny has taken at high school. For the first one, she wound up with a lead teacher who watched sports on a portable TV while the kids worked on filling out worksheets from their class laptops, and he gave extra credit points to girls who sat in the front of the class wearing short skirts. Then, in came a personable student teacher, female, whom Bunny had hopes of liking. Instead, using what appears to be the latest in education theories, this new, otherwise likable teacher had them:

Color posters and wordless pictures about history
Perform mime skits on the French Revolution
Create a picture book for babies on the concept of “absolutism”
Engage in assigned group work activity where, as usual, Bunny wound up doing all the work
Write a three paragraph essay on how they “felt” about the French Revolution

I tried to get her into independent study – no go. I tried to get her switched to another class, but there wasn’t one. I asked her teacher to give her assignments like term papers, individual projects, alternatives to the coloring (all of these at her behest) – no go. He was perfectly happy with things as they were. She lived through it and looked forward to having an experienced teacher this year.

Instead, the current student teacher has, once again, assigned group work (why does anyone think this works? There are always one or two kids who wind up doing all the work for their entire group, and the others produce crap because no one wanted to do anything! Why not let them self-select and then let the chips fall where they may?), dubbed another student “Hitler” for some remark she made at one point, and that is now her class name, given everyone A’s, including students who weren’t even there or who didn’t participate for an assigned group speech, and now he’s got my daughter in tears.

It’s not supposed to be this way. Good students are supposed to be listened to, appreciated, taught (rather than expected to warm seats while the lame-o’s learn to pay attention for once – in HIGH school). These classes are supposed to prepare them for college and work, not more play time on the recess grounds with bullies and do-nothings. I’m so disgusted.

I contacted the principal, asking for a conference. He basically said that if she wanted a challenge, she should have taken AP History (which conflicted with her beloved French class, for which she has a REAL teacher), and that it’s really none of his business. I should talk to the lead teacher and the student teacher, and I will, if we can find a conducive time.

I have experience in talking to teachers about stuff like this. It isn’t pretty. Many of them are so burnt out that they figure any time no one sets fire to something, it’s been a good day. Others wonder why the hell I care so much, and postulate that there must be something wrong with me for expecting my children to actually get an education in high school; that every other parent is perfectly happy with the bench-warming aspect of school. Others, like the principal, want to argue about something else altogether and develop a political form of deafness in which they respond to their own questions instead of mine.

Maybe this one will go better; I can only hope.

Oh, and I get to go over and remind my Dad, whose Alzheimer’s has reached a new stage, that his wife is dead, has been for 5 years, and that I love him. The distressed midnight phone calls from him, agitated and scared about where she might be, were a little tiring and sad this weekend.

I think I’ll wear red, just to cheer myself up.

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