Semester Zero

Teaching is fun and joyous but also hard as fucking hell, especially if you give a quarter of a shit, at whatever level you teach. You feel crazy, torn between your instinct and drive to care, push, cajole and scaffold and the occasional need, depending on your circumstances, to distance, withdraw, erect taller boundaries, or just stop for a while. I now think that all teachers, K-16, can benefit from occasional breaks and always honest but constructive evaluation. Sometimes, a teacher should be told, We appreciate all your service, your dedication and your experience but we’d like to place you outside of the classroom for a year/2/for the foreseeable future and ask you to serve and offer your gifts and experience in a different capacity. People outside of the classroom, from bus drivers to parents to school board members, wring their hands over “bad teachers” who “they” “can’t get out of the classroom” because of “unions” instead of worrying themselves with the real issue, concern and need—supporting effective, good and downright talented teachers and stopping the exodus from education. Because it is often the good teachers who leave. And what the public calls a “bad” teacher ranges from one who didn’t pass so-and-so’s child to one who teaches logic and argument rather than creationism.

The Bad Teacher Protected By Unions is more conservative myth than reality, like “widespread” voter fraud. The real problem is keeping who you have. And doing so with respect, support and carrots rather than contempt, projection and beating sticks.

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I’ve had so far this year at the college level:

  • a question offered for discussion on race—“What does ‘establishment’ mean?”
  • a student who took 6 weeks to “understand” his university email account
  • the same student asked “What’s a ‘fallacious’?” meaning “What does ‘fallacy’ mean?” even though we’ve dealt with the concepts of appeals and fallacies for almost 2 weeks now AND the class had a quiz on the material
  • students who pout and challenge the department and university grading scales with “Why you got it so hard?”
  • students who “don’t understand” their grades even though the online gradebook shows a string of zeros under assignments ranging from 10 to 100 points
  • a flyer, from a university office with staff, some, not all, paid better than I, with five obvious typos and errors (at a quick glance) like “student’s” for “students” and “elvaluation” for “evaluation”
  • exactly 6 passing grades at midterms out of all my classes
  • a class clown who talks to me like he’s P. Diddy and I’m some video ho—he’s one more crack, comment, sigh, whine, failure away from me grabbing his collar or ear and “escorting” him from my classroom. Permanently.
  • administrators and staff who not only have no idea what goes on in the classroom but have no idea that what happens in the classroom matters at a university and tell students flat-out that ____ is more important than classes

G Bitch

One of these weeks, my blog will be back up and running. Be forewarned.


photo courtesy of Claudecf, used under this Creative Commons license

a mad black woman in New Orleans

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