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Thu Jan 17, 2013, 08:49 AM

 

Another burden for teachers to bear.

Over the course of the past sixty years, schools and teachers have seen their mission expanded beyond belief. At one time, teachers were expected to simply teach and mentor children. As our society has changed, schools and teachers have taken on more and more duties, ranging from feeding, clothing and fulfilling other such basic life needs all the way up to being surrogate parents for children whose own parents are in prison, dead, gone, or simply, completely fucked up.

Teachers are now required to nourish the whole child, physically, intellectually and emotionally. Schools have gone from feeding kids free lunches to now feeding kids on the weekend, on breaks, and over the summer. This is all on top of ever increasing bureaucratic requirements, ie NCLB, Race to the Top, and let's not forget tests, tests, tests, which are slowly destroying our public school system.

This all requires money, lots of it. And in the poorer school districts, urban and rural, this money crunch is taking a huge toll. Sure, their kids are fed, but feeding them often requires transferring resources from actual teaching, leaving schools short on technology, staff, and basics, such as up to date books. Even in more affluent schools districts, with every social duty that schools take on, money is diverted from actual teaching in order to cover the basics of life, namely food and clothing.

Now our president is once again putting our schools on the front line of social reform, proposing that teachers are trained in mental first aid(?), forcing teachers and schools to take on another burden that will weigh down an already overburdened system.

Where are we supposed to get the money to screen kids and train teachers? In many districts, such as the one I work in, there simply is no money. Our computers are ten years old at the minimum, there are not enough textbooks for every student to take one home at night, our classes are overcrowded, we need more teachers, but now we're supposed to divert some portion of those funds into training teachers and screening kids for mental illness?

Who is going to pay for that? Or what, in this administration's opinion, should we cut in order to accommodate this latest burden?

Furthermore, is this the wisest of moves? Teachers are, as a whole, a wonderful group of empathetic, caring individuals. They are, for the most part, very aware of what is going on in their students' lives. But they are not mental health professionals, and it takes more than a class in psychology, ed psych, and child development to give one the skill to diagnose mental illness in children, or adults for that matter. Kids are, naturally, bordering on mental instability and illness during the entirety of their formative years, from when their born into their early twenties even. Their brains are growing, pruning, being flooded with hormones and other radical changes. The middle school years is particularly rough, and you see kids that are, absolutely, doing things that, by any objective measure, are crazy. Yet in fact, it is simply the normal process of growing up.

But while I respect and admire my fellow teachers, and as a whole consider them to be wonderful people who do a top rate job, there are always exceptions.

It is these exceptions that I also worry about. Labeling a child mentally ill is a huge mark to put against a kid, and there will be teachers, many of them, who will mistakenly use that label on kids who would otherwise grow up to upstanding people. Hell, if these proposed mental health screenings were around when I was growing up, I probably would have been labeled as mentally ill(seriously, I used to draw up maps and plans for holding my high school hostage for big money).

If a student is mistakenly labeled as mentally ill as a child, in our society that will follow them for years, if not the rest of their life. What a horrible thing to saddle a human being with, all based on the mistaken word of an ill equipped and ill trained teacher.

I'm sorry, I understand the current frenzy surrounding this issue, and that people feel that something, anything, must be done in order to reduce the violence and death. But once again, saddling our schools and teachers with this sort of responsibility is a mistake. Teachers and schools already have enough on our plate, we really can't do anymore. If you want a top notch education system, then stop requiring us to address every single aspect of a child's life, and give us the money and resources to do what we're supposed to do, teach.

Otherwise, our education system will simply collapse from trying to do far too much with far too little.

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Response to MadHound (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 09:04 AM

1. Excellent points you make as I head off to make tests on paper I purchased myself.

I love teaching but the parenting gets in the way.

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Response to MadHound (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 09:28 AM

2. This is what woke me up at 4:30 this morning,

when my alarm went off (NPR.)

My first reaction was rage.

Like we don't already notice when a student is in crisis and needs help? JFC.

Let's point out a few obvious realities:

1. We can recommend that parents get their kid mental help. We can't mandate it. They don't have to listen.

2. When a child is in crisis, the source is often the home environment; sometimes the parents we are making recommendations to need the help themselves.

3. In some cases, if we recommend it, we have to pay for it. WHERE IS THE FUNDING?

4. If health care, including mental health care, was, in reality, AFFORDABLE, instead of part of an industry bankrupting so many of us, more people would get the help they needed. This was briefly addressed in the story I heard this morning, but I didn't hear anything I considered to be appropriate solutions.

Why am I responsible for so many things in my students' lives that I have no control over?

I've already had a student attempt suicide this year. This student is in clear, extreme, crisis. Everyone, including parents, are aware and on board. The counselor has recommended a residential treatment facility with a good record. Why isn't the student there? Because there is 1. a waiting list that 2. requires a recommendation from a psychiatrist, and 3. there is a waiting list to be seen by the psychiatrist on staff; a 2-month waiting list. So we wait. Because that's the only program in the region. We hold our breaths. We pay close attention, and make sure we are connecting with the student in some way every day the parent can get the kid out of bed and to school. Yesterday in pajamas.

Along with training me to spot things I can already see, is there going to be a flood of funding to increase ACCESS to HELP?

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Response to MadHound (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 09:58 AM

3. It's a self protection measure. If you'd rather not bother the risk is to you.

 

Who else is going to save you?

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Response to dkf (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 10:13 AM

5. A self protection measure?

 

Please explain that one.

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Response to MadHound (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 10:20 AM

6. Well if you have a student who is having problems who eventually shoots people...

 

You could be caught in the crossfire.

Anyone who sees a person they know is having mental problems could be a target, like Lanza's mother.

On edit: And it's not only guns, they could bring pipe bombs or who knows what.

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Response to dkf (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 10:23 AM

7. Well, by that kind of reasoning, teachers should be charged with any number of extra duties,

 

Up to and including get involved in the activities and lives of their students' parents.

So where, under your kind of reasoning, do we draw the line for where teachers' duties stop?

Oh, and tell me, where am I, the teacher, supposed to find the time for all of this? And are you willing to pay me for these extra duties?

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Response to MadHound (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:00 AM

8. This isn't about being a teacher, it's about being a human being and giving a shit.

 

It's about people letting others in their lives be in misery to the point where they commit suicide and take others with them.

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Response to dkf (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:04 AM

9. Ah yes, the old canard that is always trotted out when teachers want a bit more pay,

 

Do it for the good of society. Sorry, but teachers have been doing without for the good of society for decades, it is time to start paying them for what they actually do.

Furthermore, do you really want a teacher, who is not trained in diagnosing mental illness, to be delivering life altering verdicts as to whether a child is mentally ill or not? That's how we wound up with kids over medicated on various drugs, because a relative few of them claimed that normal childhood behavior was actually psychological problems and forced those kids to get medicated.

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Response to MadHound (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:12 AM

10. Part of the President's orders was for a nationwide discussion on mental health.

 

This isn't only about teachers, it's about all of us.

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Response to dkf (Reply #10)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:16 AM

11. A nation wide discussion is fine,

 

Forcing teachers into becoming responsible for diagnosing and reporting on mental illness in their students is not. They don't have the time or training to do so, and that's not what they are paid to do, which is to teach.

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Response to MadHound (Reply #11)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:22 AM

13. Actually I don't see anything about teachers getting training on mental health, just evacuation

 

And response to a shooting and school resource officials.

It seems to be more that they want to lift any perceived legal barriers to reporting more than active training, but who knows.

Here:

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

Then this is what I mentioned:

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/01/16/read_president_obama_s_new_proposed_executive_orders_and_legislation_on.html

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Response to dkf (Reply #13)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:26 AM

14. Here,

 

"As part of his recommendations to protect our communities from gun violence, President Obama today rightly called for Mental Health First Aid training to help teachers and staff recognize the signs of mental health disorders in young people and find them appropriate care.

"The youth version of Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based training program to help citizens identify mental health problems in young people, connect youth with care, and safely deescalate crisis situations if needed. The program, focusing on youth ages 12 to 25, provides an ideal forum to engage communities in discussing the signs and symptoms of mental illness, the prevalence of mental health disorders, the effectiveness of treatment and how to engage troubled young people in services.

"This groundbreaking training is critical for anyone who spends time with young people. The first onset of severe mental illness typically occurs in the late teens or early twenties. The symptoms of severe mental illness often emerge slowly over this period and can be difficult to detect without basic information on what to look for. Even when friends and family of someone who appears to be developing mental illness can tell that something is amiss, they may not know how to intervene or direct the person to proper treatment which means that all too often, those in need of mental health services do not get them until it is too late. Research shows that the sooner people get help for mental health disorders, the more likely they are to have positive outcomes."
http://news.yahoo.com/president-obama-calls-mental-health-first-aid-gun-212800820.html

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Response to MadHound (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:22 AM

12. To be honest, I must admit that for me teaching is a job, not a vocation.

Every time tptb want teachers to take on additional duties, I just know that they're longing for the days when teachers looked upon their classrooms as their homes, their students as their families, and their job as their vocation. They want the days when people where teachers for a few years, before they married, because then they 1. have employees willing to give all their time and resources to the school, and be paid a pittance, and 2. there'll be a turnover that keeps salaries low, and benefits unaccrued. Continuity was provided by teachers who never married and consequently never had children of their own,

These days, most teachers have families, and student loans, and interests outside the job. They try to guilt trip us into being everything for our students - teacher, parent, social worker, psychologist, friend - and for many, they succeed. Not for me. I teach in my classroom, I grade their tests, I do the meetings necessary. But I know that if I had to be available 24/7 for my employer and my students, very soon I wouldn't be able to stay in my job. I would become a bad teacher, whereas right now, I am a good one.

This fall, I attended a seminar with a professor from a school of business that specialized in education. What his speech boiled down to was that if you wanted real progress for students, if you wanted to save those students that were dropping out, the only thing that helps is a dedicated teacher. He gave examples of schools in inner-city London that he'd visited, where the principal demanded that if she randomly called a teacher at 10 p.m. and asked about the progress of a specific student, the teacher be able to answer without any hesitation or looking at his papers. That's the level of involvement necessary to save these students.... and I would refuse. My job is just that, a job, not a vocation. If I had a vocation, I would have become a nun.

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Response to dkf (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:35 AM

15. What about "Adam Lanza was home-schooled" did you miss?

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Response to MadHound (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 09:59 AM

4. May I ask what subject / level you teach?

 

Apologize if that seems to personal.

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Response to MadHound (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:48 AM

16. I have degrees in education and social work.

I retired a few years ago after 11 years as a spec ed teacher and 19 years as a school social worker. Teachers are expected to be all things to all people! Those who criticize teachers need to spend a day or two or three in a classroom! Yes, they already have way too much on their plates!
Some parents and kids are wonderful but others can make a teacher's life miserable. I have seen kindergarten classrooms where a child began the school year well prepared while another came in who had never seen a book before and had no discipline in his background.
A few days after a visit to a student's home in a bad neighborhood I once received a phone call from the local police. They suggested I not return to the house I'd previously visited as it is a crack house. I can only guess that house was under surveillance and they'd recorded my license plate number and tracked me down. I didn't have to return there but a child did- everyday.
I get very defensive of teachers- I wrote something the other day because someone actually complained that teachers make more money than Walmart and Home Depot employees.
Sorry for the rant but I find it impossible to accept the disrespect directed at teacher from people who don't have a clue!

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Response to marew (Reply #16)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:15 PM

17. LOLOL!

Just spoke with another retired teacher friend who was social studies chair at a big high school! Once, after a bomb threat and after the building was evacuated, the teachers were told to go into the building and 'check their area.' They did it!
What else are teachers supposed to do? Hope they got a supplement for that!

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