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Thu May 23, 2013, 08:09 PM

Retiring principal: ‘It is harder for us to be nice to kids’

Heartbreaking.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/22/what-has-changed-is-that-it-is-harder-for-us-to-be-nice-to-kids-departing-veteran-principal/

When I look back over my notebooks and journals from the past 21 years there are plenty of things I regret. What I do not regret were the times we educators chose to be kind to a kid. The times when we gave a child a second–and then third and fourth chance. The times we decided to let a kid go on a field trip, ignoring some misdeed that might have excluded him from the trip so that a child who had never been further than the county line could see the world writ large. You know the drill.

School should be a place for all sorts of kindnesses. After all, children are forced to attend, with little or no choice over the building, staff, or bus driver they draw. School is one of their first experiences with government, with strangers in close proximity, with authority outside of the family. School should be a place of challenge, but also a place where children are supported to try, and try again. Students should leave us knowing that for this time in their lives they were in the company of people who genuinely liked them and worked in their best interests.

When people ask me about what changes I have seen in the two decades I’ve worked here, I know they expect me to say something about how kids or families or teachers have changed. Wrong. Kids are still interesting, if a bit more docile, and interested in the world around them. Families still want the best they can marshal for their children. And teachers are here because they think they can make a difference.

What has changed is that it is harder for us to be nice to kids. With elevated standards and increased testing, we find ourselves with less leeway with which we can help a child navigate. With ‘zero tolerance’ laws and other Draconian rules, the mistakes some children make can no longer be forgiven. The rapid-fire social media culture means that if we ever err on the side of mercy or charity, it will quickly be seized upon by those who are just looking for us to make a mistake. And the emphasis on punishing schools for things like dropouts makes it that much harder to enroll a student whose residence is just a bit suspect.

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Reply Retiring principal: ‘It is harder for us to be nice to kids’ (Original post)
Brickbat May 2013 OP
Ron Green May 2013 #1
Art_from_Ark May 2013 #6
NewJeffCT May 2013 #20
LWolf May 2013 #23
villager May 2013 #27
LWolf May 2013 #28
SunSeeker May 2013 #32
noamnety May 2013 #35
Curmudgeoness May 2013 #36
elleng May 2013 #2
BeyondGeography May 2013 #3
Exultant Democracy May 2013 #8
gopiscrap May 2013 #19
Smarmie Doofus May 2013 #4
world wide wally May 2013 #10
Spike89 May 2013 #24
sulphurdunn May 2013 #43
Spike89 May 2013 #45
MichiganVote May 2013 #5
woo me with science May 2013 #11
BrotherIvan May 2013 #22
MichiganVote May 2013 #30
JEB May 2013 #7
world wide wally May 2013 #9
WinkyDink May 2013 #26
Cybergata May 2013 #39
HiPointDem May 2013 #12
woo me with science May 2013 #13
bbkenn92 May 2013 #42
n2doc May 2013 #14
Brickbat May 2013 #15
xchrom May 2013 #16
Laelth May 2013 #17
BanzaiBonnie May 2013 #18
Ishoutandscream2 May 2013 #21
CokeMachine May 2013 #25
CrispyQ May 2013 #29
libodem May 2013 #31
PennsylvaniaMatt May 2013 #33
defacto7 May 2013 #34
annabanana May 2013 #37
BlueCheese May 2013 #38
snot May 2013 #40
midnight May 2013 #41
blkmusclmachine May 2013 #44

Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Thu May 23, 2013, 08:12 PM

1. Much more difficult now

to give a kid a hug.

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Response to Ron Green (Reply #1)

Thu May 23, 2013, 09:16 PM

6. Yup. If someone does that today,

they run the risk of being labeled a pedophile

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Response to Art_from_Ark (Reply #6)

Fri May 24, 2013, 10:00 AM

20. True

My cousin's husband dropped out of the corporate rat race maybe 15 years ago, and went into elementary school teaching, partially so he could teach his own two sons for a year. He's really got a gift of getting along well with kids, but also not being a pushover for them, either.

But, he's one of the few male teachers in the elementary school, and he says he feels obligated to make sure there is another adult in the room if he has to talk to a student one-on-one.

I think his biggest complaint about the job is the amount of paperwork they have to do every day as compared to 15 years ago when he first started teaching.

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Response to Ron Green (Reply #1)

Fri May 24, 2013, 12:09 PM

23. My students give me hugs all the time.

They initiate them.

Of course, I'm a 53 yo grandmother, and they think I'm ancient.

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Response to LWolf (Reply #23)

Fri May 24, 2013, 12:38 PM

27. Glad to hear things are at least going well on the hug front...

 

...in the "new" school district (though, gosh, I guess it's already been awhile!)

Hope all is well on other fronts, too!

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Response to villager (Reply #27)

Fri May 24, 2013, 12:48 PM

28. I'm hanging on.

Budget and pay cuts have left me in a bad financial place, and the work-related stress do to increasing deforms diminishes the quality of life, to be frank. I'm hanging in there, though, and haven't given up. I hope things are well for you!

My dog turned 10 this spring; not the pup you'll remember. She's still pretty energetic, though, if not up to her early form.

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Response to Ron Green (Reply #1)

Fri May 24, 2013, 04:21 PM

32. At the first parent teacher conference each year, I tell the teacher it's ok to hug my son.

My son loves hugging his teachers. I tell them my kid gets lots of hugs at home and finds them very comforting. All of his teachers in his elementary school have been the sweetest women you can imagine and have all hugged my kid and other kids in the school. But the school is very strict about punishing unwanted physical contact. Any kid who makes the mistake of hitting another kid will immediately find himself in the principal's office, and in a world of trouble. The key thing my kid's school has a zero tolerance for is bullying--verbal and physical. My kid tells me bullying in his school hardly ever happens because of that. And when it does it is immediately reported--usually by both teachers and other students--and punished.

It's sad that some schools don't want to take the risk of allowing "good touching," but I can understand why. It takes a lot more supervision and judgment to assure that it is in fact good. Some schools just don't have the resources for that, so they ban all touching.

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Response to Ron Green (Reply #1)

Fri May 24, 2013, 05:13 PM

35. We're a school of huggers.

 

Sometimes kids will charge me and announce it's HUG DAY! and they're hugging me and other people with no warning. Sometimes I'll work late with a student and give them a ride home so they aren't stranded, sometimes they get out of the car, then lean back in and say "we should hug" and we do the awkward car one.

I don't know if that's normal at high schools, but it is for ours.

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Response to Ron Green (Reply #1)

Fri May 24, 2013, 05:17 PM

36. That was the first thing that came to my mind also.

I did not teach for long, but it was drilled into me that I should never ever ever have physical contact with a student. And one student even threatened me for touching his shoulder when he was looking at another student's paper during a test just to let him know that I was aware of his actions. I just did not want to be a disruption, but I was close to having a real problem.

I couldn't deal with all the rules, and decided that teaching was not what it used to be.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Thu May 23, 2013, 08:13 PM

2. 'With elevated standards and increased testing,

we find ourselves with less leeway with which we can help a child navigate. With ‘zero tolerance’ laws and other Draconian rules, the mistakes some children make can no longer be forgiven. The rapid-fire social media culture means that if we ever err on the side of mercy or charity, it will quickly be seized upon by those who are just looking for us to make a mistake. And the emphasis on punishing schools for things like dropouts makes it that much harder to enroll a student whose residence is just a bit suspect.'

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Thu May 23, 2013, 08:16 PM

3. More fallout from neocon mean spiritedness

It's disgusting what they have done to this country.

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Response to BeyondGeography (Reply #3)

Thu May 23, 2013, 10:36 PM

8. Plenty of blame to go around, we have plenty of pearl clutchers right here on DU

who for example argue in favor of cutting all sports from public school programs. My father who graduated from an Ivy league law school would have never been able to attend or accepted into any college if it wasn't for sports. Our side also has a cadre of knee jerk PC police who do their best to squash anything they deem offensive.

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Response to BeyondGeography (Reply #3)

Fri May 24, 2013, 09:59 AM

19. Exactly!!!

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Thu May 23, 2013, 08:42 PM

4. It's true. The politicians... and the people who OWN them... have to get over the idea that they....

 

... have any useful role to play in how schools are designed and run.

The truth is they understand *nothing*.

Teachers go into teaching and not investment banking because they care about kids. Investment bankers and politicians go into investment banking and politics because they care about INVESTMENT BANKING AND POLITICS.

It's a titanically bad idea to turn education policy over to people so inclined. Schools need to be places where teachers can teach and not obsess about not meeting political benchmarks and aligning the instruction with politically-inspired "standards". And they need to be run by principals who know how to teach and can develop that ability in others.

That ain't happening anymore.

I wonder why.

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Response to Smarmie Doofus (Reply #4)

Fri May 24, 2013, 12:52 AM

10. If you talk to anyone about education, they have an opinion. And the bought and paid for

politicians get to dictate what is taught in the schools. However, if you talk to your car mechanic, dentist, or air conditioning repair guy. You just take their word for it and tell them to do their job. The politicians don't have anything to say about it.
Maybe someday people will show the same respect for what teachers say about what should be going on in the classroom.... But I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

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Response to world wide wally (Reply #10)

Fri May 24, 2013, 12:29 PM

24. To a certain degree

I agree without reservation that schools/teaching can easily become over politicalized. That really isn't anything new and it probably isn't something that can be "fixed". Public education is at its very core somewhat coercive--the system takes your child and immediately becomes a major influence on them. It is natural for parents to be highly involved and interested in how schools are being run. Yes, I know that parents have some options, but not all can afford private schools (and even if they can, private schools can be just as politically volatile), and home school isn't going to work for many.

Car mechanics and air conditioning repair people, even working on just a piece of equipment, do have regulations and laws governing how they do their jobs. Dentists are required to undergo rigorous training and licensing and do face very strict government controls over what they can and cannot do to/with their patients.

Teachers are given the care of children--they should be respected, but they should also be held up to scrutiny, highest standards, and expect a huge level of oversight. They should also be paid better.

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Response to Spike89 (Reply #24)

Sat May 25, 2013, 09:16 PM

43. Teachers have always

 

been held to high standards, oversight and accountability. I just spent the entire month of May doing standardized tests so I could show that the kids knew the material I wasn't permitted to teach for the entire month because I was testing and formatting data to prove they had learned the material I couldn't teach. Franz Kafka would have been amazed at what public education in America has become. Yes, we should be paid more. We should also get rid of preppy billionaires and their political butt boys who know less about public education that the average teacher has forgotten.

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Response to sulphurdunn (Reply #43)

Tue May 28, 2013, 10:45 AM

45. I agree with all of that

I'm not a fan of standardized testing and those are not the standards that I feel teachers should be held up to. Students and schools are not "standardized" by any means--obviously some schools have more resources, more engaged parents, and overall strong community support. Those schools almost always produce better standardized scores than schools in poor areas without the same level of fiscal and parental support. You can't use standardized test scores to compare the teachers across districts.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Thu May 23, 2013, 09:08 PM

5. Education is no longer about kids. Its about $$. And we ALL know how well that works.

 

So stop kidding yourselves about testing and teacher achievement in place of student achievement. For those of you who have kids in ANY US school. Shut up and pay attention.

Your kids are at risk of irreparable ignorance with the current administration emphasis on reducing costs for so called achievement. Want a better car? Takes money.

Your kids are worth more. Demand it.

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Response to MichiganVote (Reply #5)

Fri May 24, 2013, 02:24 AM

11. Thank you.

We are all, every single one of us, worth so much more than these soulless corporatists would have us believe.

We cannot allow ourselves and our children to be valued based on the profit we bring to a CEO.

It is time to stop this madness. It is well past time.

This OP made me cry. I have been angry all evening, and now I have tears in my eyes.

We have to take our country back from these vipers.

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Response to woo me with science (Reply #11)

Fri May 24, 2013, 11:34 AM

22. + infinity

There's something beautiful and sad in your post. I hope it's not too late.

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Response to BrotherIvan (Reply #22)

Fri May 24, 2013, 03:41 PM

30. Its not too late. It will never be too late.

 

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Thu May 23, 2013, 10:32 PM

7. This brings tears to an old man's eyes.

 

I remember the many kindnesses and many chances given me as an unruly kid. No telling what becomes of kids like me today.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 12:45 AM

9. Talk to any teacher who has been around for 15 or 20 years and they will all say the same thing...

it used to be a lot more fun.

Yes, fun is also important when you are a child or an adult teaching them. The curriculum now is more stringent and narrow and the pressure on teachers and kids is nothing short of obscene. I always wonder how these standardized tests have come to dictate not only what a child should know, but how a teacher must teach.

Think about the word "education". It is not a stringent and narrow set of information, but a world of knowledge. Not what to think... but HOW to think.

I could get into my long sermon about education, but I'll spare you that for now. Just remember that not only do we feed body, mind, and soul... we also educate them.

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Response to world wide wally (Reply #9)

Fri May 24, 2013, 12:36 PM

26. I used to give all-essay Final exams. Then a new principal asked for exams that anyone could grade/

 

correct, complete with an answer sheet.

So I had to turn to multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, easy-peasy-to-grade formats. Mind you, this was for senior British literature.

Gone went my prior ability to, let's say, give a struggling student the benefit of the doubt when he answered a bit "imaginatively" in an essay.

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Response to world wide wally (Reply #9)

Fri May 24, 2013, 06:36 PM

39. Just Retired

. . . and the main reason is that I don't enjoy it any more. Oh I still love the kids, more than I can ever say. I've had supportive parents. It is the "stringent and narrow set of information" that made me retire after 38.5 years. About 10 years ago, I never would have imagined retiring, but the testing and educational priorities have made me angry all the time. Kids shouldn't be around someone who is angry all the time.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 02:26 AM

12. kr. yes, heart-breaking. anti-human policies for anti-human times. the fruits of neoliberal

 

economics.

neoliberalism = death

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 02:28 AM

13. Huge, huge K&R

Thank you for posting this. We are becoming a cruel, profit-centered, mean-spirited nation, ceding our government and our nation and our way of life to corporate motives and corporate morality. We are being turned into nothing but entries in a profit ledger, replaceable, disposable cogs in a machine, and they are doing it to our children, too.

They are doing it to our kids. They are doing it to all of us.

We need to stop them. We need to stop defending the indefensible based on party. We need to stand up for what is right and against what is wrong, no matter who is doing it. We have to talk to Republicans. We have to join across party lines. They are assaulting us across party lines. They are assaulting our children. They are assaulting our elderly. They are assaulting all of us.

How long do we let them keep doing this? How long?

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Response to woo me with science (Reply #13)

Sat May 25, 2013, 03:24 PM

42. I agree with you.

We the people need to VOTE out these mean-spirited lawmakers, refuse to buy products of mean spirited companies... We do have immense power and we should not only use it, but show our children how to use it!

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 05:29 AM

14. Great, great letter

The comments section has a lot of people who have had bad experiences, so they think the whole profession is rotten. But teachers are humans, and there are a range of personalities in any school. We can't make it perfect, but giving up and punishing everyone isn't the solution.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 07:02 AM

15. Morning kick.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 07:06 AM

16. du rec. nt

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 07:45 AM

17. k&r for exposure. This is very important. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 09:50 AM

18. No mercy for a mistake

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 10:09 AM

21. Starting my 28th year next year

And he's so right. It was much more enjoyable teaching in the 80's until the mid 90s. Then standardized testing reared its ugly head here in Texas.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 12:29 PM

25. K&R nt

 

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 01:46 PM

29. Excellent commentary!

I could write my own paragraph three, filled with Mrs. Murphy, Miss Ward, Mr. Sauer & on & on.


Zero tolerance is no way to deal with children. They're children! This county has gone insane.


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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 04:08 PM

31. Yes

Corporate Model vs Government Model of education. I hate the whole for profit mindset that has tainted all our institutions with Naked Capitalism. We need to begin a paradigm shift in this century or "We The People", are going down the sinkhole of obscurity. We won't HAVE a Democracy.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 04:24 PM

33. Great article!

I especially agree with the culture of zero tolerance.

The only part I take objection to is where the principal writes "The rapid-fire social media culture means that if we ever err on the side of mercy or charity, it will quickly be seized upon by those who are just looking for us to make a mistake."

I'm currently in high school, and will be graduating in a few weeks. What I have found at my school, and at others, is that with the emergence of social media, it has NOT been an outlet where schools are criticized for being too lenient or merciful, but just the opposite. Rather, I have found that it has been an outlet where schools are criticized for being too harsh or critical, with strict and sometimes ridiculous enforcement of "zero tolerance" rules, etc. I'll give you an example. Just yesterday was the 8th month anniversary of the day a girl at a neighboring school committed suicide. To commemorate the day, a student at our school (who knew the girl very well) wore a headband with her name on it. He used to wear it all the time right after she died, and nobody said anything to him about it being a violation of school rules or anything of that sort. However, yesterday, the guidance counselor coldly said to him "It's time, you need to move on", eluding for him to take off the headband. He quickly shared the story on Facebook, where he received much support. There were also instances where students were giving their opinions of teachers on social media sites. When the school found out about this, they were quick to falsely label it "libel" and threaten suspension.

Sometimes there are instances, maybe with cases of bullying, where a school is criticized by a parent of the bullied child for not doing enough, but from my personal experience of being in high school today, a lot of the harshness that is directed toward students is not done because the school is afraid to be lenient, but rather because there are some mean spirited people in positions of authority.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 04:25 PM

34. Trust is basically dead

all because of a small minority of perverted sociopaths, an unethical media and the zealots who empower them all.

And because of that, the future could be very bleak indeed.

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 05:45 PM

37. sad kick.. . . . n/t

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri May 24, 2013, 06:17 PM

38. I tried volunteering at a school last year.

After the standard criminal background check, I was told that I wasn't ever supposed to be in a room alone with a student. That sort of seems reasonable, but of course the students don't know that. That leads to awkward cases when you're with several students, and all but one leave. Then you end up quickly trying to shuffle the other kid out of the room, much to his or her bewilderment.

I remember as a student I went into teachers' classrooms all the time to ask questions. I wonder what the policy was then?

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2013, 02:24 AM

40. k&r'd

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2013, 02:54 AM

41. k&R

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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 03:58 AM

44. Who is "us," really?

 

Hmm?

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