Public education and discipline


Recently, Frances Gallo, a superintendent of schools in Central Falls, RI, decided that she must fire all 74 teachers who refuse to abide by her recommendations for reform. Community sentiment seems evenly divided between those who support the firing decison and those who support the teachers.  One video clip showed a mother suggesting that the student would be performing better if the teachers were doing their jobs. This scenario is being replayed endlessly across the country, yet every time I hear this line of reasoning, I want vomit or throw large objects at the speaker.

No one seems to be talking about WHY some teachers can’t do their jobs. Let me lay them out for you: A) Student misbehavior B) Student absenteeism C) Undiagnosed learning/psychological deficiencies D) Insufficient/ineffective remediation E) Lack of parental involvement.

Once upon a time, when I was working under the leadership of a 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Samuels, as we discussed parental involvement and student behavior, she asked me rhetorically “Who learns for your child?” . I think this is the bottom line question – ask not simply what your teachers can do for your children, but ask what your children can do for THEMSELVES to help them learn, and how you can help them. A child is either a willing partner in the learning process or not. I wish there were video cameras in every classroom across this nation to help show what teachers really have to deal with every day. Yes. Teachers are there to teach, but students are there to learn. If they are there for a reason other than learning, then that is not the teacher’s fault.

How many colleges and universities accept the argument that it’s the teacher’s fault if certain students don’t do well? This argument seldom works well with tenured faculty. Usually, the student is asked how well he or she studied, and or perhaps whether or not the class was suitable for his or her abilities.

I strongly believe that we need to get back to suspensions and expulsions with regard to student behavior. Yes. Student behavior  that is counterproductive to their own learning and the learning of others should not be tolerated and its elimination would lead to greater academic improvement than the mere firing of  teachers or having teachers share lunch with their students.

Any teacher who’s spent an entire day in a classroom can tell you how necessary it is that a teacher have time to de-stress apart from the students and catch his/her breadth. Let them have a break from being a disciplinarian and being a teacher for one measly lunch hour.

I must also point out that there are many other ways to reform a school beside what’s been proposed in Central Falls, R.I. Recently, C.E.S. 90 in the South Bronx was restructured and divided into three smaller schools with smaller class size.  Why can’t something like that be done at Central Falls High School? Why can’t the top performing students be sent to better schools and the bottom performing students re-grouped into smaller classes and given extra resources? Maybe MORE teachers and aides, rather than less, would help them more than removing every one of them from the school.

Ms. Gallo will be faced with having to fill 90+ positions at the high school with qualified and experienced educators who share her vision of education. She will also have to face legal challenges to her decision to terminate all of the school’s staff. She will also need to prove that her replacements and her plan can improve test schools and the drop out rate. All of this is to be accomplished without any discussion of discipline,  student conduct, or remediation?  Good luck, lady, you’re going to need it…

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