Sunday, October 10, 2010

And Now...Page Four

Cripes! Has it been THAT long since I was brave enough to make a post?

I suppose there have been reasons. Mainly, I thought -at least for that moment- I had simply run out of things to say. That period is over. Now the issue becomes finding the time and energy to put my thoughts in order and get them on paper (as it were).

I want to take a step about the end of July. At that point in time I had learned that Bill, an old friend of mine, was leaving the country to teach third grade in Kuwait. Yeah, I was a bit stunned by this. I had barely understood the fact that Bill was teaching at all, let alone that he'd taken a job half a world away, all but cutting himself off from those of us who knew him...or in some cases, thought they knew.

I came to understand some of his motivation, and I didn't want to discourage him. Every person has multiple opportunities in life to make a difference - not only in the life or lives of others, but in his or hers as well. Most of us struggle every day of our lives with this, myself included, even though we may not see it.

I learned two days ago that Bill has been unceremoniously dismissed from his teaching job in Kuwait. I say this because it does not seem to have the earmarkings of a firing a la Donald Trump on The Apprentice.

Bill had high but guarded hopes when he accepted the job. There was every indication that he had the tools and ability needed. But after the first few weeks, the posts back to us were fewer and a lot less verbose. There were concerns and discouragement. Finally, the word came back that he was dismissed because he couldn't control his students.

At this point I want to address the Anonymous poster who replied to my July post as late as September 13, and who apparently commented on Bill's own blog to the point he deleted it altogether. Are you satisfied? Did whatever you say accomplish the intent for which the posts were made? Does it matter that you've "kept copies of everything?" For what it's worth, I don't think you had anything to do with the entire situation except put additional stress on an already stressful situation. There are more real reasons that don't involve outside interference.

Bill went to a country where, despite our diplomatic ties and the facade of a nation that would appear to be an ally, the overwhelming majority of the culture doesn't understand to dislikes to outright hates American culture. That is a handicap from the very start. People know where you're from and you represent all those things they don't understand and dislike.

That being said, I think that what did Bill in even worse is that the American educational model has gone to hell in a handcar. Bill is not the only teacher who has been unable to control a bunch of eight-year-olds. I daresay there are many right here who have the same problem. The reason they don't get fired is that their positions are protected by contract. Plus, we've allowed legislation and lawsuits to push the system to the point where American eight-year-olds often learn more about life on the streets than they will ever learn in the classroom. Add to this the stresses placed on both student and teacher to 'perform' (as in test) well by cramming for standardized tests that were not given when I was that age.

When I was eight, part of my education - and my learning - was fostered by the fear of God. My teachers were able to teach - but they also had the authority of an overseer - they could do something when kids got out of line, as they did even then. Today, the answer is to send them someplace else until nobody else will take them, and then simply deny them the education they by law are supposed to receive. The trouble is, very few are really receiving that sort of education anymore. This is not the reality in the rest of the world. For better or worse, other countries are doing better at preparing youth for life than we are. Perhaps that is what Bill did not understand. It is hard to say.

Bill is moving on. He has apparently accepted a teaching job in another country in another part of the world. I won't say where he is going at the moment. I believe this will prove better for him, but only time and his own experience will tell.

It is hard to know when being compassionate means having to be firm about an issue. It is difficult to, as I have been reminded to do from my Catholic culture, "hate the sin yet love the sinner." Still, to do otherwise does nothing to improve our lot in life.

1 comment:

  1. I took a moment to look at this post contrasted with the one I wrote in July. I want to clarify what may look to some as waffling or a reversal of opinion between the two posts.

    1) Teaching IS a lucrative profession where I live. The local press ran stories over the summer about how much tenured teachers can make; all of this is paid by the taxpayer.

    2) The American educational model, especially in the wake of the well-intention named "No Child Left Behind" laws, is failing and continuing to do so, as evidenced by the proficiency of students in other countries compared to our own. This is NOT the fault of the teachers; it is what they are handed to utilize and implement.

    3) I firmly believe that legislation and litigation is stifling our system of education. Yes, there must be standards set; but there must be more effective ways to deal with those who need help, whether it be from a student with a learning disability or a "smart ass" who manipulates the system. Right now neither are being effectively and positively managed. Yes, it will take a change in attitude on the part of many. It will also take resources in the form of higher tax allocations to support the system; but before that happens, the majority of voters will have to be shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the allocation their school district currently receives is being used efficiently.

    4) Having said all the above, there are many excellent teachers out there, and there are many who aren't as able; this is true of any business and the people who work in it. Most I have known and those I presently know who are in the teaching profession are well suited to give their best every day for their students.