Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

Students Encouraged to Question … sometimes

May 21, 2012

I am a big advocate for encouraging children to think for themselves. I have no desire to brainwash my students or have them align their thinking to my own worldview. On the contrary, little gives me more pleasure than watching my students reach their own conclusions and engage in a robust exchange of ideas. On the flip side, it can be a bit disappointing that many children are so used to being spoonfed and mollycoddled , that it is becoming quite rare for a young child to form their own ideas.

That’s why I was deeply disturbed to read about the teacher who publicly chastised her student for daring to criticise President Obama:

A North Carolina high school teacher was captured on video shouting at a student who questioned President Obama and suggesting he could be arrested for criticizing a sitting president. 

The Salisbury Post, which first reported on the YouTube video, did not identify the teacher in question, who is reportedly on staff at North Rowan High School. The video does not show faces, but the heated argument in the classroom can clearly be heard. 

“Do you realize that people were arrested for saying things bad about Bush?” the teacher said toward the end of the argument, telling the student, “you are not supposed to slander the president.” 

The student told the teacher that one can’t be arrested “unless you threaten the president.” 

The argument started when the classroom began discussing news reports that Mitt Romney bullied a fellow student when he was in high school. 

“Didn’t Obama bully somebody though?” a student in the classroom asked, referring to an incident Obama described in his memoir “Dreams From My Father.” 

The teacher said she didn’t know — and the argument quickly escalated, as the teacher yelled at the student, telling him “there is no comparison.” 

“He’s running for president,” she said of Romney. “Obama is the president.”

 The student argued that both candidates are “just men,” but the teacher said: “Let me tell you something … you will not disrespect the president of the United States in this classroom.” 

According to the Salisbury Post, the teacher is still employed and has not been suspended. 

“The Rowan-Salisbury School System expects all students and employees to be respectful in the school environment and for all teachers to maintain their professionalism in the classroom. This incident should serve as an education for all teachers to stop and reflect on their interaction with students,” the school said in a statement, published by the Post. “Due to personnel and student confidentiality, we cannot discuss the matter publicly.”

The Latest Sport: Degrading Our Teachers

January 27, 2011

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely positive about President Obama’s passion for education.  It is great to hear him talk of the virtues of this great profession:

“Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. (Applause.) We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. (Applause.) And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math.” (Applause.)

“In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher. Your country needs you.” (Applause.)

But if the US really needed good teachers, why does it treat its current ones so badly?  Why does it constantly refer to disposing of bad teachers instead of offering support to improve teacher performance?  It may be “time we treated the people who educate our children with respect,” but until you do, I’ll take it as words rather than substance.

I am referring to three examples which highlight the lack of respect of American teachers.

1. The recent decision by a New York State Judge to release the performance ratings of thousands of New York teachers to the media:

The judge, Cynthia Kern of the Supreme Court of the state of New York, wrote in a nine-page decision that the UFT’s argument “is without merit,” adding that the court of appeals “has clearly held that there is no requirement that data be reliable for it to be disclosed.”

The data attempt to measure the progress made by students in fourth through eighth grades under specific teachers by comparing their state test scores in math and English in a given year with the previous year.

The Department of Education has such data applying to 12,000 teachers; overall, there are nearly 80,000 teachers in New York City.

2. The  “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) sham of a policy:

This policy dictates that when there are layoffs, the most recently hired teachers in the system are the first to be fired. These decisions are based solely on seniority, without regard for teacher effectiveness.  The policy has three major negative impacts: first, it removes many high-performing tenured and non-tenured teachers from the   classroom, while retaining those that are less effective but have more years in the system; second, it causes a higher number of layoffs, since junior teachers are paid the least; and finally, it disproportionately impacts the lowest performing schools, which have the largest number of new teachers.

3. The Teacher Bashing Website,

This website invites parents and teachers to rate and comment on their teachers.  The comments are public and often extremely slanderous.  Whilst being a US website, teachers from all around the world, including my country, Australia, can be rated and commented on.  Each teacher’s comments and rating can then be shared through Facebook by clicking a button on the site.  This is absolutely disgraceful, and while the authorities know about it, they have decided not to intervene.

President Obama, I absolutely love your passion for education.  You most certainly have a vision and an expectation that things improve.  But for your words to ring true and your wishes to come to fruition there is a lot more you and your Government can do for teachers.

Let’s start by offering support to your current teachers instead of giving up on them in favour of new blood.  Let’s give good teachers the opportunity to feel secure in their job.  And finally, let’s consider the impact websites like have on teacher morale.

If you really want teachers to get the respect they deserve, the respect needs to come from your administration first and foremost.

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