And I Voted for this Guy Too

The President of a country in financial meltdown due to the incompetence of regulatory officials and the outright greed of the financial industry in general needs to distract the nation and, apparently, the health care thing and the commission on women’s issues (which is an outrage for another day) aren’t enough.

So who’s he gonna call out?

Teachers. But only the “bad” ones who are the root of the growing imbecility problem we seem to have with our young people today.

Yeah, that’s right. If your kid is lazy and/or unemployable, blame it on his or her teachers. They screwed up because they only went into the profession for the summers off and the life-long job security courtesy of those evil unions who only care about lining the pockets of their membership and making sure they have better health care packages than Joe Sixpack and his spawn.

Reason number one I will never set foot in a secondary school classroom again, except as a parent, is the blatant lack of respect for my former profession. I am beyond sick of being blamed when children who’ve been poorly parented fail to thrive after spending 50 minutes a day with me for 9 months out of one year of their entire lives. I had to gestate my own kid longer than I have known some of my students.

Why are American children failing to compete on the international stage?

Why is America failing to compete? Look around. We are a country of something for nothing. That should be embroidered on pillows and samplers and displayed prominently in every home in the United States because we are the example to follow when it comes to putting in as little as possible and whining when we don’t get the maximum in return.

How many people are losing their homes because they didn’t understand something as simple as interest rates and adjustable rate mortgages? These people have children. Those children are the ones who sit in our schools. Apples don’t get up and walk away from the trees from which they fall. They molder on the ground underneath.

Without union protection I would have lost my job when my middle-school principal began harassing me years ago. I made the mistake of pointing out a flaw in an idea of hers and suggesting something that wound up working better. I didn’t know. I was 26. I thought I was doing my job. I didn’t understand the politics and I nearly lost my job. Without unions and contracts that spell out rules to govern the dismissal of teachers, we would have the same kind of nepotism and cronyism that is seen in our government at all levels. The rules protect good teachers from bad administrators who, interestingly, you don’t hear too much about.

An old friend of mine from high school is a high school teacher himself these days. It is parent/teacher conference time in his Nebraska school, and he sat for seven and a half hours in the gym waiting to talk to parents and their kids. Only seven parents bothered to show up.

He was doing his job.

There are poor teachers. Just like there are poor investment bankers, presidents and CNBC business talk show hosts. It’s not a perfect system. Systems run by people never are. But parents and children are two-thirds of the educational equation so why aren’t we discussing them? Where are they in this crisis and debate? They are not innocent victims by any means.

What did we think was going to be the outcome of an educational system forced into parenting and away from curriculum? Why did we overburden an already difficult task with non-essentials and the job of fixing social ills? 

Feed kids? Sure. Instruct them in manners? No problem. Teach them to speak English while teaching them subject matter in a language they don’t understand? A piece of cake. Sick kids? We’ve got nurses with band-aids and office help to dole out their meds when the nurse is covering one of the other two or three schools she is assigned to. Pregnant? Abused? Addicted? The counselor will see them now – or maybe tomorrow when they’ve finished with the class scheduling, the conflict management mediation and the federally mandated standardized testing.

Teachers know what they are supposed to be doing. We understand our primary directive. We struggle to stay the course in the face of state legislated curriculum objectives written by farmers, accountants and lawyers who never studied child development and know squat about the latest brain research.

We battle sports, after-school jobs, dysfunctional homes and a mind-numbing array of distractions bombarding our kids via too much technological connectedness.

I never knew a bad teacher. Just like I never knew a bad student. Or a parent who didn’t love his or her kid. I knew people who were swimming against the tide nearly every day and sometimes not making it.

We are a nation way off track when we view our public school system as little more than daycare and our students as nothing more than future employees whose tax dollars will shore up the aged while paying off the debt they are leaving behind. Learning is a process with many pieces and teachers are only one of those pieces. Until we recognize that, nothing will improve.


This is an original 50 Something Moms piece by Ann Bibby.

21 thoughts on “And I Voted for this Guy Too

  1. Oh amen sista….precisely why I took early retirement and it was a cliff hanger until then.

    I have never met a bad teacher either, apparently they exist, or so I am told. Of course this could all just be a ruse in order to convince America that we are the reason why America’s children are the way they are.

    Enough was finally enough and I pity the younger generation of teachers who are bound to find themselves in sink or swim situations with very few life lines being thrown to them

    Yes Annie I am around, and I still read you, its one of the few pleasures I take time out of my day to do.


  2. I had good teachers and bad teachers in school. Some of the nuns, I swear, should have been confined to a dementia ward.The younger ones, and some of the lay teachers were wonderful. I was bored stiff most of the time, and there was no such thing as “gifted and talented” education in that time and place. I came out of it, and managed to make my way in the world because I was allowed to fail. The first time I got fired and said “It’s not fair,” I was informed that life wasn’t fair.
    I wish I didn’t believe Uncle Keith’s story about “Junior”, but I trained a few nursing assistance in my day, and yes I do.
    I have one defense of “uninvolved” parents. My parents were involved, but then again, my mother never worked outside the home after her children were born. How many women have that luxury these days? And depending on their income level, how many can afford to take off work for a parent-teacher conference? Upper class parents are working 60-80 hours a week. So are lower class parents. The difference is that the upper class parent only has one job. I think until our society quits making insane demands on people in the workplace, we will continue to have uninvolved parents, who make it up to the children by defending them at every turn.

    1. I absolutely agree that work is a huge obstacle to parenting – more for women than men because they are expected to work “like a man” does which is idiotic. Women are women and shouldn’t have to “do it man-style” in any work environment. They should be able to go with their strengths and have a different career trajectory because the reality of childbearing simply renders them “not like men”. Why does society continue to be short-sighted about this?

      However, it doesn’t take much to return a teacher’s phone call or respond to/send an email. I had plenty of parents with busy schedules who found creative ways to stay in touch.

  3. We definitely live in a Supernanny age, where somehow our kids have taken over and we as parents have lost control. I’m not sure how that happened.

    For the past three years, my kids have attended private schools, as the public schools in my area are patchy at best. And although the quality of the education has been high, with diverse experiences, I have been disheartened by the level of pandering that goes on. A student election in my son’s school was canceled at the last minute for fear of kids getting their feelings hurt. At what point did we slide into this coddling form of education?

    There is a part of me that is nostalgic for the old days of education. Give me percentage grades, clear goals (ie making the Honor Roll), school uniforms, and yes, let them experience failure once in a while (I do still draw the line at the strap). I agree with you Annie, America is failing to compete, and I think part of that is because we have forgotten what it means to work hard, take knocks and even fail from time to time. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure seemed to instill in us (those older than a shoe size), a decent work ethic.

    1. We are a nation that has forgotten how to take lumps and learn from them. The whole bailout thing is simply taking the idea of “helicopter parenting” to new and horrid heights.

  4. Unfortunately–I do know bad teachers. Let me preface this by saying I AM the union President and still believe that it is an important PROFESSIONAL organization. We often hide, behind the “union walls”, those who seriously should NOT be teaching. My school district employees MANY wonderful teachers, but there are also those who should find another avenue of employment that doesn’t’ involve impacting children. My problem is–there is nothing in place to spotlight those who “should be teaching” and those who “should NOT”. This is what I find frustrating.

  5. Kids are not held to any standard of academic achievement or behavior. I have dated several school teachers, and heard the stories. If a kid gets bad grades, the parents generally blame the teacher or the school; it isn’t because the kid didn’t study or do their homework. Kids who are behavior problems are just bored, and the school isn’t structured to meet their needs.

    Kids are not being given a proper education, but not an academic one. They aren’t learning that the World won’t cover for your lazy ass. It will step on you and keep going.

    A case in point I can speak to. We hired a college freshman as a coop in a DoD computer organization. Junior showed up barely 3 or 4 days a week, never completed assignments, screwed up his own payroll forms, often failed to return to work after lunch, and didn’t keep a B average which was part of his contract. When we terminated Junior’s employment, he never told Mom and Dad. When Junior’s paycheck wasn’t direct deposited into his checking account, his Mom called, livid. We weren’t under any obligation to speak to Mom, and Junior certainly hadn’t. She did all his bank account stuff for him and that’s how she discovered that he didn’t have a paycheck. This was 28 days after he was terminated. We told her to talk to her son. After she got the story from him, she wasn’t mad at him; she got mad at us. She wanted to schedule a conference to talk to his supervisor; I suppose exactly like she had talked to his teachers all his worthless life.

  6. I’m a frustrated parent. I don’t entirely disagree with you, and I know that the majority of teachers are in it for the right reasons. But I also know that some of them are just not effective. And some of them are just plain bad.
    But really, where I want to disagree with you is on the point that parents and children make up the other 2/3 of the equation. In the past few weeks, I’ve been talking to parents, teachers, and school board members about my frustrations. The equation is so much bigger: our Governator slashed our budget, and Obama seems to be the only one trying to bring some of that money back. I’m disheartened that some great younger teachers might lose their jobs even if they might be better teachers than some of the more senior ones because of the union contracts.
    I don’t know what the ultimate answer is, except that all of us have to figure out a way to come together somehow. Because I feel like we’re already seeing the results of a failing education system when 2/3 of adults can’t name all 3 branches of the federal gov’t!

    1. When I mentioned 2/3’s, I was really talking about in the classroom where the learning takes place because, as I understand it, merit pay would be based on student achievement first and foremost. In my mind it isn’t right to evaluate a teacher’s performance with a heavy emphasis on test scores without also taking student effort/ability and parental involvement into account.

      “Bad” teachers are, in my experience, people without the skills to manage classrooms and children. We forget that learning is dependent on teachers having control. I have known some really wonderful, caring and smart teachers who just needed to learn to manage better. Which begs the question, why aren’t new teachers given more guidance and back up in their formative first year?

      Budget cuts go after education first and education is always the last to benefit in surplus years. The system had only just recovered from the 9/11 downturn when I left the profession (2007) and it will be well into the next decade before we see education get the funding and reforms (because it needs some) that it deserves.

      And it’s good to worry about those younger teachers who will be losing their jobs as many of them won’t be back and that is the true loss – good teachers fleeing or forced out.

      Thanks for commenting! Great insights.

  7. Well said.

    I sometimes believe we as a society are nothing short of Darwinism-In-Reverse …..Technology is the death of us all.

  8. THANK YOU! I am so frustrated with the schools here where I live. My daughter went to a school last year where the parents complained *constantly* about lack of funds and low-grade education but when it came time for parents to volunteer, there were three of us. THREE. There were nine hundred students at this particular school. The school carnival and several pther end of the year activities were canceled because of lack of effort on the parent’s part. I don’t get it. My husband and I were so upset that an activity the kids had actually WORKED for was canceled because parents were unwilling to jump in and DO SOMETHING, so we put on a mini-carnival for our daughter’s class and worked the entire thing with no other help from parents of the kids in her class.
    It truly disgusts me that people are so willing to point fingers and let their child’s education go by the wayside.

    1. Involvement from parents and community is so key. Good schools are welcoming places with parents swarming around to help and that is what improves test scores. It still takes a village. When will we learn that?

  9. You are singing my song, as I am one of those school nurses overseeing 3 schools, totaling over 1400 students.

    I have to laugh when the parent of a kid with head lice demands “Don’t you check all the kids for lice every month?”

    Oh, sure I do, in between all the vision, dental and health exams plus the first aid, special ed evals, and data entry of every shot record and health screening. You betcha! And usually it is the same kids over and over that have it. Why is that, I wonder?

    Oh, I voted for Obama too, but he still beats the alternative I think.

  10. definitely an insulting ‘opening line’ in the news article. don’t know if the rest is more encouraging – where he suggests we need to raise teacher salaries. although it’s intended to raise the esteem of the profession, it sure implies that teachers do it for the money… ouch.

    1. Well, we do need to make a living, but it’s the idea that we are closed to reforms and only care about lining our pockets that infuriates because it implies we should be taking a vow of poverty and donning habits.

      We can’t raise the esteem of the profession until people get over their own childhood experiences and be the grown-ups. Education is not a business. It cannot be run like a corporation. Children are not raw materials and fodder for the workplace. Judging from the emphasis on competing with other countries, we should be getting the impression that the government’s only stake in education is keeping the business world well supplied with pod people.

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