A Day In My Life As A Teacher At Central High

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After yesterday's battle for the hearts and minds of America's youth at LAUSD, I shouldn't have been surprised when AP Rene Martinez came gliding through the door at 8:30 this morning to stull me. Even though I have always had excellent stulls or teaching evaluations in the past, but when I saw AP Martinez, who has become a regular fixture around my class, since I reported the fraudulent graduation in June 2009, I already knew this wasn't going to be a friendly visit. The fact that I now had the audacity to publish part of an interview and reading test results for one of my ex-students made it only a matter of time before Principal Seary, AP Martinez, or AP Janine Antoine would show up to stull me again. I don't know, there is just something about being stulled that sounds obscene and the non-stop harassment that I continue to be subjected to only seems to support this meaning of the word. Frankly, I'm not really sure what it is supposed to mean.

As Martinez came into the class, Student A was in the middle of a tirade of profanity that we have had to become accustomed to, because Seary et al refuse to do anything to maintain discipline. I must confess that I myself have become accustom to the "f---" word more than I should, but frankly, what bothered me at this point is Student A's refusal to do the assignment, which was designed to teach him something about sentence structure and development, so that he could do something more than copy out of his respective books, something that has been the exclusive activity of all of my students before arriving in my class. Rather, what bothered me about Student A's refusal was that he was stopping the other students from learning what I was trying to teach them.

All that AP Martinez could do was "direct" me to continue with my lesson, while Student A refused to do any work, used profanity, and continued to talk. Martinez, in excellent LAUSD style, told me that I could not manage my class, to which I replied, "Can you?" Silence and note taking. This is the same AP Martinez that called my Student B on 1/27/10 at 8:13 AM on her cell phone in total derogation of LAUSD policy. Later on in the day that student cited her conversation with AP Martinez as authority to continue using her cellphone in class. If I cannot manage my class, could it have anything to do with the fact that Central High School...no, all LAUSD administration does everything it can to undermine teacher authority in a never ending battle to maintain Average Daily Attendance money?

So, Martinez "directed" me to continue my lesson, so I "directed" him to do his -- he was not happy -- but still didn't do his job. I remember several months ago when this kind of disruption was going on at my previous classroom site, Principal Seary lasted about 15 minutes, before she suspended a student that we had been unable to suspend for 6 months. Ah, power. Meanwhile, in a good faith attempt to break the apparent stalemate I was having with AP Martinez, I decided to "direct" Student A to move his seat to the other side of the room, so I could go on teaching. He declined with the "f---" word again and added, "Hell no." At this point, AP Martinez asked Student A to move and he did.

Now Student C walks in class his daily hour late. When I asked him why, he said, "Better late than never." Where do you think these students get the idea that they can come to class and do no work and still get passing grades? Could LAUSD administrative policy have something to do with students thinking that they can be truant, tardy, vile, and do no work and still get passing grades? Teachers know what happens to them if they do not go along with this dishonest charade, they have their respective principals and assistants stull them on a constant basis, which ends up with notices of unsatisfactory acts and suspensions.

Before going any further, I think you should know that I care for my students very much -- vile behavior and ignorance notwithstanding -- and they know it. It has taken months, and while they are still not able to comport themselves in an acceptable manner, they have acknowledged that nobody has ever required them to do so. "Why should we do what you ask, since nobody else ever required that we do so." In all honesty, they have a point. We used to have a saying when I was a mechanic putting myself through school, "It's a bad mechanic that blames his tools." Shouldn't the blame rightfully belong to the architects of this system? From my Principal Janet Seary all the way up to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who want "No Child Left Behind," but just never seem to accomplish it.

Back to the story. At this point, I finally start the English lesson again, but Student D chimes in, "I don't know how to read cursive" (or write it for that matter). Another little game that Principal Seary has put into place is to dump students into my class who read at elementary school level and have little or no math skills. What's got to be pissing her off is the fact that these students are not totally destroying the class as she obviously had planned. The key to avoid this destruction is the fact that the students know that I like them, even though, and probably because, I will not put up with their nonsense.

Now it starts to become more like a Marx Brothers' movie. Counselor Beverly arrives to do an intake of a new student during "instructional time." Supposedly, sacrosanct instructional time should never be interrupted. Well, that's not exactly true. Sometimes administrators enforce this policy with notices of unsatisfactory acts and suspensions. And sometimes, when they arbitrarily do it, they do not enforce it. Student E, who was engaged in the make-up lesson when AP Martinez walked in is now filling out an application for a vocational class. A second counselor Mr. Wiseman now arrives at 8:59AM and the chaos is complete. AP Martinez is asking the counselors what they are doing there and walking back and forth. Needless to say, my students with limited attention spans during the best of conditions have lost it.

Student F now arrives her usual late to class, if she shows at all. We get a lot more students at the beginning of the month when they get free bus passes, which seems the main incentive for attending at all. She gives her usual, "I woke up late." AP Martinez gets a phone call from our other classroom. Now even Student A returns the class phone which AP Martinez was using and the humor of the situation is not lost on him or the others. Student A laughs, while resorting to the utility of the good old all purposed "f---" word. Student A goes back to his seat next to AP Martinez and proceeds to do nothing for the remainder of the period until nutrition.

Now Students G and C take out their cellphones and start to text. They get angry when I ask them to put them away. Could AP Martinez be right that I have a classroom management problem? I forgot to ask AP Martinez whether I was going to be written up for allowing Student B to answer his cellphone call to her. Well, given this story, I'm sure I can ask him next time he comes to my class.

(Stay tuned for updates on today's disciplinary meeting. I'll be post it tomorrow morning)

lenny@perdaily.com

Flickr: Bump


3 Comments

What a comedy of errors!

Is this possibly for real? I am a teacher in northern california at a diverse school. I teach a variety of classes from Calculus to lowest level mathematics from physics to integrated science. On the very rare occasion our students use profanity in the classroom they will apologize and find no problem with having to do some "clean up duty" or other chore because of their poor word choice. We are a low ADA school district and I thought our admin was pretty minimal but they look like stars compare to what you describe.

LAUSD is presently graduating a little over 41% of the students that enter into the 9th grade. There are no consequences - positive or negative - for students, teachers, or administrators in a system that is driven by Average Daily Attendance and the jobs it creates in a system that is predominantly minority filled. Consequences are reserved for teachers like myself that refuse to go along with downright fraud. Even if the morality doesn't bother you, no society can afford to write off such a huge portion of its people and hope to remain viable. Whether people believe it or not, what is at stake is the very continuation of this country as anything that even remotely resembles a democracy.

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