P.S. 666
September 3, 2003 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Ms. Gonick is a dooshe bag. Unfortunate experiences with a gaggle of teenagers in an enclosed space.
posted by kozad (43 comments total)
That is so depressing. Especially since I wholly believe it.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:45 AM on September 3, 2003

Thanks for the link kozad, that was a good read. My job doesn't look so bad all of a sudden.
posted by vito90 at 7:51 AM on September 3, 2003

Only a douche bag would spell it dooshe bag.
posted by y2karl at 7:52 AM on September 3, 2003

These are summer school kids, who would tend to be some of the more hopeless kids in the school.

A vice principal I know told me there's a ten percent rule in schools - out of 1200 kids, he'll find himself dealing with the same 120 all the time. In that 120, there'll be 12 whom he will wind up expelling because he just can't do anything with them.
posted by orange swan at 7:53 AM on September 3, 2003

What a terrific link!
posted by 327.ca at 7:54 AM on September 3, 2003

Of course,anyone here who has ever been under a bridge is no doubt familiar with the spelling hoar for whore.
posted by y2karl at 7:56 AM on September 3, 2003

Given the badly written, almost hysterical air of this piece, I'm not sure if I believe her. Here's a bad teacher moaning about her pupils and how they "refuse" to learn. I'm thinking that she should learn how to teach first, and then (in case she wants to write about it afterwards), she should learn how to write as well.
posted by seanyboy at 7:58 AM on September 3, 2003

No hare, sir; unless a hare, sir, in a lenten pie,
that is something stale and hoar ere it be spent.

posted by seanyboy at 8:01 AM on September 3, 2003

This reminds me of How I Joined Teach for America
—and Got Sued for $20 Million
. In the dooshe bag piece, it seems that the dean's apathy was equal to the students.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:16 AM on September 3, 2003

Have you been in a high school lately, seanyboy? What she's describing - and the way she's describing it - are both relatively mild. I think you're being way, way too tough on her - both as a teacher and a writer. I found the hysterical air of the piece funny and endearing.
posted by stonerose at 8:17 AM on September 3, 2003

seanyboy, you seem to be just like the rest of "the problem"... the problem is that teachers are now expected to babysit the kids of america.. they're expected to never inform parents that their children are not only spoiled little brats, but also dumber than a bag of rocks and unwilling to even try...

yeah, teachers need to make an effort to adapt to the needs of their students, but believe me - kids these days are a bunch of arrogant, self-centered little bastards... I've got loads of friends who are teachers.. some probably better than others, but all definitely competent, and a few definitely exemplary -- they all have problems like this, even the best ones, because kids these days are being raised to think they own the world...

from the stories I hear, it's almost like 30 clones of Veruca Salt (not the band) running around our schools... ugh.
posted by twiggy at 8:30 AM on September 3, 2003

I teach now at a Performing Arts Magnet High School. My students are now writing journal entries on the RIAA, subpoena power and the possible abuse thereof. We will have a very intelligent discussion about it (if the pattern already set 4 weeks into school continues) before we start doing Word exercises (God I hate teaching Comp Apps, thankfully only one block of it this semester). I am lucky to be here.

But I have taught at 2 of the roughest inner city schools in our town. The apathetic administration only interested in the appearance of order, the parents who can't be involved except to complain about an offhanded remark you have made and students who can't understand why you don't want them to call each other b*tch and motherf*cker were all present at both schools. I watched a lot of good people go stark raving bonkers and leave mid school year. One of the positions I quit three days before the next school year began lest I follow them down that path. The hysterical air about the piece I have heard emerging from the mouths of recent college graduates in the workroom. They came in convinced that they were going to make the world a better place, only to find out that students viewed them as a mild annoyance rather than an instructor. If anyone thinks this is an exaggeration, find a middle school and volunteer for a few weeks.

I thought she got off lucky. I had an 8th grader of mine drown a 9th grader in the school pool after they broke in. LeQuan thought Darius had turned him in for stealing a car. We discovered this had happened when I opened my blinds and saw a body floating in the always unused pool. That image will hang with you longer than being called a doosh.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 8:33 AM on September 3, 2003

Woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, 2003 Teacher's Edition. I'm glad she survived to tell the tale; I also found the piece funny and endearing.

Great link, kozad, thank you.
posted by swerve at 8:35 AM on September 3, 2003

thank g---d i wuz homscoled
posted by Postroad at 8:57 AM on September 3, 2003

We reep whut wee sew.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:07 AM on September 3, 2003

That bitchy bitch bitches bitchingly. No disrespect intended.
An excellent read. My cousin spent 8 years teaching in a private school similar to what spartacus describes above. She moved to a public school for the health benefits last year and was bitten once and puched twice. She left before the year was out.

Your honor student calls my homeschooler "Sir".
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:10 AM on September 3, 2003

Ouch. Misplaced period.
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:10 AM on September 3, 2003

spartacusroosevelt: Me too. I teach at a wonderful arts school with brilliant loveable kids (well, they're not all brilliant at reading and writing...but, nevertheless, the atmosphere here is always uplifting).

And I too have worked in inner city schools and have had to carry on with teaching on Monday mornings with a student lost to gang warfare.

Suburban schools can be deadly in less literal ways, of course.
posted by kozad at 9:26 AM on September 3, 2003

Oh, yeah, and another point I wanted to make: the least experienced teachers wind up with the most difficult students. After twenty years, we can end up with better jobs, if we're lucky.

I don't think I was a good teacher my first few years. Teaching is obviously more than standing up in front of a group of kids and telling them stuff and making them do things. I takes a few years to learn how to teach well, and those years are tough: that's when we lose a lot of potentially wonderful teachers.
posted by kozad at 9:34 AM on September 3, 2003

Don't get me wrong, I love teaching in the public schools, as long as it is the cushy magnet school job I have now. If I have to go back to the normal public school system I am outta here. I wouldn't teach at private school either. I have had long discussions (over drinks) with many other teachers from all sorts of schools. One private school always sides with the parents over the teachers because the parents pay the bills. Another religious private school hounded a science teacher friend of mine to teach intelligent design exclusively until he left. Both of them made two-thirds what I do in public. I have the good fortune to be surrounded by thoughtful, articulate and artistic kids who are driven to do something with their lives.

I know some of the folks here are homeschooled and I know that works out wonderfully for some people. I have had a couple of kids homeschooled until they join our program that have mopped the floor with the public school kids. But they have been the exception rather than the rule. Most kids coming from homeschool have had shortcomings in math and sciences.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 9:46 AM on September 3, 2003

I was mostly joking above, but we are homeschooling our kids, mostly because we feel we have no choice. We can't afford private school, our daughter would be sent to the worst school in a sub par district, and our niece's Catholic school already sounds like Lord of the Flies on the third day. Ohio's education system has been found unconstitutionally inequitable by our Supreme Court, which, after 8 years, has been packed with members of the pro-business ruling party and refuses to enforce their order that the legislature fix the problem.
I believe in public education. An effective public school system should be a well-tended legacy especially here in the Northwest Territory. But I despair that the medicine being prescribed is worse than the disease. Instead of turning education into another conduit of passive, consumer culture, public schools should actively counter consumerism with the primary liberal values of pursuing fact, applying critical thinking, and forming rigorous arguments to help you better know your world and own mind. Active participants in our small-r republican experiment would be nice too.
But right now it's crap. A thousand points of light are too few by far, and the push for education reform is pushing downward. I believe that my five year old's mind is better suited for learning now than it would be after five years in the stultifying schools I could send her to. I trust her curiosity . I trust her character. I trust her to tend to her intellect. I trust that we can do better.
posted by putzface_dickman at 10:33 AM on September 3, 2003

Excuse me while I bloviate.
posted by putzface_dickman at 10:34 AM on September 3, 2003

She's been instructed to keep them occupied, she should do just that. No sense in trying to force kids to learn-- it can't be done. Let 'em watch movies.

Really, they already failed English class. You almost have to try to fail a course in high school. They're victims of bad parenting, but that isn't the school or teacher's fault. Devote the resources being spent on those brats to kids who make an effort. You can't make a difference to everybody, so make a bigger difference to the ones who'll let you.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:56 AM on September 3, 2003

there speling suks, but `~**1T5 bEtTEr tH3N dIS 5hiZZaT**~`
posted by scarabic at 11:24 AM on September 3, 2003

My husband teaches at the school where I taught before going back to school myself. Our district, one of the worst in NYS, has closed the rival school of the HS where he is and where I was. So now he has rival gang members circulating in the same hallways. He will have these kids in a classroom the size of an enlarged closet, at about 40-student capacity. The phones on the wall don't work, so he has them until someone walks by and agrees to remove any kids who aren't behaving. Forget it if he has an emergency. When I worked there, I had a kid recite my license plate, make, model, and year back at me with the warning to watch the fuck out. He knew my first name and the street I lived on, although not the address.
We have a thing at that school called 'being vaulted'. The building is old, and has a vault in the main office. If you do something wrong, and this is as a teacher, mind you, the wacky principal takes you into the vault and screams all sorts of things at you. Last person to take up this offense with the union has been run out of the building, and probably wont be able to get a job in the city again. Corruption and power games rule in this district. Our union is almost useless. Most teachers can't do a damn thing about any of the other assorted 'divergences from labor law', as they need the job (30% staffing cut end of last year, and no other districts hiring). Those that do grieve and complain are mysteriously transferred or cut in the budget crisis.
Anyone that questions the job 90% of teacher nowdays are doing needs to substitute. Give it a shot. This woman did well.
posted by oflinkey at 11:27 AM on September 3, 2003

They're victims of bad parenting, but that isn't the school or teacher's fault. Devote the resources being spent on those brats to kids who make an effort. You can't make a difference to everybody, so make a bigger difference to the ones who'll let you.

This may be true, but just "letting them watch movies" while the rest learn isn't going to accomplish anything. One of the biggest problems is that our schools are so innundated with set standards that those that get left behind have no recourse exept to either drop out or give up.

Obviously there are going to be students who will never need to read Dostoyevsky and wouldn't get anything out of it. Can we not prepare them for the future by giving them job training, practical skills, etc? Are we in a society that is so blinded by tunnel-vision that we can't get valid work-study programs started? What would be better for the future mechanic? A semester of World History or a semester studying engines?

I'm all for offering students that want to take them classes in Russian Lit and Advanced Mathematics. But if we want to have a real solution to some of the problem students, we need to take off the stupid rose-colored glasses and give them a viable option. Not all people are cut out for college, and that's fine. We need a variety of people to have a functioning society. Until we can come to grips with that, our system is going to continue to actively sponsor an environment that the linked article describes.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:51 AM on September 3, 2003

Given the badly written, almost hysterical air of this piece, I'm not sure if I believe her.

I usually can't stand articles about how bad public school teachers have it - most of them don't distinguish between the inner-city teachers whose lives may be in danger every day and the tenure-exploiting, 75K-a-year-on-average payrollers who make up a good proportion of the teachers I encountered growing up in the suburbs. But I thought this was terrific, not self-pitying at all. Yes, seeing a student drowned is worse than being called a dooshe bag, but you can't really use it as fodder for a wry humor piece.
posted by transona5 at 12:04 PM on September 3, 2003

I've always argued that the biggest problem with public education is that it tends to try and lump all students together and have them learn the same things at the same pace.

All students are not created equal, whether that refers to actual ability to learn or to desire to learn. Sorry to destroy any sort of PC utopia school administrators may live in, but they just aren't. In any group there will be some who actually read books for fun, and others who are mortified by that very idea. Leaving the bad students with the good students and expecting that somehow good results will come of it is simply stupid, because the bad ones will just go on to disrupt things for everybody, and next thing you know so many people are failing standardized tests that the passing grade is lowered -- after all, why should school administrators pass on a bonus? -- and the cycle continues.

But then such is the pull of any bureaucracy: a steady descent into mediocrity, the measure of which becomes lesser and lesser as time goes by...
posted by clevershark at 12:26 PM on September 3, 2003

Can we not prepare them for the future by giving them job training, practical skills, etc? Are we in a society that is so blinded by tunnel-vision that we can't get valid work-study programs started?

We had a vocational high school where kids learned that kind of stuff. I thought everyone did. Don't they?

If not, I see the problem. Oops! I thought that I was worldier than that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:33 PM on September 3, 2003

We had vocational training at my high school. Once upon a time.

As I was graduating, in 1989, they were canceling the last of them as not being "cost effective".
posted by Karmakaze at 12:37 PM on September 3, 2003

We had a vocational high school where kids learned that kind of stuff. I thought everyone did. Don't they?

We had a wood shop and a metal shop class, but hearing from the friends that took it, most just took the opportunity to go into the storage room and smoke out. But there was only one level taught and once you had taken it, you couldn't do so again. We had multiple levels of arts, literature, accounting, marketing, and computer programming in my high school, but those aren't fields that are likely to interest the "problem students" or place where they'll likely end up. There will always be exceptions, but the odds aren't very good.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:45 PM on September 3, 2003

"tenure-exploiting, 75K-a-year-on-average payrollers who make up a good proportion of the teachers I encountered growing up in the suburbs"

I was under the impression that tenure was a term applied to university professors. In Fairfax County, Virginia, the maximum possible salary for a teacher is $80,851 (pdf). A PhD and 15 years of experience will get you $63,043. Not chump change, but not a ton of money in this county, either.
posted by Irontom at 1:27 PM on September 3, 2003

>from the stories I hear, it's almost like 30 clones of Veruca Salt (not the band) running around our schools... ugh.

Wait -- don't forget Augustus

What a great story. Gotta love the word "Jewishly" that took the cake, for me.

I dealt with talking to this kid who seemingly refused to learn at all. It was like pulling-teeth for me. I explained to him ( as he dreamed of being a cop ) that he might become a detective if he would become more interested in learning and being curious, rather than a simple beat-cop/traffic director.

The face of dumb rebellion, or fear, or discomfort -- I cannot tell what he expressed to me in a millisecond, but it was as if I had just said something in High Jibberish.

Will there be some giant rejection of video games and videos for the children of these children, somehow crafting their rebellion into a desire for learning or are we, as a nation breeding the dumbest, fattest souls on the planet?

On the note of language/teen communication

It also seems that we are exporting a kind of teenbonics to the world
posted by RubberHen at 1:38 PM on September 3, 2003

No, no, there's a big controversy over public school teachers getting tenure (scroll down). I'm not sure if they do everywhere in the country, though. I would love to see teachers with degrees in the fields they teach - especially those with PhDs - get paid more, but teachers' groups seem suspicious of placing a lot of value on a degree that's not an education degree. I can't remember where I read this, but there was an article in an education magazine recently about how salaries for science teachers are too low because they have to be either the same as or comparable to salaries for teachers in less sought-after fields.
posted by transona5 at 1:41 PM on September 3, 2003

There's a difference between being a good teacher in a bad school, and what this is. I don't doubt the validity of MeFi people who have experienced what this woman says she has experienced, but I doubt if this article is anything except posturing. "Look at what I have to work with." she says, "It's no wonder I got several warnings from the Dean."

I may be wrong, but reading between the lines I get the feeling that this is the badly conceived rant of a teacher who cannot do her job.

Plus, she's an English teacher, and she should know how to put a sentence together.
posted by seanyboy at 4:21 PM on September 3, 2003

you seem to be just like the rest of "the problem"... I do believe that "kids" need to be baby-sat. After all, by definition, they are just children.

Teaching isn't about drilling facts into the brains of children willing to be taught and discarding the rest. Teaching is simply about making the people you teach learn the things you want them to learn within the constraints of the current educational context. The specific methods to do this differ from generation to generation, from class to class, but in the end it's about imparting knowledge. I don't care if it takes baby sitting or Hollywood style Rapping Shakespeare or a huge cane, mortar board and black cape.

I think some classes are unteachable, but there was nothing in this article to convince me that she had happened across such a class.
posted by seanyboy at 4:31 PM on September 3, 2003

If she really wrote in the margins of a students paper that the mom's new boyfriend (or whatever it was) should be shot for calling the girl a cunt (spelled kunt), then she seems to have judgement at least as bad as the students. I'm sure it's a stressful job, but come on...
posted by willnot at 4:33 PM on September 3, 2003

re Teenbonics... Language changes. Get over it.
posted by seanyboy at 4:34 PM on September 3, 2003

I graduated in '77, so I'm sure times have changed, but back then my high school had everything from Power Mechanics, to Woodworking, to Print Shop (which printed our school newspaper and literary magazine), to Auto Shop (which fixed cars for free for local senior citizens) to Jewelry Making to Food Service. Auto shop had a co-op program that allowed students to work at garages locally for class credit.

I actually took Home Repairs for one semester (the computer assigned it to me when it couldn't find any of my class choices in that time slot). There was only one other girl in the class, and the rest were pretty much the black-leather-jacket, get high at lunch, burnout crowd. But, I must admit, they all worked. I don't ever remember the teacher having a problem "controlling" the class...everyone worked on their projects, while I struggled not to destroy everything I touched (nobody told me a power sander will walk away on its own)....

Anyway, it seems like vocational classes still have a place in education; at least the kids might feel they're learning something they can use later.
posted by Oriole Adams at 5:20 PM on September 3, 2003

"Given the badly written, almost hysterical air of this piece, I'm not sure if I believe her."_seanboy

I disagree. I thought it was a fun read and felt just as exasperated as the author. Tough gig indeed. C'mon, double bagged in a day? That was a funny observation.

Seems like a peaceful school. I wouldn't want to be in the school system nowadays. I thought I had it rough.
posted by alicesshoe at 6:35 PM on September 3, 2003

Vocational classes are definitely still around. While the selection is limited within my school, there is a career-oriented study center that I believe serves all the high schools in the county. Students can attend for half a day and take classes in hotel management, cooking/restuarant management, technology...it's all there.
posted by puffin at 7:47 PM on September 3, 2003

Gawd! That woman's the biggest p-c wimpy-ass on the planet. I'm with the girl calling diewsch bag on this one.
posted by HTuttle at 8:50 PM on September 3, 2003

Anyone who thinks this is exaggerated has never been involved in the education of the future leaders of America, born circa 1983. It's all true.
posted by rschram at 1:58 PM on September 4, 2003

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