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November 16, 2002
Baton Rouge-grad

Here's something to cheer up our weekend, from Apple a Day: The Daily Weblog of a first-year schoolteacher in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This is one of the entries from last Saturday (Nov 9):

Idiocy of the Week

I can't control whether heat or air conditioning comes out of the vents in my classroom (something made readily apparent as I baked last Thursday). That decision isn't made by me, or my principal, or the superintendent, or even anyone in the state of Louisiana. The decision as to whether my kids get air hot or cold is apparently made by someone at a company in Atlanta, Georgia, 525 miles away. (And let me assure you, there aren't a series of thermometers with ethernet connections at my school sending up to date classroom temperature information to the Peach State) Does this seem a little Soviet to anyone else? Would it be too much to give teachers control over a fricking thermostat?

Something tells me you haven't read the word "Soviet" on BEdBlog for the last time, and I don't mean only in connection with the old Soviet Union.

The most Soviet stuff I've heard recently has concerned the lying that afflicts the British state education system about how well it is doing. The statistics of British educational "achievement" are sounding more and more like Soviet steel production figures, and I'm sure it's just the same elsewhere. This used to be called "cheating", and only cheating pupils who were not old enough to know any better did it. If caught they were severely punished. Now cheating afflicts all levels of the British state system, most definitely including the politicians at the top, who routinely lie about exam results, and pressurise those lower down to do likewise. Just recently the disease has spread to include lying about how well the private sector in British education has been doing, only in this case the lies state that they have been doing less well than they have.

But back to the joys of downtown Baton Rouge. Have a read of this, from Wed Nov 6th:

I call the experienced teachers veterans. People use the metaphor of the 'war zone' often when describing inner city schools. I don't think that it's simply metaphor. When I showed up in Baton Rouge for TFA preinduction, a group of us cornered a second-year, and asked him to describe his first year of teaching. He paused, reflected for a moment, and then said, "Well -- I guess it's sort of like going to 'Nam." We all laughed ...then. But as my time here lengthens the parallels become more striking. The Veterans here in the schools, just like soldiers, have had long experience of being treated like mushrooms (i.e. kept in the dark and fed sh*t) by the folks above them. As a result, they rely primarily on each other for support. Here at my school, there's even a tendency to refer to each other by last name only, (making me "Reece," something I hadn't been called since I played ice hockey.) In both situations, what you find is the gallows humor and grim camaraderie of perpetually unpleasant circumstances. I should probably elaborate on all this, but for now I'll just leave it at that.

As will I. No matter what exactly you mean by "education", it shouldn't have to be like this. But I guess that's the Draft for you.

Although, I might not have minded if I'd been taught how to write by this man.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:26 AM
Category: The reality of teaching

I can't quite remember how the dialogue went, but when I started as a teacher one of the first things I was told was "Never turn your back on a kid." Nervous laugh from me. "Gosh. You make it sound like Vietnam - you know, er, 'never turn your back on a gook' and all that." (I tried to make it clear from my tone of voice that "gook" was part of the quote.)

There followed from my interlocutor a complete absence of reassuring laughter. He just went on to the next warning.

Comment by: Natalie Solent on November 17, 2002 08:46 PM
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