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Angelo Angelo is offline
 
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Responsibility
Old 02-08-2013, 11:11 PM
 
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Just once I'd like to have students take responsibility for themselves. I return from a conference to find that while four of my five classes were fine, there is a lengthy note concerning one of my classes.

The highlights:

a) students sitting in one another's desks and assuming false identities (idiot kids did this in my student days, too... I never understood why they thought this was funny)
b) students making hooting sounds every time the sub turned around to write on the board
c) loud commentary from two girls on the sub's appearance
d) two students walking out without permission, ignoring the sub's direction to get back to their desks, and not returning for the rest of the class
e) somebody turning music on and off from a concealed location
f) one student disrespectfully "lawyering" for another who had been asked to report to the office for swearing
g) most students refusing to do any of the work I left

AND... get this... this was my SENIOR WRITING COURSE. The class I NEVER have any difficulty with, and who are all supposedly college-bound. Honestly.

I was livid, and when I confronted them, what was the response? Blame the sub. It was all her fault. She brought it all on herself.

Why? Oh... they weren't exactly clear on that point. Some felt she was "rude" or "mean." Why? Because she didn't smile when she came in. Because she wouldn't let two kids go to the bathroom one minute into a class that happens right after lunch. I pointed out that I would have said no to that request, too, but apparently that's different because I'm their "regular" teacher. Because she confiscated three cell phones in the first five minutes (right on, sister!!) when kids thought they could whip them out and text their friends that they had a sub.

Now they are doing the "cone of silence" routine. The sub was unable to name names, since most of the class refused to give their real names and all sat in random locations. And even the "good kids" seem to think there is some sort of honor in keeping silent and protecting the guilty.

One girl from the class came after school to pick up an assignment. I've always thought of her as a talented, even gifted, student. She's always been a model student for me. When we were one-on-one, I gave her back her marked assignment, looked her in the eye, and said, "Sarah, I'd like to know exactly what happened in class yesterday."

She shrugged and avoided eye contact. I asked if she was afraid she'd be bullied if she said anything. She said, no, she'd never cared what any of the other students thought. She still refused to tell me anything beyond, "Some people were acting like idiots." I asked why people were behaving that way in a senior writing class, and she shrugged again. I asked if they sub had done anything wrong, and she said, "Not really." So why had the class treated her so badly? Another shrug. "If she can't control the class, that's not my problem," the student said. I responded, incredulous, "Sarah... when has this class EVER needed controlling? This is SENIOR WRITNG!" She shrugged again. I held her gaze. She finally said, "She just didn't seem very nice. She was trying to tell people what to do." I said, "Isn't that part of her job?" Sarah shrugged.

Sarah then looked me in the eye and said (I kid you not): "Sir, just drop it. Seriously. Just drop it." I said, "Sorry, Sarah, but that's not going to happen. My classes do not treat guests in our school that way. I'm disappointed in you for the attitude you're taking about this. I've always thought of you as an asset to this school. I would never have imagined you'd stand idly by and watch a person get bullied the way that teacher was. And I would never have believed you'd keep silent to protect the guilty. I've never had reason to question your integrity or your decency or your commitment to this school... until now. I know lots of kids care more about what their peers think than what I or the other teachers think. But I never put you in that category... until now. I don't think we have anything more to say to one another. Goodbye, Sarah." Yeah, I laid it on thick.

I then turned my attention to the papers on my desk and began organizing them. Sarah left in tears, but she didn't say another word.

I told the whole class this afternoon that they can maintain this idiotic "cone of silence" if they choose, but if they do so, I will have lost the respect I had for them. Unless I get a full accounting of what went on and a full assumption of responsibility by those who bullied the supply teacher, nobody in the class will get a letter of recommendation from me for college or any other reason. Nobody in the class will be recommended by me for a graduation award. Which means there will be no senior writing award given out this year, since I'm the only one who teaches it. This clearly upset several of them, but not enough for them to come to me and tell me exactly what happened or take responsibility, either for engaging in the behavior or by assenting to it by silence. I left the Ella Wheeler Wilcox quote on the board: "To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men."

I'm letting them stew on that for the weekend. Maybe I do expect too much from teenagers, but I know to a moral certainty that I would have come forward when I was their age. I'm afraid this class and this situation will make me lose my faith in my vocation.


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Those little cretins!!
Old 02-09-2013, 05:04 AM
 
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It sounds like you teach in a private or suburb school? They needed an inner-city sub that would have scared the mess out of them. I can't stand it when kids at 'good' schools or in 'good' classes show their behind. Ridiculous. I think your plan is a good one and will be effective. Maybe also give them a punishment of some sort, like extra homework for a while.
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Old 02-09-2013, 05:10 AM
 
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I think you mean "code" of silence.
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Make it a writing assignmnet
Old 02-09-2013, 05:18 AM
 
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it's a senior writing class, have them reflect on the quote as it pertains to that day. See what happens.
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Old 02-09-2013, 05:50 AM
 
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LOVE the idea about the writing assignment! What a great learning experience for them!


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Old 02-09-2013, 05:53 AM
 
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Have you considered letting them write a report anonymously of what happened? Maybe they will give you some information. I once had to do that with a sixth grade class of mine. Most of the kids ratted on the individual and even that girl wrote "I did it."

I had never heard of "cone of silence" either, but one should never question a senior writing teacher on word choice!
Cone of Silence Definition:

An oath by a solicitor or other employee in a law firm not to disclose any information in regards to a previous client otherwise placing that lawyer or employee in a conflict of interest with other clients of the same law firm.
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Consider I Was in Third Grade...
Old 02-09-2013, 05:59 AM
 
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What an awful thing to do to the sub!! I know you are feeling rotten about this situation, but what you have done so far is wonderful. I love the way you've handled it. They acted like six-year olds...shame on them!!

I taught third grade, but one of the things I would have my third graders do after a really bad day with the sub was to tell me about it in written form.

First they had to write about their own behavior, and then they had to write about their peer's behavior...and name names. I was usually able to put together what had happened and who was at fault from these writings. It seems your student's attitude would prevent them from doing this...but maybe if it was a graded assignment???

I also shared these writings with my principal who would then drop by to talk about the letters and the behavior expected when there was a sub.

As a class, I would also make them each write a letter of apology to the sub. You might want to suggest this to your class and see if any individuals bite.

I love Dee's idea for a writing assignment using the wonderful quote you wrote on your board.

You can bet this incident is going to get good press per phone, texting, and Facebook this weekend. It is too bad you do not have access to these.

Please keep us posted, as I would love to see the final outcome of this incident.
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Thank you!
Old 02-09-2013, 06:24 AM
 
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From a substitute teacher...thank you! Too often, we are ignored or blamed for behavior of students. I am strong in classroom management, but I have had students sneak out when my back is turned. I have been sworn at, laughed at, and had my directives ignored. I am glad that you made notice that the other classes were fine. THAT, is a dead giveaway that the class was poorly behaved.
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:58 AM
 
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I am impressed - thanks for making a stand. This is something that they will remember.
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Oh and
Old 02-09-2013, 07:05 AM
 
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'Cone of Silence' is correct. It's similar to the phrase 'Chinese Wall'. Look it up.


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Old 02-09-2013, 07:06 AM
 
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When I taught high school I had a sub one day. All the students passed their names to the left. Then they locked the sub out of the room for the rest of the period and put my desk against the door.

I was furious.

Then I found out who the sub was.

Then I laughed. Their sub was the devil. She sent all of the students but three to ISS. One student got sent because she finished her work and started working on math homework.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:25 AM
 
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I know how Sarah feels. When I was in college there was an RA who made a rule that you couldn't throw frisbees in the hall. (I guess there was a problem). One day I went to visit a friend on a different floor and walked through the doors into a frisbee game. I waited for the hall to clear. As I was standing there the RA came running to catch the violators. They all ran into rooms and he couldn't figure out who was playing. He saw me and asked who was playing. I refused to tell him.

Now I worked the desk in my dorm, so I was known by the RA. This RA was known for writing people up all the time for the silliest of reasons, and wasn't very friendly. I wasn't involved in the game, I didn't really know the people involved so I wasn't worried about them being angry with me. I just felt it wasn't my place to tell. I ended up being written up for refusing to name who was playing and it was placed in my record. If I was in the same situation today, I'd react the same way. But let me repeat: No one was HURT. Right or wrong, there really was no crime... in my eyes. I imagine Sarah feels the same way.

We spend so much time teaching kids NOT to tattle and then we're upset when they don't.

I do understand your frustration and DO feel your students were out of line with their behavior, but maybe you'd be overreacting by not giving awards and writing letters of recommendation to your students. Maybe a smaller punishment, like zeros for that day's work, would be more appropriate.
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I'm with you on this
Old 02-09-2013, 08:48 AM
 
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I like how you have handled it so far and agree with your refusal to write letters of recommendation or nominate someone for a writing award. I've subbed and it can be hard not knowing the kids or having their respect.

These kids are almost adults. They should be able to control themselves and follow classroom rules and procedures without being forced to. They should also show respect for people!!! Their behavior was so disrespectful. Do they think they will be able to get away with this in college or their workplace?

I do think sometimes that we are raising an entitled generation, where respectful behavior is not the norm. Did you see that Youtube clip with the judge in Florida and the laughing defendant? She got 30 days in jail for disrespecting the judge. (Later, she apologized and he reduced it to 4 days.). Perhaps you could show it to your kids
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Old 02-09-2013, 12:43 PM
 
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Wow. I agree with the OP. Shame on them. These kids are/will soon be, 'legal' adults. Sounds like legal brats, to me.
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Old 02-09-2013, 04:49 PM
 
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No, I think she meant "cone of silence" from Get Smart where no one on the outside can hear them.
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Old 02-09-2013, 07:18 PM
 
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The point of withholding the letters of recommendation is that if students are not acting like responsible members of a community, they don't deserve recommendations. What college wants students that behave like this? The justification of "the sub deserved it" is particularly annoying.

Off topic: my freshman dorm was once evacuated late at night because some folks were playing frisbee in the hallway and it hit the fire alarm, setting it off. Hope there weren't actual fires going on elsewhere while the trucks came to check on us.
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I'll be curious
Old 02-09-2013, 07:29 PM
 
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to know whether any parental feedback.
So impressed that you took a stand and let them know that you have expectations that are to be met even when you are not there. Kindness, consideration, common courtesy are unspoken tenets and minimal expectations.
We need to expect/demand better of our students, and, hopefully, we will get it. All we need is the admin and public to support these expectations.
Well done, Angelo!
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Old 02-09-2013, 07:53 PM
 
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I think you have handled this well. If this crew is off to college next year, they definitely need to grow up and learn that there will be a consequence for their actions. I do feel for Sarah, as that is a difficult position to be put in.
I got the Maxwell Smart reference.
Stay strong. If they are really good kids down deep, they'll crack.
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Get Smart
Old 02-09-2013, 08:41 PM
 
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Ah... I'm not the only who watched Get Smart growing up!

As to the letters of recommendation, that was my thought. My withholding of the letters is not meant to be a punishment per se, and neither is my (at present) decision not to put forward a name for grad awards. This is merely a reflection of my judgment that, based on what has happened, I cannot in good conscience say I believe any of these students are prepared for college, would be good ambassadors for the school, or demonstrate the qualities that would make them qualified to appear in polite society, let alone be admitted to an institution of higher learning.

For those who may feel I'm overreacting... let me put this into some perspective. Two students in the class (as yet unidentified) referred to their substitute teacher as a "fat pig," a Nazi, and said, "She really needs a shower." When the sub called the office and asked for a VP, she was told all the admins were tied up in a meeting and nobody was available. At this, the class applauded. One student directed the F-word to her and was sent out of the room. Said student never arrived at the office. Another student promptly began to "lawyer" for the student kicked out and gave the sub a lecture on "free speech" after which the class again applauded. When the sub asked for a student to go to the office and bring back an admin, not one would do it. Not one.

This wasn't frisbees in the hallway. This wasn't a stolen chocolate bar. This was all-out, pile-on bullying. This wasn't minor insubordination. This was abuse, pure and simple. And the class's response was that she deserved it because she was "mean" (i.e. confiscated three phones, which was not only her right, but her responsibility). The class pointed out that I don't boss them around the way the sub did. No, I've never had to. They've never given me cause to discipline them. I am so disillusioned with them right now...

The sub had nothing but nice things to say about my other classes, INCLUDING my high-needs literacy class, most of whom are on an IEP. No, the bullies were honors students, the model students, the student council types. Half of them piled on this educator, and the the rest sat back and did nothing. They let it happen. And they still refuse to be accountable.

These are not the actions of young men and women who deserve awards and recommendations. These are the actions of psychopaths.

And for those who are feeling sorry for Sarah, I'd point out that she was among those who refused to go fetch an admin when requested. And she now feels I should simply drop the matter.

I've gotten three parent e-mails so far. The gist of the first is "Good for you. I'm ashamed of my son and his classmates." The other two feel that I'm unfairly punishing the whole class for the actions of a few. I reiterate my point that not providing a letter of recommendation is not a punishment, but rather a personal and professional decision based on the circumstances.

But the bottom line is that nobody will stand up and say, "I screwed up. Here's what I did. I'm sorry." I'm hoping the substitute teacher will be back in the building next week so I can bring her to class. I'm hoping the class will grow a conscience between now and then. But if all else fails, at least we can put names to the guilty actions, and you'd better believe I'll be pushing for suspensions.

To those who still think I'm overreacting, what do you think would have been the outcome of this situation had the tables been turned and the sub had called a student a "fat pig" or a Nazi or suggested the student needed a shower? Do you think the class would keep silent to protect the sub? Do you think they would be blaming the victim and suggesting we all just move on? Would the parents?
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Wow, Angelo, you are an amazing teacher!
Old 02-10-2013, 12:29 AM
 
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You actually believe that teachers should teach students how to be accountable for their actions, how to stand up for those who are being unfairly bullied, and how to do the right thing, even when the majority is doing the wrong thing. These concepts have unfortunately become not only uncommon, but foreign to many of today's young people.

What you are experiencing is a gang mentality, even if these students are not the ones who would typically be described as gang members or gang-like. They are a group of cowards and conformists, a sad bunch of non-thinking punks who are unable to stand up to the group. And that, in and of itself, is the epitome of what made the Nazis powerful.

I am SO happy that you have taken the proper stance against this roomful of entitled bullies who think they can get away with whatever they want just because no one is watching. Having done my time as a substitute and having encountered exactly these types of kids (including some who were preordained the "cream of the crop" by administration), I can tell you that only someone with your guts and ethical standards will get through to SOME (not all) of these kids.

Too bad your admin was too lazy to come down and deal with these trashy little brats. Too bad the sub didn't think to call in another teacher. Too bad not ONE student was decent enough to go and fetch an admin for her.

I hope that the sub is available next week to come in and identify the perps. But if none of the students have come forward before that time, I do hope that you don't back down from your current position. I sincerely hope that at least a couple of them learn a good lesson from you.

P.S. Is there any way that you can incorporate the consequences into students' conduct grades? When I taught HS, we had E, S, N, and U. If a student got a U (or maybe more than one U), they couldn't be on the honor roll, no matter how good their grades were.
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Old 02-10-2013, 04:56 AM
 
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I was the student who took a stand once. We had a sub who let us complete our test together. I didn't. I sat at my desk and took my test. At first, no one noticed me. When they did, they got a bit worried that l would tell on them. Now, l am not a goody-two-shoes or was l even planning on telling. What they were doing was dishonest and disrespectful to our teacher, simple as that. Anyway, l said that l wouldn't rat them out, but if our teacher asked me directly, l wouldn't lie to her. The power l had in that moment was nothing short of awesome. Standing up for your beliefs and values is a really good feeling. It didn't matter that the odds of the teacher asking me directly were very low. She never asked. But the herd mentality is a powerful thing, and not easy to fight.

Don't let your students get away with this. Ask the sub to write down what happened, including how it made her feel. Share it with the class. Lay the guilt they should feel on thick. Show and discuss the utube video of the bus monitor who got bullied. Have them write about what happened--how they felt then and how they feel now. Have them come up with a plan to fix the situation and carry it out. If they can learn from this experience, they can be better adults. I still wouldn't write letters of recommendation or give awards. The lesson will stick with them longer if you don't give in.
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Old 02-10-2013, 06:01 AM
 
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"If this crew is off to college next year, they definitely need to grow up and learn that there will be a consequence for their actions" - vttraveler

The thing is, these kids already know there will be consequences for their actions, hence Sarah keeping her mouth shut. While you may mean consequences from the authorities, Sarah knows that any consequence the authority can give based on having no names is far less than the consequence of dealing with the other students in the class if she tattles.
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Gracious!
Old 02-10-2013, 07:55 AM
 
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Angelo, you sound like an awesome teacher who has high expectations for your students. Most of your classes behaved appropriately while the sub was there, and that's an excellent thing.

It sounds like your Senior group has 1 or 2 true bullies, a handful of followers, & a larger bunch who won't cross them because they don't have the maturity to successfully swim against that tide. My guess is that these guys (and they're probably male) have been quietly making social situations difficult for their classmates for quite some time. If we had a way to find out, I bet we'd find these guys are abusing their girlfriends & harassing the young men who aren't the top dogs. They've been abusing their social power, but it happens mostly off-campus & what happens at school is too subtle for the adults to notice.

Stand firm in your decision to refuse recommendations & awards. Actions have consequences, and while I understand most of these students aren't in a position to stand up to the bullies, their inaction has consequences as well.
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Bullies
Old 02-10-2013, 08:44 AM
 
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Well, in this case, it sounds as though the girls were the worst bullies. It was two girls who began making comments on the teacher's appearance, a girl who swore at her, and and a girl who lectured her on "free speech."

To those who say it's hard to "stand up" to an injustice, I'd point out that most of these students are the supposed "leaders" of the school (the student council president, vice president, and editor of the school newspaper are all in this class). And they evidently had no problem "standing up" to the teacher when they decided she was "mean" and being "unfair."

This used to be the class I lived to teach. We used to have amazing discussions, and some of the writing they produced was first-rate. I pushed them in their work, and they wanted me to push them. I used to like them. It's not just what they did. It's more their defiance, their refusal to admit they were wrong, and their refusal to accept any responsibility.

If they don't crack between now and Monday, I really feel the relationship between them and me will have been irreparably damaged. If they don't accept responsibility, it will be delivery of curriculum from now on and nothing more. No extras. No bringing any of myself to the table. For the first time, the job will be just a job. They will see a difference, and I suspect they will not like it.

And given that the sub in question comes to our school at least once a week to cover for someone, they must know it's only a matter of time before the real consequences get handed down. If they don't accept responsibility and I have to bring in the sub to point out who said and did what, then my injunction on recommendations and awards will be permanent.

Oh... and an update. I just received an e-mail from a student. No assumption of responsibility. Just more attacks directed at the sub:

"Sir, I know what happened in class on Thursday wasn't right. At the same time you need to realize that the substitute did not treat us the way we deserved to be treated. You treat us as young adults. She treated us as children. She could have given a warning about the phones but she chose to take them away like the class was 5 years old. When people tried to defend themselves, she wouldn't listen, just told everybody to sit down and be quiet."

Gee... those poor dears. They took out their phones against school rules and lost them. They were told to "sit down" and "be quiet." Well, I can certainly see how horribly unfair that was.
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Old 02-10-2013, 11:06 AM
 
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Angelo, I know this is hard on you. I'm so sorry. Hopefully some of them will realize what they've done.
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Old 02-10-2013, 11:56 AM
 
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As I read your posts last night, I could feel your disappointment as if it were happening to me. I know what you mean about your relationship with them changing because of their behavior and refusal to take responsibility. I know I wouldn't be able to act the same either. Their behavior was sickening! I would teach, of course, as you will, but they would definitely be able to tell that something had changed.

I hope something positive happens on Monday, but if not, you've done all you could do and taught them a valuable lesson that they'll hopefully appreciate some day.
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Old 02-10-2013, 12:16 PM
 
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Whatever writing assignment you give them around the incident should incorporate the quote from the board, the young adult novel "The Wave" (far below their reading level so it will be very quick but delivers a message about herd mentality), and the school's handbook outlining rules (which I'm sure makes note of cell phone use).

I would also remind the students when the time comes that if they wish to be treated as adults, they should know that frequently adults are not given a 'warning' or 'asked nicely' to stop breaking a rule. You will rarely win in court by telling the judge to 'just drop it' because the officer should have given you a warning for going 60 in a 30. The rule IS the warning. An officer is not EXPECTED to give warnings before enforcing laws, nor is a sub before school-wide rules. And if you want a warning, belligerence is certainly not going to get it for you. Apologetic, polite behavior might.

Last thing, I'd make sure they know that behavior can be reported anonymously or that you won't announce who 'ratted.'

Good luck. What a disappointing end to your week.
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Thanks
Old 02-10-2013, 02:00 PM
 
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Thanks to all for the sympathy and the suggestions re. some writing assignment to emerge from this whole thing.

What sticks in my craw is the suggestion from the class (and from a couple of parents) that I'm overreacting. Some feel that being rude and uncooperative with substitute teachers is totally age-appropriate and to be expected. When did "acting up" when the teacher's away become such a socially sanctioned activity. I know many tough-as-nails colleagues who chuckle at reports from supply teachers describing behavior they themselves would never tolerate if they were present.

Notwithstanding the stupidity of the "all kids act up for all subs (untrue) and subs should have a thick skin and a sense of humor" mentality, what the students did crossed a line. And those who are keeping their mouths shut know a line was crossed. And in my opinion, "student leaders" should have been guarding that line, not protecting those who crossed it with the idea that there was safety in numbers.

The class is right on one point. I usually do treat them like young adults. But that's only because, up until now, they have given me no reason to treat them otherwise. I think they believed that because I was away and it was a snowy Friday, they should have a free period. When the substitute disabused them of this notion, they pushed back.

This isn't "kids will be kids." At least not with me.
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If one considers "Lord of the Flies" to have
Old 02-10-2013, 02:13 PM
 
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been a "kids will be kids" episode, then I guess those parents are correct.

I only hope that a few of the students are suffering some pangs of conscience this weekend and will own up tomorrow. If not, they will soon see the error of their ways in your changed approach to dealing with them.

Congratulations to you for holding the bar so high. You are right, too many teachers contribute to the disrespect suffered by substitute teaches. One of the problems is that students assume that a substitute teacher is one who is either not a "real" teacher or one who has done something to be demoted. They don't realize that being a substitute often requires the same qualifications as being a regular teacher and that often, substitutes are teachers who are either unable to find a full-time job, have retired from teaching, or, for any number of reasons, don't want a full-time position. Perhaps you should also insert some of that info into your discussions with them this week.

Good luck and stay tough. As my mom used to say, these kids need a good swift kick in the pants.
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Lord of the Flies
Old 02-10-2013, 08:07 PM
 
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Apt allusion.

One comment a student made on Friday really stuck with me. I said, "I don't care who comes into this room. My students will show respect." A student responded, "Sir, respect is earned."

Respect is indeed earned. There were people I felt didn't deserve my respect when I was young, and I suppose I shared in the arrogance and fatuousness of youth. But I think the difference between their adolescence and mine is that basic respect was my neutral/default position. Certainly with teachers and other persons of authority this was the case. It was possible for adults to lose my respect, but I always met new teachers with a basic presumption of deference and respect. Too many students nowadays take "respect is earned" to mean that every teacher or adult will be subject to scorn and disrespect unless or until they prove they deserve otherwise.

The sub exercised authority the class felt she hadn't earned. Well, guess what, kids? She has earned it. She's a qualified teacher appointed by the district to fill in for colleagues who are absent. I've met this woman before, and she's a damn good supply teacher. She enforces the rules, and the work gets done. She may not have been sensitive to your inflated sense of your own importance as the self-anointed "owners of the school" in your senior year. Tough sh**, boys and girls.
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:10 PM
 
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I commend you on your stance. I don't think any teacher should be treated as this woman was, especially by "honor" students. I too would not be writing any recommendations nor would I present an award. Their true colors came out, they are children. It amazes me that 4 classes could behave, even those with IEPs and the darlings of the school could not control their behavior for a short period. That is why IEP kids always have my heart over honors.

You are concentrating on this one class, if you are able reward the other 3 with something special...a snack, a pencil something that shows that you appreciated their behavior and respect.
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Respect is earned...
Old 02-10-2013, 09:59 PM
 
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I just love it when I hear students say that. I have also heard parents say it. Apparently, they never stop to think what a completely stupid concept that is. So a teacher is supposed to start off each year with however many students, each of whom may have a different idea of what "respect" means, and unless and until the teacher is deemed as being respectful of each individual student, no learning will take place and chaos will be the norm??

I have encountered this ridiculous and impossible standard before. It is a gangbanger concept, nothing more, nothing less. It is born of the idea that the teacher's age, education, and experience are somehow equal to or less than that of an ignorant and self-absorbed teenager in a classroom. It is often promoted by parents. It is insanity, plain and simple - a classic case of the inmates' running the asylum.

I would SO love to be a fly on the wall in your classroom tomorrow.
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Old 02-10-2013, 11:27 PM
 
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I'm surprised the sub didn't call the police after no admin was available to intervene (happened recently in another school). I would be equally surprised if the sub didn't fill out an incident report. The behavior described no doubt violates the school's student expectations of behavior as outlined in the student handbook.

By February of senior year, the students know the school rules regarding cell phones as well as your classroom expectations. To take cell phones out after class has started is a display of disrespect. When corrected, the students made another choice: settle into the class session or escalate the situation. They chose the latter. The sub had an expectation, and rightly so, that the students would uphold your standard of conduct. In being abusive toward the sub, the students not only were disrespectful to her but also to you.

The attempt to justify their behavior by saying the substitute teacher didn't earn their respect is appalling. What other situations do they feel justified in demeaning and belittling a person? To complain that the sub treated them like children instead of young adults--young adults would have deferred to the teacher of the day and left cell phones away when it was time for class to begin without "needing a warning." They would have been about the business of being a student.
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respect
Old 02-11-2013, 09:43 AM
 
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I don't always respect a person, but I respect their position and ACT respectfully.
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Way to go!
Old 02-11-2013, 10:12 AM
 
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Angelo, I am so inspired and impressed by your actions!
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Old 02-11-2013, 01:24 PM
 
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Could they mean you are over-reacting by punishing the entire class for the actions of a few?

I know you think the others should have stood up for the sub or at least tattled, but being that you said that the kids you suspect causing the problems were the social elite of the school, what you are asking is more life altering than being subjected no no recommendations.

Will treating them like children teach them how to be young adults? Is being treated like a young adult when a student is nearing graduation a special reward? Is giving them your best a reward for good behavior because stating that you won't do what you have been doing says it is?

It may be how your threats of change are coming across in writing, but it does seem like you are throwing a bit of a temper tantrum.

Sure, you should be upset by the behavior of those students that were horrible to the sub. But really, what are you going to take away next if this "lesson/punishment" doesn't work? Don't teach them at all? The punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime.

If the problem is that they don't follow the rules and you have given them warnings in the past, just follow the rules to a T. Let them know that there will be no more warnings. That should be enough to make the point. That punishment fits the problem. The rest seems is emotional and reactionary on your part. It almost seems vindictive. Why should Sarah not get a recommendation when she knows full well that tattling will make her life a living hell? They have shown that have not understood that the warning was a reward but not a requirement.

Do you report to the administrator when you see a co-worker violating one of his or her policies or when you hear a co-worker being nasty to a student or other teacher? If you did, would you be well received by those around you or would it be professional and social suicide?
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:43 PM
 
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What's with people calling it "tattling"? These are 17-18 year old we're talking about. It's called "reporting", and it's what I'd hope that most decent people would do if they saw something horrible happening but didn't feel able to stop it themselves.

These young adults are acting according to the code of conduct of criminals. This is the type of "no-tell" behaviour that you find in a prison and that you definetly should NOT find amongst the future leaders of our society.
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What Clarity said!
Old 02-11-2013, 03:47 PM
 
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We have the middle school version of this class, and teaching them can be a chore. They know everything

The classes behavior was and is unexceptable, and Alberto is doing a great job, better these students learn now instead of while in college or on the job.

Blcw
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So what happened????
Old 02-11-2013, 05:01 PM
 
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We're all dying to know!
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Old 02-11-2013, 06:13 PM
 
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Quote:
Whatever writing assignment you give them around the incident should incorporate the quote from the board, the young adult novel "The Wave"
This book/movie came to my mind as well. I watched it in my High School psych class and it has stuck with me.


No matter your choosing, I believe that your change in attitude/teaching toward your students will teach them a life-long lasting lesson.... although they may never let you know it.
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:35 PM
 
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I am also impressed with how you handled this disappointing situation. One word: INTEGRITY. My own kids can be in your class any day!

Also, incidentally, I always love reading your posts because they are so thought-out and eloquently written. No wonder you're a writing teacher!

Yes, we are all waiting to hear what happened today!
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Update
Old 02-11-2013, 08:51 PM
 
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We now know who the two students were who left without permission. No ownership on the part of the bullies (or the bystanders).

MissSunnyDay2: Kindly stop putting words in my mouth. I didn't say I'd stop teaching them. I specifically said I'd continue to deliver curriculum. And I'll reiterate the point I made before. Do you think these "young adults" would keep silent if the situation were reversed and the the substitute teacher called one of them a "fat pig" or a Nazi? I suspect the same parents who are now telling me to "move on" would be baying at the moon and demanding the teacher's head on a platter. Do you think students are ready for college when they sit back and watch a person called a "fat pig" and a Nazi and say nothing? Double standard? I think you also missed the point I made. I never had to give warnings for phones, because they knew not to take them out. The only reason they took them out in the first place was because there was a sub and they thought they had it made in the shade for the period. Sarah specifically told me she didn't care what her classmates thought. If she's choosing to care more about what her peers think than what I think, that doesn't leave me much room to recommend her for anything.

To everyone else: I had a long heart-to-heart with the sub today at lunch. She's being very gracious about the whole thing, but I know she was very upset by what happened. She's in for the next two days and will be coming in to class tomorrow to point out the bullies and determine who said what.

I handed back four recommendation forms today. Blank. Yup... I'm a bad guy.
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Oh... and MissSunnyDay... one more thing
Old 02-11-2013, 09:03 PM
 
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"Do you report to the administrator when you see a co-worker violating one of his or her policies or when you hear a co-worker being nasty to a student or other teacher?"

Yes. If I hear a colleague call anyone in the building a "fat pig" or a Nazi, then I will be sure to speak up. Thankfully, that hasn't happened in my tenure.
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Old 02-11-2013, 09:17 PM
 
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I have been observing this site for about a year. I've read many posts and comments. I have started a few threads myself. I have to say, MissSunnyDay you seem to ALWAYS go against the opinion of the person posting. I'm not sure if you're just a Negative Nancy or if its fun for you to stir things up. This is just my observation. I'm just beginning to notice some things.
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Thank You Angelo
Old 02-12-2013, 02:48 AM
 
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I just want to say thank you!! I have been in a similar situation subbing only to be met with resistance and apathy from the teacher and principal. I agree with you, they are not ready to handle the responsibility of college if they behave this way. I wouldn't give them reccomendations either.
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Old 02-12-2013, 04:37 AM
 
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I am in complete agreement with you. I wish you were teaching my children.
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Old 02-12-2013, 05:40 AM
 
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Thank you for taking this stand!!!!!
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Old 02-12-2013, 10:49 AM
 
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"This used to be the class I lived to teach. We used to have amazing discussions, and some of the writing they produced was first-rate. I pushed them in their work, and they wanted me to push them. I used to like them. It's not just what they did. It's more their defiance, their refusal to admit they were wrong, and their refusal to accept any responsibility.

If they don't crack between now and Monday, I really feel the relationship between them and me will have been irreparably damaged. If they don't accept responsibility, it will be delivery of curriculum from now on and nothing more."

Ahh, you will just teach the straight curriculum. You won't do your best for them anymore which includes a robust discussion regarding the curriculum. We must disagree with the purpose of our jobs and the requirements of our jobs. I see my job to bring the best to the table at all times and to push students to do better. Anything less is being lazy. Doing less because of anger when it is proven that you are capable of doing better with your job is vindictive. I guess we have a different idea of what being a teacher means. If you are happy just delivering the curriculum when you know you are capable and they are capable of more academically and using academics as a punishment, that is your choice. However, I do believe I was accurate in my assessment that you really aren't going to teach them any more. Your words said it. You will just deliver curriculum. That is not teaching that is presenting. That is an insult to great teachers, which you have shown that you have the ability to be but will choose not to be.

By the way, I never condoned what they did.

I do apologize if I wrongly implied that you have given students warnings when they have broken class or school policies. The e-mail you posted compared your treatment of the students as adults vs the sub not giving a warning. This e-mail comparison and your lack of clarification that you have never given them a warning as a way of treating them as adults led me to inaccurately imply that as part of treating them as adults you have in the past warned them when you could have applied zero tolerance policies.

Again, I think eliminating robust discussions and pushing them academically and intellectually because of this is an overreaction. That reflects directly on you because it is a concious decision to impact their academics as a consequence to a behavioral problem that in my opinion should be handled in a different manner. Others may disagree with me, but it is my opinion.

You do understand that these students will see the difference. These students will then rightfully tell others that if Angelo gets mad he will just start presenting lessons and not really teaching. This will get into the community and be a negative reflection on teachers in general and particularly on you. It doesn't matter what the action was to make you emotionally charged to no longer do your best, the end result will be you no longer teach but present. This can come back to backfire on you in multiple ways. First, there will be distrust among students and parents because you will be known to adjust the quality of the job you do based on your opinion of the students. This is never a good situation. Second, students will now know that if they want the class to change all they have to do is really make you angry and you will go to straight curriculum. They will know that you run on emotion and will now become a target of those that want to get to you, which school is full of students that like nothing more to get at the teacher. You show your vulnerabiltiy when you do this. Third, the administration will get wind of this, and this will not look professional to them.

I say this not to get you angry but to show you the consequences of taking a stance such as this. In my opinion, your course of action will impact you far more than it will impact them. Your punishment on them based on your emotion will most likely end up hurting you in the long run.
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Old 02-12-2013, 12:35 PM
 
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"It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone."
-Hans F. Hansen
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Old 02-13-2013, 10:53 AM
 
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To MissSunnyDay2: It's very difficult to have the same feeling you had before for someone who seriously disappoints you in a relationship, especially when no heartfelt or sincere apology has been offered. Teaching a group of students is always about both the curriculum and the relationship between the teacher and the class. The class discussed on this thread has seriously disappointed their teacher, and damaged their connection. It is only natural and probably unavoidable that the relationship between them has changed. Everything has consequences, and this is one of them. I commend Angelo for being honest with herself and acknowledging her true feelings even as I am sure it is heartbreaking for her to do so. But we gain nothing by pretending, and in the end the students must sense the disappointment they cannot help but read in their teacher's eyes. They need to feel the loss caused by their actions (or non-actions) because otherwise they will learn nothing. And I'm not referring to the curriculum!

Hitler was enabled by those who remained silent, as well as by his supporters. Racism and other forms of abuse occur more often where bystanders remain silent. Pollution and political corruption flourish when observers can't be bothered to speak up. Society needs more positive citizen involvement! These seniors and student leaders should have shown they were up to the task, but sadly, they did not. They could not even face a little disapproval from a few nasty bullies. No wonder their teacher is so sadly and honestly disappointed. Perhaps they have been given too much by their parents, school, and community, and now they feel entitled.
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Give me a break
Old 02-13-2013, 11:41 AM
 
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Misssunnyday: If you genuinely believe this is about me and my emotions or that my approach amounts to a "temper tantrum," you've missed the point. This is about a wrong that was committed against another human being. Full stop. The fact of the class's total lack of remorse for what they did and allowed to happen and abetted after the fact speaks to the character of the students in the class. Your attempts to frame me as immature and unprofessional do not change those facts. I am not punishing anyone, nor am I a worse teacher. I am acknowledging that damage has been done to the relationship between a teacher and his class. I have given students multiple opportunities to take responsibility for their actions (or inaction) to begin the process of healing the relationship. Not only are they uninterested in beginning to repair the damage they have done, but they are continuing to rationalize their choices from Thursday and after. To carry on as though nothing has happened would be dishonest on my part, not the mark of a conscientious educator. My refusal to write recommendations is not a punishment but rather an expression that any statement on my part that these students have the judgment or character to succeed would be tantamount to professional perjury.
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Outcome
Old 02-13-2013, 11:52 AM
 
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The sub came into class yesterday. The class was unapologetic and most stared stonily back at her. The bullies who attacked her are suspended for one day. One looked me in the eye and denied that she had said what she did. When confronted with her use of the words "fat pig" and Nazi, she initially denied using those words and then amended her statement to say, "I might have used those words, but she can't prove they were directed at her. I was just speaking hypothetically".

An admin investigation has revealed that one or more students have begun a Facebook group dedicated to attacking the substitute teacher. Sarah, the student council VP who said the matter had nothing to do with her, is a member of the group. One parent insists the attack page is a matter of free speech and is threatening to sue the school if they attempt to take down the page or punish the students contributing to it.
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I have been
Old 02-13-2013, 12:32 PM
 
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following this post. And I have to say I am flabergasted that anyone could think this type of student behavior is in any way okay. I am sickened by your students and I've never even met them! I am also worried about the future of our country if any of these selfish fools ever get any type of job where they will be expected to follow a code of ethics because most of them have none.
This whole episode is sickening and frightening.
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Old 02-13-2013, 12:44 PM
 
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Talk about blaming the victim! The most telling fact is that the sub had no problems with the other classes that day.
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Destroyer of futures
Old 02-13-2013, 01:15 PM
 
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Yes, kiddies, apparently I'm destroying futures.

Mom: Thanks for taking my call. I'm really hoping you'll reconsider giving Michael a recommendation.

Me: No, I'm sorry, but I can't do that. You can take up the reasons why with Michael.

Mom: Yes, I heard he and some other kids gave a supply teacher a bit of a hard time.

Me: To say the least. Several students bullied her, and the rest of the class sat back and let it happen.

Mom: Oh. Yes, well... That's not good.

Me: No, it's not good.

Mom: I totally understand. The thing is... He needs your recommendation for pre-med. it's a really competitive admission process.

Me: Yes. Well, I don't think a recommendation from Elective Writing will make that much difference.

Mom: Yeah. The thing is that he needs a recommendation from at least one English teacher.

Me: Oh. He could get one from his regular English teacher then. My course is Elective Writing.

Mom: Ummmmm... Yeah. Well, his other English teacher won't provide a recommendation.

Me: Oh?

Mom: Yes, there were some issues surrounding a plagiarism allegation.

Me: Hmmmm.... That's not good.

Mom: So would you reconsider the recommendation?

Me: I'm afraid not.

Mom: So... You'd let him miss out on Med school?

Me: That's not really up to me. Michael asked for a recommendation, and I've given my answer. I'm sorry if you're disappointed, but there it is.

Mom: So who should I be talking to then?

Me: About... ?

Mom: Should I talk to the principal?

Me: Yes, if you want his recommendation. Absolutely.

Mom: No, I mean about an English recommendation.

Me: I don't see how that would help. The principal doesn't teach English.

Mom: I mean I want to appeal your decision.

Me: My decision?

Mom: Yes. What if the principal decides he should have the recommendation? Would you accept that decision?

Me: No, the principal can't force teachers to write recommendation letters. That is a voluntary process.

Mom: So you'd go against your own principal's decision?

Me: He can't decide whether or not I will provide a recommendation. He has no basis to determine that, and there is no requirement for me to recommend anyone for anything.

Mom: We'll see. I guess I need to consult our family lawyer. Thanks for your time.


Oooooooooh... Not the family lawyer!
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:24 PM
 
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Good grief! He learned his attitude from mom.
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One Small Important Step!
Old 02-13-2013, 01:30 PM
 
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I have also been following this post. What started out as an unfortunate episode, which could have easily been resolved by the proper apologies, statements of regret, and students admitting their fault, has now snowballed into WAR!!! Angelo's class is a microcosm of our society. Too many people in our society are BLAMERS... They do not take responsibility for their actions. I admire Angelo for taking a stand! A wrong was committed in his classroom by his students. Of course he is deeply bothered and has lost respect for these “school leaders.” His refusal to accept their behavior is one small step in the scope of what is going on in our society. BUT we all know a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step. I have found his actions and efforts to make his class accountable extremely inspirational. We should all be so brave.
I am bothered about the WAR.... the Facebook page, the angry parents’ misdirected support of their kids, the pressure! Hang strong, Angelo! You are riding the white horse and making a difference.
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:52 PM
 
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The temper tantrum part is conciously changing how you teach your class because you are disappoined in their behavior. Reducing your ability as a teacher to because you are angry is equivalent in my mind to a temper tantrum. It is a reaction that can cut off your nose in spite of your face.

Punish them. The offenders deserve to be punished. They should never had said anything like they did to the sub. I never said don't punish them.

I just think your decision to stop teaching them robustly like you are capable of doing and instead just delivering the curriculum is very, very wrong. I would never allow my integrity as a professional to do my best be deminished because I don't like the behavior of the students no matter how wrong the behavior was. That is my opinion. I'm just offering an alternative view of your choice to limit instruction to delivery of curriculum.

To the poster that believes I don't understand how this can damage the relationship, I will say, you are wrong. I do understand. I just don't equate doing my best as something that is a reward to students. I do my best because it is a reflection on me and my abilities. I don't do my best because somehow one group of students deserve more than the other. My job is to always do my best. To do less is stealing from those that hired me because they expect me to do my best. They know what my best is and will know when I'm slacking. The reason really won't matter.

If others have trouble understanding this logic, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

I wish you luck with your students going further Angelo.
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My hero
Old 02-13-2013, 02:18 PM
 
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Angelo, my greatest respect goes out to you. If more teachers followed your lead, perhaps we could turn around what has happened in our schools. Too many kids think they run things, and their parents support this way of thinking. I am sure the parents who have taught their children to have respect for others are cheering for you. I know I am. Stay strong!
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:37 PM
 
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There is a difference between pretending all is well and acknowledging it really isn't that some people may fail to grasp. It still won't change the reality of what has happened to damage a relationship.

How interesting that the student who asked for a letter of recommendation was also refused by another teacher. Although it may seem that the circumstances are different, I don't think they are. Both reveal a pattern of being ethically challenged, to say the least! When the parent implied she would get the principal or perhaps a lawyer to force the teacher to write a letter of recommendation, I had to laugh. As a high school teacher of many years, it was ALWAYS my choice. Nowhere in the teacher contract did it state that high school teachers had to write any letters on demand!!

Sometimes saying no is the best thing for the child. Years ago an undercover cop with a "wire" was placed at my school, unknown to even the principal. Six students were arrested, among them a junior in one of my English classes. This student had also been with me as a freshman, had a 3.5+GPA, and had always earned an A in my class. He was also personable and likable, and got along well with others. There was a ton of proof that he was a high volume drug dealer, and none of his teachers, including me, had any idea! If he had been 18, he would have gone straight to prison, but due to his age was sent to juvenile hall until the age of 18. His family called, begged, and sent family members to pressure me to write a letter on his behalf so his time would be reduced and he could come back to graduate with his class. Not only did I NOT write any letter, I informed all my classes that if they ever did anything harmful to another, such as selling illegal drugs and thereby encouraging addiction, they should NEVER ask me for my help. Of course, I did not name the student but I have no doubt word got back to him. The calls stopped.

Well, fast forward about four years later to one afternoon when I was working late in my classroom. The door opened, and in walked this student. He had come to apologize to me personally for his actions and to tell me that getting caught and punished had been, in the end, good for him. It made him realize he was headed the wrong way, and after some serious reflection, he changed course. He was now going to college after having graduated from juvenile detention. He asked why I had refused to write that letter, and nodded in understanding when I told him the same thing I had told all the other students years before. We shook hands and I wished him well. Lesson learned, and better late than never.
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Lawyer LOL
Old 02-13-2013, 03:38 PM
 
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I hope her lawyer laughs in her face while explaining to her that you cannot be forced to write a letter of recommendation. Sheesh! No wonder the kid is the way he is!!
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I have someone who will write his letter..
Old 02-13-2013, 06:31 PM
 
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Michael is the type of doctor I would want. Dishonest or delusional.

Actual, I'm caught up in the middle of a Federal medical insurance fraud trial. Bonus round, got hosed by people you think would have higher moral standards.

A husband and wife (both doctors) were stealing hospital face sheets. Those are the patient chart sheets that have all your personal information on it. I don't know if they paid a ward clerk for the face sheets, or what lower level idiot they conned to do their dirty work. Submitted the information for bogus home health care services, and received insurance money for those claims. I never had a relationship with these doctors.

Medicare caught the losers. What's the harm? "No one got hurt, and the government wastes money all the time.", was their general attitude.

BOTH are going to jail. Both are in their 60s, going to Federal prison. Granted it probably isn't a Super Max, but I'm sure it will be a cultural change lol....

They will lose everything. Their medical licenses. Huge fines. Their reputations.

And I get to sweat identity theft. The Feds aren't sure if my information wasn't passed around.

Have Michael's parental unit call me. I'm sure both of those doctors could write an outstanding letter for him. Who let's a little bit of truth get in the way? Buzz Kills.

The doctors weren't druggies or in debt. Just greed heads with no moral compass.

I want whatever she is smoking. Good lawyers avoid the Crazyees. Hard to collect from, and not worth the drama.
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You don't want to get sued, so
Old 02-13-2013, 08:50 PM
 
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just write the letter. I actually drafted it for you (it was more fun than grading papers).

Dear College Administrator,

I am writing this letter to you, not as a recommendation for Michael to be admitted to your esteemed pre-med program, but because I am under the threat of possible legal action by his mother if I don't. While I am certain any such action would be deemed frivolous as no one can be forced to write a voluntary letter, I would like to avoid the possible inconvenience of legal proceedings in this matter.

If you would like to have a student who has treated a teacher with disrespect, refuses to take responsilbility for his actions and inactions, who, according to his mother, has "some issues surrounding a plagiarism allegation", and who has a mother who will threaten to consult her family lawyer if you don't do what she wants, then Michael is the student for you.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Angelo
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Dr. Michael
Old 02-13-2013, 08:54 PM
 
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Yes, not to worry. I doubt Michael will ever become a physician, and his standing in elective writing has very little to do with the matter. Heaven help us if he somehow gets through the net. As you say, the last thing we need is an ethically challenged doctor.

I'm operating on the hunch that there is no family lawyer and it's a silly threat. I'm certainly not going to be bullied into writing a recommendation for this person. What amazed me about the conversation was Mom's willingness to tell me about Michael's plagiarism in another course (sorry -- alleged plagiarism) as though this will incline me to write a recommendation.
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Applauding Angelo
Old 02-13-2013, 09:32 PM
 
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Angelo as a teacher and a parent of three grown children I applaud you.
I would have fought tooth and nail to have you teach my children.(and yes they would have qualified for honor writing classes) You are not just teaching academics but also life lessons.
Miss Sunny I don't agree with your opinion on this, but you do have a right to express it.
Angelo will teach to his best, I know he will because everything in him will not allow him to do otherwise. However,the dynamics of this class will change and the students will know it. And, I firmly believe that future classes will learn from this incident also. Finally, that bull about earning respect is just bull. They should have respected her because she followed class rules and school rules regarding cell phones.
The sub walked in respecting the students, because that is what many subs do. And the fact that three other classes respected her proves it.
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Old 02-14-2013, 07:08 AM
 
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I would have explained to the mother that I would be happy to write the recommendation. I would also be very clear and document that when you write recommendations that you not only incude academic ability but characteristics of the student's personality and behavior. Recommendations from teachers should go beyond academics because that information is on the transcript. I would be clear to the parent that colleges want to hear what kind of a person the student is, not just their grades. I would also be clear that her son particpated in some bullying behavior which isn't a positive characteristic of a person. I would also make sure that students were aware that you will be very honest in your recommendation and not just write a glowing recommendation but write one that is deserved.

Doing this you will fulfill what is seen as a common practice among teachers of upper level students but still maintain your professionalism. Those students that are the instigators or part of the FB group will get recommendations that are honest and deserved if they still take you up on it. Those that weren't the instigators and not part of the FB group may get a better recommendation if they choose to still use you.

In the end, you will be seen as the professional. Doing your job correctly (honest recommendation instead of fluff) without withholding perceived duties because you are angry.

The power struggles just aren't worth it.
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Pity the subs
Old 02-14-2013, 10:17 AM
 
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This is a perfect example of why I never subbed. I think subbing is too much like being a matron at the county jail.
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A matron...
Old 02-14-2013, 12:00 PM
 
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...without the authority, or back-up, or bars between you and the residents.
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Old 02-16-2013, 04:56 AM
 
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Mom: Ummmmm... Yeah. Well, his other English teacher won't provide a recommendation.

Me: Oh?

Mom: Yes, there were some issues surrounding a plagiarism allegation.

Me: Hmmmm.... That's not good.


That says so much. If this kid does get a recommendation and does get into med school, PLEASE share his name. I want to be sure to avoid him.

You are doing the right thing and it sickens me that doing the right thing must be defended like this. It is horrible that parents will defend their children's right to contribute to a disgusting FB page. If we delved into these parents' pasts, I believe we will find that they, too, were bullies and have trained their children well.
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Angelo
Old 02-16-2013, 05:29 AM
 
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You are an inspiration.
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:27 AM
 
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Remember, this kid has to get through pre-med at a 4 yr school.
If he makes it, wonder how mom will help him with those recommendations?
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Bravo
Old 02-16-2013, 06:39 AM
 
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Bravo to you, Angelo. You are right.

And I love TwistingTeach's letter!!
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Next Step
Old 02-16-2013, 10:04 AM
 
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I just blew the remainder of my course materials budget for this course (it's one of the very few that still gets any kind of budget) plus about 80 dollars of my own money on a class set of Khaled Hosseini's novel The Kite Runner. Those who have read it will understand why I chose it. We'll see if it has any impact.

I've been reflecting on the allegation that I'm throwing a tantrum by changing my approach to teaching this class. The allegation was predicated on the assumption that a by-the-book approach to instruction and curriculum delivery is somehow synonymous with "worse" teaching practices, or at least less than my best teaching.

I've concluded that the allegation is unfair. I like to think I offer every class my best teaching, but best practices look, sound, and feel very different depending on the needs of the class. A stricter approach that sticks closer to the mandated curriculum is not necessarily a poorer experience for students, although it may be less enjoyable. As a case in point, I'm sure I'd be described as much "tougher" with my high-needs literacy class than - say - an AP English section. I stick much closer to the plan prescribed by state curriculum documents for the simple reason that the students lack the maturity and good judgment to profit from any more freedom than I am currently providing.

Simply put, they would learn less if I gave them more latitude. I already have to spend a considerable amount of time each week reinforcing rules, ensuring consistent discipline, and generally managing the classroom so that high expectations can be maintained and productive learning can occur. A more lenient approach with my literacy class would be destructive to the learning environment and would do the students no favors, despite what they may believe.

With AP English (or, Senior Writing, so I thought), I can usually afford to be more easy-going because the students are typically better able to manage the academic and personal freedoms I give them. I can let discussions "roam free," confident that I can fold them back into the core expectations for the lesson and that students can make the connections. When a student in AP English arrives late to class, she usually does so out of breath, apologetic, and with a reasonable explanation. I can wave the apology aside, confident the tardiness will not be repeated. By contrast, when a "reluctant learner" from the literacy class arrives late, she usually does so by strolling in without a care in the world, doesn't care that she's disrupting the lesson, has a chip on her shoulder as if daring me to question her tardiness, and insists I'm being a "hard ass" if I make an issue out of it. What's the big deal, she asks, if she's late every other day? Hence my approach varies depending on the needs of the students.

My change in approach to Elective Writing is neither a "tantrum" nor does it involve a less rigorous or less effective approach to teaching. Students will get the same level of instruction they got before, but it will be delivered in a more structured, less personal way. This is a reflection, not of my anger, but of my recognition that I misjudged them as being more mature and more capable of exercising good judgment. The new style, far from being less effective, constitutes a better reflection of their needs at this time in light of the true colors they have now shown.
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Old 02-16-2013, 10:35 AM
 
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Quote:
Students will get the same level of instruction they got before, but it will be delivered in a more structured, less personal way.
This is what I thought from the beginning and wondered how somebody wouldn't understand this is what you meant.

I was in higher level classes in hs and was shocked one day to see how one of my favorite teachers dealt with another class. I even asked him about it and got the same response you just gave.
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No Need to Explain
Old 02-16-2013, 11:00 AM
 
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Anyone with good sense and teaching experience knows that you are doing the right thing here. There is no need to explain further your reasoning behind how you intend to teach these teens going forward. Your ethics in regard to this matter were never in question to those of us with good sense and actual teaching experience.
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Old 02-16-2013, 01:41 PM
 
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"If others have trouble understanding this logic, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree."

I think we can all agree that MissSunnyDay2 just loves to disagree. (Well, I suspect MSD2 will disagree with me, but then...????) To suggest that students are 'excused' due to peer pressure is a cop out. If your words were true, then every teen would be drinking, using drugs, driving dangerously and having unsafe sex. As educators, we teach robustly and shape the character of our students. And we recognize and recommend those who respresent the best. Once they chose to laugh, clap, join the group, they forfeited that eliteness.

Angelo, as others have said, you are doing the right thing and we are very grateful. That mother's phone call was pathetic, but I'll admit you had me giggling at times.

I loved your proposed letter, Twisting Teacher.

My college REQUIRED a signature of ethical and honorable practices. We were not only required to follow an honor code, but to report others who did not. The result -- individuals who were more concerned with doing the right thing that what others thought. Individuals who became well-educated and responsible doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals.

To your student who said, 'respect is earned' I'd ask "And what did you do to 'earn' respect that day in my class?" Apparently, adults have to 'EARN' respect, but students are simply entitled to it. The substitute showed no disrespect, but was disrespected.

To the student who said they were being treated like little kids: I was CERTAIN you were describing a middle school class until I read that it was your senior class. I was SHOCKED! I had confidently presumed you taught 6th or 7th graders based on the words/actions you described.

Frankly, in high-crime areas like ours, there is video surveillance through parts of the building. I think I/we would have gotten to the truth a whole lot faster because I simply tell them that if I have to bother to check the video tape I will be doing so with a parent to witness everyone's actions alongside of me. Since most kids figure they wouldn't have acted the way they did in the presence of their parent, they usually opt to take responsibility. Once a student said, "What if I don't want to be videotaped? Don't you need to permission to do that?" Does Meijer need permission to videotape shoplifters? Do the police need permission to record my speed on a residential street? We are expected to follow rules. If we don't, we can expect consequences. Why should school be any different? You gave them several opportunities to do the right thing and they chose not to step up. If they what they did due to peer pressure, then let's hope their peers can help them get what they want out of life.
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Bullies and enablers...
Old 02-16-2013, 05:10 PM
 
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All these students and their parents! I agree with Angelo 100%. You are responding in an appropriate, responsible manner. Apparently, all the years of anti-bullying messages these students are exposed to never got though to them.

Bravo to you for standing firm and maintaining high behavioral expectations for your students.

The only thing I can say is that Life tends to bring with it Life Lessons. These entitled, selfish, bullying people will most likely run into a situation someday that will demonstrate there is a type of rough justice for this sort of on-going behavior, with consequences worse than a refused recommendation letter.
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Anti-Bullying
Old 02-17-2013, 08:47 AM
 
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Janylynne:

Yes! That's one thing that irks me about this whole situation. Why is it that the big thrust in the last five years has been to stomp out bullying? Nowadays, it's fashionable to have zero tolerance for student-on-student bullying. And rightly so.

But I've noticed a trend. The same act of bullying which, if committed by a student on another student, would earn a serious disciplinary intervention, is treated as "different" and more "nuanced" (i.e. less serious) when committed by a student on a teacher or other adult. When a student gets physical with another student, discipline is swift and sure. When a student gets physical with a teacher, we stop to consider "all the factors that contributed to the incident" (I've heard this terminology used before). Is the student on an IEP for behavior? Is the student able to control his behavior? Did the teacher provoke the student or do or say anything insensitive to the student or fail to give the student room to cool off when upset? None of this is considered when a student takes a swing at another student.

The same goes for other forms of bullying. If a kid verbally bullies another kid, and especially if the bullying involves racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., there is zero tolerance. But when a kid mouths off at a teacher and gets personal, the teacher is told not to take it personally and to move on. If we told a bullied child to "grow a thicker skin" and "don't take it personally," parents would be outraged in this day and age. Yet that's still the prevailing view when teachers get bullied by students. We don't blame the victim of bullying any longer -- unless the victim is an adult; then it's open season.

My admin has been fairly supportive concerning the incident with the sub (mainly because she's a really good sub and they don't want her refusing to return to our school). But the still have a hang-up when it comes to "kids will be kids." When I pointed out to the P that the situation would be treated very differently if the sub had called one of the students a "fat pig" or a "Nazi," he gave me a funny look and said, "Yes, of course it would. Teachers are adults and professionals. There's a difference." When I pointed out that the students wouldn't keep silent if one of them had been targeted for abuse, he said, "You might as well stop thinking that way right now. They [the students] are 'the union'. Teachers are 'management'. They don't think of it as bullying."
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Just adding my thanks
Old 02-17-2013, 10:41 AM
 
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Angelo- you are an inspiration. I teach 1st and 2nd, and I am sure to call my substitute a guest teacher and tell them that I expect them to be respectful, courteous listeners. You are holding them to the highest of standards, and you have my utmost respect. Thank you for all you do. The lessons they are learning are not the lessons they thought they would be learning in your class.
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