It's teacher hunting season!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Classroom disruption accommodation, and DoE's unprofessional role

800-pound weight in the New York City classrooms is the problem of "classroom management." The NYC Department of Education's accommodation of classroom disruption has wide-ranging deleterious ramifications.
First-most, the student disruptions have a profoundly negative impact on the classroom. The disruptions make teaching difficult. They make it difficult for children to learn. The ability of children to disrupt without consequences establishes a destructive precedent for the disruptors' peer students. The paucity of consequences makes the arena of the classroom is the disruptive student's true nirvana.
So, do administrators go after the disruptive, oppositional students? Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the answer is: hardly.
Are you say ... over 35 years of age or from outside "the city"? When you misbehaved terribly your principal probably called your home. This of course, probably turned over a whole mess at home. You saw immediate consequences to your non-sense.
These days, something has to happen pretty extreme, such as putting another student into an unconscious or making blood spill, to get a call home from the principal. No, there is a terrific shield that gives the disruptive student a tremendous cushion against any immediate consequences. That shield, "the ladder of referral." Essentially, if Johnny bullies or sexually harasses or non-sexually harasses or loudly and continuous disrupts a lesson or engages in dangerous rough-housing, weeks will pass before Johnny sees repercussions between his actions and any kind of punishment. Click here for the multi-page booklet, "Discipline Code," in a range of available languages.

No call from the principal or suspension; no, if you've done something egregious, no, the victims of the harassment or disruption will have to put up with things." The undergirding philosophy of what the discipline code calls "interventions" is that there is no urgency to stopping disruption, harassment or violence, and secondly, that the teacher needs to contact a bunch of people before the principal is contacted, and then maybe the student might get suspended. The teacher needs to do a plethora of things, use psychology to a pointless exercise of making like Mr. Rogers, "Now, if Yesenia says that she doesn't want you to touch her and she pushes you away, she probably won't be your friend anytime soon." And then you have to appeal to the parent a few times, and then, inform the guidance counselor or dean, and then the assistant principal and then the principal. Schools' formal "classroom removal process" of menacing or disruptive students includes following this kind of process.

The code has a bunch of letter and number code combinations which sound empowering to the teacher seeking peace and respect in the classroom." The various aforementioned offenses are grounds for some serious punishments.
The problem is that administrators at best frown upon reporting of incidents, and at worst, will go after the reporting staff member with a ferocious vengeance. For, the ultimate problem is that schools get negative ratings or reviews if incidents are reported. This is the crux of the problem. This aspect should be removed and principals might become more of partners in disciplining students. The absence of immediate consequences for disruption creates the self-fulfilling prophesy, "You can't control your classes."

In recent decades court cases have resulted in advances for the cause of the disruptive student. In the interest of not depriving the disruptive student his due education and his fair treatment, state governments placed restrictions on the disciplining of students. This has particularly been true in New York State. Perhaps this enabling of disruption and dysfunction has contributed to New York's position of lagging performance behind other states such as North Carolina or Georgia. (Albeit, there has been a national underpinning of protections, understandably, for accused students' right to an uninterrupted education. See Goss v. Lopez (419 U.S. 565) (1975).)
This present post has been occasioned by the editorial today in the New York Post, "Rx for Classroom Chaos."
The New York Post published the following:
classes can't be run without discipline. Denying them [school administrators] the right to run their own schools then becomes an act of collective punishment.

No one knows better than teachers and principals just what their students need -- and what an orderly class demands.

I would contend that significant educational gains could be accomplished if the disruption accommodation pattern were turned on its head.
Years past, teachers set the bar of their expectations, both in terms of classroom material and behavior.
Now, administrators fall into the classroom management philosophy that legitimizes student disruption, and more frequently so under Bloomberg's vindictive Leadership Academy principals and assistant principals. The most cynical administrators take the posture that teachers have the disruption coming to them because the classes are boring. This posture has intensified with the elimination at the secondary school level of assistant principals that have authority over specific subjects. Now, we have administrators with little familiarity in subjects that teachers under their authority teach. Again, the more cynical and less intellectually curious of these administrators want entertainment and educational superficiality and trivialization over substance.
(An eyewitness of a NYS Education Commissioner David Steiner lecture last year heard him observe that in other countries surveyed teachers say that they are in education because of a love of the content of their topic, and in the United States they report that they are in teaching because they love teaching. Given the anti-intellectualism of too many principals and assistant principals, is it any wonder that the latter orientation prevails.) Too bad he is not saying this in public, away from college campuses.)
Now, the teacher is not in control of the classroom. The student is.
State laws, school system codes of discipline and administrator policies and policies need to change, to reflect a respect for education and learning, rather than edutainment and disruption.
The compulsion to blame the teacher provides an indispensible tool by which to eliminate teachers (particularly experienced [read, higher salary] or politically undesirable teachers). Shamefully, the United Federation of Teachers plays along with this. They will not challenge the use of "classroom management" as a tool by which to pursue the biased and highly selective U rating of teachers.

No comments:

Post a Comment