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I can both feel and understand your frustration. You cannot be a dedicated member of any profession and not feel anger at other members who are on cruise control. In your case, you have put so much thought and energy into helping the kids of Brighton and you have been in a position to see other teachers make such a great effort, that it must be doubly frustrating to find a core of teachers, or even a single teacher who does not share that drive. A teacher who will not prepare, a teacher who will not instruct, a teacher who refuses to improve practice, a teacher who does not like or, at least respect the kids is a roadblock to student success. And just as there is ALWAYS a student in the class who is disruptive and challenging, there is ALWAYS a teacher in the school who is contrary and determinedly ineffective.

I know that feeling of not wanting to have to go in and confront the problem again. I've had students who made me feel that way. But you know something, it's been years since I've been in that situation--not because kids have suddenly gotten better, but because I gradually have. I've learned how to head them off, how to pressure them to modify their behavior, how to reduce the attention they get for being disruptive and increase the attention they get for being on task. I've learned how to push them at times to go beyond the edge of acceptable disruption so that they recognize that they are in the wrong when parents and/or administrators are called in. I've learned how to use peer pressure to nudge them. And I've learned patience. I don't know about 'Bama but around NYC it's darned hard to get a trouble maker out of your class and even harder to get one out of your school. So you exhaust all other avenues before marshalling the great energy it's going to take to pursue that process.

Then those kids grow up and a few of them manage to become teachers who still deal with life the way they did when they were kids because, after all, it worked for them. But guess what, they respond to the same things that they did when they were kids, too.

You're doing the right things with the PD, but for these teachers(students) it is not enough. They need pressure brought to bear. They need to be made to feel more uncomfortable not doing what they should than doing what they should. Tenure or not, there are procedures for disciplining teachers just as there are to pressure students. Often, I hear, "They're adults, it's not my responsibility to make them act that way" and I know that it is just an excuse we give ourselves to avoid confronting uncomfortable situations. I try to keep in mind that kids aren't important because they are young, they're important because they are people. It's a peculiar twist of modern American thinking that makes people less valuable the older they get. If I'm not to be cared about as an adult, then it was a waste of energy caring about me as a child. Which is not to say that every person fits every where. It may be time to start the process of creating a file on some of those tenured people and making it clear that their choice is change or be removed. Only you and your principal can decide that. But don't turn your upset on the tenure system. Keep in mind that those disruptive kids just as often make it to administrative positions as to teaching positions and without a protectant such as tenure they can do a great deal of damage. It SHOULD be a difficult process, just as it should be difficult to remove students. It gives both sides a chance to change and develop as well as making removal a last resort, not a convenient way to avoid a problem.

We want our education system to be humane. Well, that only happens when it is humane from the top down. That takes a lot of effort and some frustration, but it's worth it.


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