Friday, March 16, 2018

Dirty Little Education Secrets Part 4: Teacher And Administrator Bullies



Former University of Missouri Professor Melissa Click fired after
refusing to allow a campus journalist access to a campus demonstration
Bing images
When I began teaching in the Oklahoma public education system, I was finishing my thesis, taking coursework to get my Alternative Certification and teaching part time at Deer Creek Public Schools outside Edmond. My daughter (I was a single mother at the time) and I lived on about $12K that year after taxes. It wasn’t easy, but my mother had been a public school English teacher for decades, my grandfather had been a law professor and my father was beginning his career as a Journalism professor. Not only is teaching a career path in my family, but I really enjoyed it, and as a TA in the Biology Department at the University of Central Oklahoma, I regularly had overflowing sessions for my Microbiology study review, so I conceived I might be ok at it.

IT STARTS AT THE TOP: PROFESSORS BULLY STUDENTS

To complete my Alternative Certification, I had to take a course in testing - which I took with admitted cynicism - I mean, how hard is it to create a test and grade it?
To my surprise, I learned several testing tools I still use today – however – the professor who taught the course, was horrible. When I say “horrible”, I mean that, instead of simply lecturing, answering questions, testing and then giving students a grade, she would stop in the middle of a lesson to lecture us on various aspects of feminism. How being a female teacher would be hard since most administrators were men and we’d never be given the opportunity to advance we deserved and blah, blah, blah.

Me being me, and long story short, I frequently cut in with questions about how this was relevant to the topic and/or posed alternative theories to her rhetoric. Consequently, though I earned a B in the class (also admittedly I didn’t try my hardest), she GAVE me a C – nearly a D in fact if I remember correctly.  

This was in the late 90’s and it’s only gotten worse. One need only Google the words “Professor Bullies Students” to find 77 pages of stories about professors bullying students in some way on a variety of publicly propped up “higher education” institution campuses.
Recently the son of a friend of mine elected to take a concurrent enrollment English Composition class through a local university. The woman who taught the class constantly made him feel uncomfortable through her teaching methods and subject matter - showing videos like this about "Male Gaze Theory" which describes how women are objectified by men (no, I'm not sure what that has to do with English Composition). 
She often had them reading oversexualized prose; frequently interjecting her liberal politics into her teaching and discussion. At one point my friend sent me a screenshot her son had sent of the board in their classroom. It had the words, “Cult of domesticity”, “Patriarchy”, “gender stereotypes” and “womanly responsibilities”…in an ENGLISH COMP CLASS for high school seniors!
This is bad, but it got rapidly worse when she GAVE him a zero on a paper he wrote about the NRA after asking students to write something about a group with whom they'd associate - unrelated to school or church (big shock). After he spoke with with her several times and met with the head of the English Department, the teacher finally adjusted his grade to a B, but, before it was changed, he went to listen to a speaker for extra credit. The topic was how Americans killed native Americans and stole their land. A difficult subject treated very one-sidedly.

What about the students who aren't as open with their parents about what they're learning in class as my friend's son is with her? How many other students are being influenced this way while still in public education under the age of 18? Without a worldview large enough to dissect the opinions they're being fed?

TEACHERS BULLY STUDENTS

Unlike my other three, I didn’t homeschool my oldest daughter, B (her nickname) now 35. She attended Santa Fe High School in Edmond where she had “Coach” Kelly (a former candidate for state superintendent by the way) for a semester of Oklahoma History in 9th grade.
In an unfortunate situation that had nothing to do with her, B’s uncle went to prison for accidentally killing Kelly’s cousin when she was very young. Sometime in her early 30's, she told me that at some point during the year, “Coach” Kelly told every student in attendance that her uncle killed his cousin. He then told her – in front of the whole class that same day - to stay after class so he could give her a ‘love note’ for her father. He also referenced this issue in other snide remarks made toward her during class the rest of the semester as well.
“Then, when the kids teased me mercilessly, he just let them,” she confessed.
When I began foaming at the mouth and asked her why she never told me that, she pointed to the foam around my mouth. Yes, she’s right, there would have been blood – and a lawsuit – had I known at the time. To do that to a CHILD in that situation is indescribably HORRID and ultimately MORALLY LACKING.
She wasn't the only one in the family to achieve this high honor, however. My oldest son had a 2nd grade teacher at Quail Creek Elementary, Mrs. Jordan, who honestly appeared to dislike him. She constantly allowed other kids in the class to bully him to the point that he’d come home in tears at least three times a week. I talked to her about the situation numerous times and she would say she would deal with it, but every week was the same. Finally, I asked the principal to moderate a discussion between Mrs. Jordan and I in order to better help her understand the classroom dynamics feeding the problem. After that, I thought everything to be on the right track.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. Mrs. Jordan told other parents I had “drug” her into the principal’s office, inferred to them that my kid was a complainer (he was in SECOND GRADE) and seemed to double down on allowing the bullying to continue. It got so bad, I finally begged the principal to allow him to switch teachers for the rest of the semester. He did, and he did well in his new classroom, but he'd had it. He REFUSED to go back to school for third grade and thus began my career as a homeschool mother.
Incidentally, Mrs. Jordan saw me talking to the principal about the possibility of getting Saxon math books for third grade (I was a PTA member) soon after our meeting. She apparently believed I was talking about her, however, because not long after I got home she called and left a screaming, ugly voice mail on my phone about how ‘dare I’ talk to the principal without coming to her first. I was outside working in the garden, but the kids came and found me as soon as they heard the message recording on the answering machine.

“Mrs. Jordan called. She sounds really mad at you,” they said. Wow. Good to know.
I listened to it shaking, realizing my son was wrong - she didn't just dislike HIM, she  obviously had a healthy disdain for me as well! I felt horrible I'd ever let him stay in that classroom even a day after his first complaints.
Then there was all the indoctrination that went on with the homework, but that’s a story for another day.

TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS BULLY OTHER TEACHERS

I cannot describe the number of emails and private messages I’ve received over the years from teachers explaining how they were bullied by their administrators for speaking out against Common Core. I heard everything from job threats to cold-shoulders to downgrading their job duties, yet there was little they could do about it; they either shut up and said nothing, or suffered the consequences of providing their own opinions.
A long-time teacher friend of mine is SCARED TO DEATH OF HER SUPERINTENDENT. She is a conservative and he is a very publicly vocal liberal. She has only a few years left to go on her teaching contract before she can retire. She is a single woman with no spousal support. No matter what she personally believes, she sucks it up and keeps it to herself, lest he choose to drum up a complaint on her to start a plan of improvement, making it easy to fire her and depriving her of her retirement vesting - a legitimate fear.

Another teacher friend refused to keep her student’s grades on Google docs, though her principal required it, because she believed they weren’t secure (interestingly, we found out later that Google docs are finicky about their settings and an entire set of grades from a different school were shared publicly online proving her right). She explained this to the man yet he was unwavering. He told her that if she didn’t put her grades up on the Google Docs system set up for the school she’d be written up. He also gave her a formal reprimand for handing out parental rights handbooks to the parents who came to see her for their parent/teacher meetings.

Now, with the looming teacher strike, teachers are messaging me again to tell me that they feel bullied by other teachers and administrators in their buildings to take part. Consequently, there are THOUSANDS of Oklahoma teachers silently fuming at the idea of this walkout, but you’ll never know they exist. They won't come out of the shadows. It's not healthy for them to do so. They fear retaliation from their peers and what the front office will do to their jobs should they actually speak out.
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Are all teachers and administrators like the ones I've ID'd in this blog? HEAVEN'S NO and if you read that into this piece, you're looking for a fight. This is a blog about BAD teachers. Obviously I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are teachers. THERE ARE TONS OF GOOD ONES OUT THERE. Unfortunately - if you couldn't tell - most of them are either living in fear or getting bullied too!

(This article was edited 3/17 to include more precise details about the English Comp professor and my daughter's case)