Friday, May 14, 2010

An Incomplete Education

Hey there fuckers. Long time no see. It was a bit like that movie The Terminal for me. I took a vacation, and when I got back, my country no longer existed and was under a new regime. No matter. I’m an opportunist, so I ingratiated myself with the new Prime Minister, off-ed a few enemies of the state, and, voila, here I am! Back in the spotlight.

So, what do we have here? Today’s entertainment (or should I say edutainment?) comes in the form of one Ms. Friendly, a thirty-something year old public high school teacher from…, I don’t know where, exactly. Somewhere in America. Somewhere near a big city with the problems that go along with overcrowding and poverty. Somewhere that gave her the opportunity to chronicle her experiences teaching in an inner city school with no leadership or resources, and lacking seriously in the student motivation and positive parental involvement department. (And no, she is not running for Governor of California.)

Her entire output consists of 40 posts, dating from 2008 to close to the present, most of which came from that first year. Since then, she has taken a new job at a less resource challenged, less inner city school. But she still has plenty to say.

I read everything, from beginning to end. Didn’t take me too long. The first ten or fifteen items sucked me in. Made me really think about what is going on with the whole public education system. Made me question the value of No Child Left Behind. Made me wonder what sort of system allows such ineffectual school administrators to keep their jobs when they are clearly letting the inmates run the asylum. Had me asking questions like – “What culpability do the unions have in this? Do we need a complete top-to-bottom overhaul of the system? Where are the state education dollars going in these inner city schools?”

If Ms. Friendly had stopped there, this would have been a completely different review. I was provoked. I was challenged. I was outraged. I was about to call my congressperson.

But she didn’t stop there. She kept writing, kept harping on the same issues over and over again. Never offering up any real solutions. Just telling us what she doesn’t like about the situation at hand. And her tendency to refer to the troublemakers in her classes as “garbage pail kids” comes across, not as snarky or even as a form of gallows humor, but as a sort of cruelty. Call someone a turd often enough and they’ll start to believe it. That old self-fulfilling prophecy thing.

And I began to wonder -- who is the intended audience for this blog?

I personally know a lot of educators, in real life. I know college professors. I know secondary school teachers. And I know a whole host of elementary school teachers and administrators. And yeah, most of the educators I know work at private schools, certainly not inner-city environments, but some are at public schools. And when I get together for a cook out or something with them, they pretty much all bitch and moan about the same things that Ms. Friendly bitches and moans about. Interfering parents. Ineffectual administration. Incompetent co-workers. Unmotivated students. They very rarely have anything to say that’s particularly positive about their career choices. (Admittedly, the teachers I know don’t usually fear for their lives with their students. Usually.)

Which makes me wonder – why?

Why did you choose this job when it so clearly makes you miserable? Or, if it doesn't make you miserable, why are you pissing and moaning in a blog about it? Why aren’t you doing something like aspiring to an administration position to, I dunno, make some improvements (unless that’s what your PhD is for)?

If this is just a journal to vent to, why submit it for a review? Here?

Now, all that aside, Ms Friendly, here’s some free advice, should you have gotten this far without deciding that I’m a total fucking dickhead that just don’t get it:

  • Edit. Proofread. Spellcheck. You’re an educator. You teach English. You should not be confusing “where” and “were.”

  • Finish what you start. There were, in my opinion, too many times that you said something to the effect of “more on that later” but never gave us the “more.” Sometimes you set up a rant about two or three things, but then only ranted about one. And it seemed you sort of petered out in a few posts without getting to the final denouement.

  • Your template. Too many font changes. White text on a black background is hard on my eyes. And look at things like your bullet lists. When there is stuff in there that says "* ", I can assure you, that is not meant to be there. Kill it quick before it multiplies!

  • Move on. You’ve covered the topics I listed above ad nauseum. It is time to branch out, tell us more interesting tidbits about education. Or issue a call to action. Something. Lest you be accused of abusing Roy Rogers’ beloved, yet very stuffed, Trigger. Tell us more about the exceptional students. The courageous ones that make the whole experience worthwhile. If this blog is not just for you to use as a dumping ground for negativity, if it is meant for an external audience, let us into the realm of understanding as to why you chose to be an educator.

Or just keep doing what you’re doing. You write well, you have a vivid voice. I would love to see you use that voice as a positive force.

Now for your final grade this semester. I am awarding you one star for making me aware of the issues of teaching in an inner-city environment so vividly, at first.

But I'm also giving you an "Incomplete", because of the rest and because I feel that there's so much more you could be doing.


  1. This review reminds me of my crazy old Great Aunt who used to tell me to 'Put on your big girl panties and either do something about it or stop yer bitchin''.
    Of course, she also enjoyed giving people the finger and waited until she was 79 to tell us she had been married three (not one) times. But I digress.
    Let's hope this review inspires this teacher to put on her big girl panties and do something about public education. An actual solution would be akin to the discovery of electricity.
    Luuurrrve this review.

  2. Ms Friendly has now been notified. Here's where we get to learn how friendly she really is...

  3. This blog pisses me off. I've spent time in the classroom and in the streets with these "garbage pail kids."

    (Fuck you, Ms. Friendly, for that wonderful term to describe the throw-away kids of our society--I suspect your attitude towards them comes thorugh all too clearly in your interactions with them, which is why they cuss you out.)

    You remind me of a woman I used to work with at a youth-serving educational program, who both jokingly, and not so jokingly, used to refer to things as "Not my Yob."

    This “kid ”sells drugs in the boys’ bathroom between class changes, gets to say “fuck,” “hell,” and “damn” to me…walk out of class…never follow the rules…yet you are all over my ass?

    You have evidence that this kid is selling drugs? If so, you have an obligation to take this EVIDENCE to the school police, the school resource officer, or the county sheriff, whoever fills the security niche on your campus. If you don't have evidence, then what you are doing is further circulating an unsubstantiated rumor.

    I don't like you. It's my experience that the people who bitch the most do the least to improve the situation because it's always someone else's yob to do that.

    If you don't like the garbage pail kids, go work in an office somewhere.

  4. Also...This post tells me that your classroom management skills suck. I'd recommend investing in buying a couple of cheap books from Love and Logic for Teachers.

    Your classroom management style is "drill sergeant," and it is entirely ineffectual with this kind of population.

    You sense that things are going on in these kids lives that you don't really understand, and there are. These kids are dealing with things you can't even imagine....Dad is in prison, mom is using drugs or addicted to crack. They've never been to the dentist and their teeth hurt. They can't read the board because they need glasses. Their reading skills are far below grade level because some other teacher didn't actually teach them to read. Your assignments (Chaucer? Seriously? for high school seniors??? Ridiculous) don't connect to their real lives.

    You aren't giving them a reason to care about what you're teaching, and it's clear that aside from certain minimal efforts, you don't really care about them, as people, either. They're just bad attitudes, afros, and trash to you.

    The idea of you teaching other teachers how to teach is frankly...horrifying.

  5. I have to say, I'm a bit confused. Is the name "Ms. Friendly" meant to be ironic?

    I had drill sergeants who were more friendly than her.

  6. Scorpio Woperchild...Thank you for the constructive criticism! Seriously! I will go back and take an account of EVERYTHING you suggested.

    At first, the blog was written as a way to help me get through those days that were hellishly horrifying. I needed a soundboard. I also had no idea...I never knew such a place could ever exist in America, and I wondered how many people in the community knew as little as I did. The issues in the inner-city school systems are serious and need to be publicly addressed...or else those kids will be thrown away and forgotten.

    Voicing my opinions, as a teacher, to an administrator (or higher-up) only would equal getting FIRED! Surprisingly, the people who make all of the important decisions in education don't care what teachers think. We are the fucktards of the profession.

    I requested the review because I have received suggestions of writing a book based on the blog. I will not do that until I have a handle on WHAT it is I want to say, and HOW I want it said. You're right, it's not all bad. You're right, I did "peter out" (lol) and fail to give the whole story at times. I am in a better place now...and I really just wanted constructive criticism.

    I do think that it's important to tell the good as well. In fact, I have remained in touch with most of those kids that I initially blogged about. They are seniors now, and many of them have invited me to their prom and graduation. Tonight is prom :-) I can't wait to see how they've grown! I'm expecting a lot of tears on my behalf. I will blog about it.

    Thank you, one million times!

    P.S. You're not a dickhead...just straightforward without the drama. I appreciate, and prefer, that.

  7. *puts on Yoda voice* Much anger I sense, LB. Do you still write that blog with tales from working with kids? I'll hit you up for access if you do.

    Coming from a place where school is an excuse to get 1 meal a day and escape child labor, I simply do not understand why public schools here suffer so much apathy from teachers and students alike.

    Also, am I the only one who stops caring about someone's existence when he/she uses "lol"?

  8. I just don't fucking understand a word she writes. She uses real words in a language I understand, but there's no cohesive thought to anything. Good call on that shit, Scorpio.

  9. From what I know about teaching at CPS (which I couldn't do at all - I tried to hard to be a friend instead of a teacher) you have got to live every aspect of your life as a Chicago Public School Teacher.

    You aren't there to teach kids Chaucer or trigonometry or medieval history.

    You are there to teach kids how to learn, to teach them how to use their knowledge to evaluate situations. You are there to teach decision-making skills, and maybe you'll use Chaucer and trig as examples, fine. You are there to prove to those kids that have what it takes to think for themselves.

    Your job, as a teacher, is give younger generations the skills to survive without having a teacher. It's to show them exactly now unnecessary you are, because they are capable of learning themselves.

    It takes a very skilled, special kind of teacher to employ that mentality. I don't think she has it.

  10. Also? Do not try to "save" people. You are not supposed to BE a hero, that's just a perk of a job well done. You are supposed to TRAIN heroes. Goddammit.

  11. Speak for yourself, Rass. I am a fucking hero. Deal with it.

  12. Damnit. Just. Damnit.
    Ms. Friendly had to go and say "lol" and "thanks, one million times" after making excuses for not speaking up about things at her job.
    Somebody get me my crow bar. Or a 2 pound pumpkin muffin. Or get my husband to leave work early so he can come home and bang me.

    P.S. I loves me some LB. Hi. LB. Hi. lol, one million times!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Only because you asked so nicely, Thanny. Though I am extremely undisciplined about maintaining it. I keep meaning to post but itis hard to write about.

    smile now, cry later

  14. Damn, LB. It's like you just ripped your panties off for everyone.

  15. Well, I can come out of the closet now, eh? But I'm a super bad blogger. I haven't updated that blog in forever.

  16. p.s. MG...put those panties down. I didn't say you could sniff them.

  17. Oh just update yer damn blog, LB. Because I like it.
    And no, I won't be sniffing your panties. I do, however, have a donkey and a very small Chihuahua that I believe would gladly do so if you're in need.
    Just sayin'.

  18. I think that this reviewee could learn a thing or twelve about writing of she were to click over to LB's writing...

  19. Jesus, I'm finally figuring out where LB blogs? Treat of the day.


Grow a pair.