When a student breaks a bunch of rules and administration essentially tells you that you are failing to meet that student’s needs, the natural response is to back off from enforcement of the rules. If admin is going to tell me that I am failing by what I am doing, I will do something else. Specifically, I will avoid locking horns with a kid who I think may make up tales about how he/she is being discriminated against.
Eduhonesty: Overall, admin in my school appears to be doing a solid job. I am often impressed by the Dean’s Office. That said, some kids appear to be able to spin stories that put them in a special category. (I imagine I’d have been one of those kids in high school if I hadn’t naturally followed the rules.) Deans like or at least sympathize with certain kids, especially girls. The problem is that those kids end up taking advantage of the rules and a smart teacher does not get in their way, at least not until that teacher has an established reputation and relationship with administrators. In urban and academically-disadvantaged districts, though, administrators may come and go like summer hires in a Burger King, preventing that relationship from occurring.
It’s sad that I am about to walk away from a situation of chronic misbehavior, but the potential downside to fighting that cell phone etc. is a fight I don’t want and I am not sure I can win. The student in question is behaving like an adolescent girl with a growing grudge. I don’t intend to find out what will happen if she decides to push that grudge. I don’t trust my administration to see through any lies. So I am going to make peace. I won’t walk away from the rules. I’ll still say, “Put your cell phone away, please.” I expect to say that a number of times per class. But I don’t think I will write many more referrals. I don’t see the upside to looking for administrative support. I am entirely clear on the downside.
Under the Danielson Framework for evaluating teachers, it may appear that I am failing under the all-important Domain 2, receiving an Unsatisfactory in “Creating and Environment of Respect and Rapport.” The particular block of this rubric reads, “Teacher interaction with at least some students is negative, demeaning, sarcastic, or inappropriate to the age or culture of the students. Students exhibit disrespect for teacher.” Since there is little way to fully evaluate this in the three or less hours that administrators will spend in my classroom, administrators may extrapolate from the reports of resentful students — no matter how much actual cause for resentment those students possess. Angry students lie, too. The fact that the student in question may be resentful and disrespectful because he/she is not being allowed to text their way through class — or is failing a class by not doing any work — can get lost in the need to fill out the Danielson Rubric, a need complicated by the mountain of paperwork administrators are forced to fill out in a short time period.
So I will back off from this dispute. I am reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode. Here is a synopsis from the MSN websites at http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie-synopsis/the-twilight-zone-what-you-need/:
Appropriately telecast December 25, 1959, this Twilight Zone episode focuses on a most unusual Santa Claus, in the form of shabby sidewalk peddler Pedott. Entering a shabby corner bar, Pedott provides the customer with trivial items which turn out to be exactly what they need to improve their lives. Impressed by this, hoodlum Fred Renard purchases a pair of scissors which later, amazingly, save his life. Becoming greedy, Fred browbeats Pedott into giving him even more beneficial items.
In the end, Pedott feels trapped and gives Renard a pair of shoes that cause him to slip and fall at a critical intersection in the story.
It’s not best for my student that I continue to meet her demands. It’s not best if I let her text, refuse to read any books, refuse to do work, refuse to follow the dress code and refuse to listen to my attempts to explain why she needs to learn new material. The problem here is that it’s best for me. The Danielson Framework in the hands of a group of people who don’t know me can prove genuinely scary.
Come Monday, my student will find herself in a kinder, gentler classroom. I’ll gently tell her to put the phone away. I’ll tell her again and again, I expect. I’ll have to start telling other students as they watch the phone drama unfold and start to pull out their own phones. But I know those students well enough to know I can manage the fall-out and keep my other students on task.
I don’t want to hand that student a pair of slippery-soled shoes. I want to help her. I’ll still try to help her. But if she’s stubborn enough, she has enough power so that I won’t mess with her. I’ll throw the fight. One thing I’ve learned in teaching: Teachers who don’t lie are at a real disadvantaged when they get into a cat fight with students who do. This girl has lied to my face.
I guess there’s not much else to say here.