Sunday, September 30, 2007

Two Teachers Made The Greatest Impact Upon Me This Weekend

In traveling to Pittsburgh for my fraternity reunion this past weekend I have concluded that beyond the brothers who I have not seen in several years and meeting the new brothers who I have not meet before - it was the engagement with two teachers that imprinted upon me the most.

The first teacher was a former friend of our organization. As an underclassman she was a bit of a social misfit - too chubby, too black, too off key with her actions. Our frat's auxiliary of little sisters had to lobby hard on her behalf for us to accept her.

Fast forward more than 15 years and she is all grown up. I had no prior warning that she would be there and my conversation with her impressed me the most. She is a school teacher in Ohio. She has gone from a young girl in need of other people to like her into a self-assured instructor who had learned that she needs to push back or these young people with little training in civility would run over her.

She told me the story of one kid who had given her a hard time in her classroom a few days prior. He came to her for assistance with his math work. He words were: "So a few days ago I was a 'big, fat Black bitch to you' and now you want me to help you? Get out of my face boy I have no time for you". She told me of how she brought some positive speakers to present to her 8th grade classes only to have them get cursed out by the kids and walk out of the session in mid stream. These kids have no respect - just like the episode of "Mighty Mouse" in which all of the kids were smoking and cutting up.

The bottom line in all of this was that these type of engagements with people that I know who are real world teachers makes me see that Jonathan Kozol, the leftwing educational activist has it all wrong in his avoidance of the discipline problem. He instead wants to focus on the funding gap with the White folks in the suburbs and to send Black kids to sit next to them. Quite honestly - which White parent OR BLACK PARENT with a choice would sit their children next to these bad kids with no respect?

As a standard reference - I asked her about her opinions on "No Child Left Behind". She said that it takes control over her curriculum and these kids who have all of the discipline problems that have been noted that are stealing academic time from them and their peers.

As I flew home I sat next to a Black woman from Pittsburgh who I learned is a retired educator. She saw me reading the newspaper in which I immediately put aside the sports section as I read the business pages. She asked me with amazement why I did that. I told her that I love football and basketball but I do not invest my time in bulking up on sports statistics and player tracking. She asked me about the stock listings that she thought I was reading. I told her that I was not reading the stocks but the article on nuclear energy. This leads to a general discussion about the changes to this country coming from globalization. We then discussed the situation in Pittsburgh. I told her about the two local shows that I saw - one on the growing problems of crime and violence within the Black community and the plans by the technology group to better position the city for the future.

She then went on to detail major points about the Black community that would otherwise be labeled as "conservative" - Kids raising kids; parents not managing the children's affairs; etc. I told her that if she said these things in public she would be attacked. She brought up the shameful treatment of Bill Cosby after he spoke out. I told her that this is my reference point for what is to be expected. If Bill Cosby is attacked after all that he has done - why should I even worry that these same forces would attack me?

At the end of the conversation - I figured that she must be some type of educator or community coordinator - but from the angle of discipline and setting limits. She told me that she was a retired teacher. I knew it despite the fact that we never talked directly about school. I told her that a good friend of mine who went into education with a lot of idealism only to be changed into saying much of the things that he saw. Without discipline and limits placed on these students a school has no chance at success.

These two teachers were saying very similar things about the problems of Black America. The popular dialogue within the Black America is about unequal funding (I just happen to be listening to the Jesse Jackson/Bill O'Reilly interview in the back ground right now. Interestingly enough Jackson just talked about unequal funding in schools that channel people a certain way). The conversation about DISCIPLINE is demoted behind the points of EXTERNAL advocacy that have more traction among those who like advocacy over management.

1 comment:

White English Teacher said...

More and more teachers are saying the things you heard in your travels. Hopefully it will become the 'lingo' in the future. One can only hope.