Friday, May 29, 2015

Teachers - Lies your high school may not know they told you

Many people and experiences have influenced my writing and my author's voice. But if I had to pick the one person who impacted me most, it would be my English composition teacher from high school. Miss Box was tough and wonderful. She worked hard to teach us how to write, and her students worked hard to please her. I was forever changed by that 9-week class. Thank you, Miss Box!

I think it must be incredibly hard to be a teacher in modern America. They're responsible for so much stuff that has nothing to do with pure teaching. Discipline. Never-ending paperwork. Meetings and staff development. Sponsoring cheerleaders or baseball teams or student council.

Then there are the parents. Some nice. Some not. Most care. Many don't.

And what about today's kids? Think about the wide range of students that teachers must manage. Smart and not-smart. Well-behaved and out-of-control. Normal wants and exceptional needs. Ready to study and hungry/tired/sad.

My sister is a teacher. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were teachers. I'm in awe of good teachers. They work insane hours. They're not paid enough. They do not spend the summers lazing around. They care about your success, and they remember you much better than you might think.

I'm sorry to say that my girls were rather unlucky with teachers. About half were good, and half were bad, and a handful of the bad ones were despicable.  My husband and I found ourselves in the odd position of having a physician urge us to let our kid abandon school for her health. Ultimately, both daughters "dropped out" of high school and finished their diplomas at home—and it was almost entirely because they were being bullied by their teachers.

The weird thing about bad teachers is that they aren't a secret. The school administration, other parents, and other students know who they are.

So why are bad teachers still around, you might wonder?

Some will have their bad behavior overlooked as long as their students do well on standardized tests; good numbers are just too important for a school and district. Others might have tenure; if that's true, there isn't much you can do about them except hope you never get them.

But don't despair. You do have options if you find yourself taking a class from the wrong teacher.

  • Fight for a different teacher: Ask to switch classes. Get a parent, guidance counselor, community/church leader, or good teacher to take up your cause if you need the support.
  • Drop the class: maybe you don't need to take that class right now. Postpone it for another semester or try alternative education, such as...
  • Petition to take the class on-line: Most states have virtual classes  or dual enrollment (college/high-school credit for same class.) It may require "permission" from the school, but persistence might work.
  • Explore more drastic options: if things get really bad, push for what you need.  There are many ways to earn a diploma that don't involve  your local high school.

Bottom line: Most teachers are good. Some are not, and you don't have to suffer through them. There are alternatives. You may have to find a compassionate adult to help you. You may need to be willing to try something unconventional. But do what is right for you. Your mental and emotional health are important, too.

Other posts in this series:
Online school 

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