What do you think about this?
You know the teachers who are bullies, but they are never fired?
Our school is awesome. Our principal is supportive. But there is this one teacher that makes life miserable for a lot of kids. When my oldest got this teacher, I had to take him out and homeschool him. I have since met 2 other families who have done the same. This teacher likes some kids, but picks out a few of the more vulnerable ones and basically acts like a ringleader and encourages the whole class to make them feel like crap.
The principal knows what is going on. She is wonderful. I know she would never treat kids this way. So why does the teacher stay? Good test scores? Unions? Why?
There is also the matter of who.is complaining about the teacher and whether the complaints were the same for each teacher. Kids sometimes exaggerate, my child is ten and thinks the look and getting in trouble are the same thing and that being asked firmly to stop doing something and being yelled at are the same so it would probably take hearing about a teacher a lot before I begin to worry unless I know t watch for that teacher from other parents.
This is a good point. Not only that kids exaggerate but that different children genuinely react and perceive things differently. When I first moved to my community and got to know a lot of school-aged kids I kept hearing about this horrible teacher who was mean and yelled all the time and had been known to throw the chalk brush and all of those scary things. I knew parents who had put their kids into a tiny alternative school for the year or two solely to avoid this teacher.
Then about five years later I got to know a neat somewhat quirky young teen who had begun homeschooling and had become a mother's helper for us, and we talked a lot about her largely negative previous school experiences. She said there were only two years that had been good, that had really bolstered and inspired her during her elementary schooling, and they were the ones spent with the infamous Ms. V. I was so surprised.
I said "I heard she was mean, and yelled all the time?" This sensitive somewhat insecure thirteen-year-old said "No, she just had clear boundaries for classroom behaviour and she spoke loudly and sharply when kids weren't respecting those boundaries. I actually loved her: she really encouraged me to challenge myself. I knew I could count on her to support me in doing what worked for me. And she knew how to keep peace in the classroom. That really helped me!"
And since I got that girl's surprising perspective on Ms. V, I began asking around and discovered that there were a fair number of other kids and parents and colleagues that really liked her too. Sure, she had an abrasive exterior at times, but she was a big mushball underneath and believed in kids in a way that really made a difference to a lot of them. Some people definitely didn't like her style, but some really did. The split was about 50:50, not 100% negative as I had initially thought. It was just that until I started really asking I had been hearing almost exclusively from the 50% that didn't like her.
So sometimes it's a case of personality and teaching style just not being a good fit for some kids, while it can be a really good fit for others. Ideally kids could be shuffled around to different classrooms when there's a real poorness of fit issue. Not an option in our school, where there's only 1 teacher for every two to three grades.
There are no doubt teachers who are out-and-out bullies and probably shouldn't be allowed anywhere near children. It isn't always cut and dried though.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
I've encountered the tough-but-fair teachers that a lot of people didn't like, and I was very glad they were still teaching, and suspect they would be fired pretty quickly nowadays. I've also encountered the full-blown bully teacher, and in his case I think he was still teaching partly because of unions, but largely because he was sneaky, and was very popular with his "pet" students, and knew how to talk to parents so it sounded like his target students were making things up. Basically, he got away with being a bully because he was good at it.
I agree, my kids tend to love the teachers that everyone else hates and dislike/ have little respect for the teachers everyone is clamoring for.
That said, there are some bad teachers but they have an amazing union and it's next to impossible to get rid of them. I recommend "Waiting for Superman." It's an eye-opening documentary of the New York school district and how it tries to cope with the masses of poor teachers they can't fire. I'm sure every American district has similar issues (though perhaps not so profound if they are small.)
It's also really, really, really hard to fire a teacher, even a bad one. My sister is an elementary school principal and so I've heard all kinds of stories... It is truly near impossible to fire or even relocate bad teachers, even when the administration desires it.
I had a horrible teacher for three very long years. She, too, picked out certain kids and made life miserable. The rest were treated like royalty! If you talked with the ones treated well, you would get one picture. The ones who were targeted had a differeny view. I am appalled that any adult would discount the opinions of a few students in favor of one good report from a different student. I assure you, there are teachers who show such utter favoritism. They do not belong in schools. And, yes, she was tenured, so she could not be fired. What other occupation has that safeguard?
Good posts already.
Children are often imprecise in their use of language. The word "mean" can mean almost anything, including that a teacher required they pick up after themselves or stop throwing sand at other kids. Even when they do explain adequately what happened, children are often not seen as reliable. "Bully" is another word that is over and misused, making it difficult for those in authority to sort out when there truly is a problem.
We had a substitute at our school this year who truly bullied students. I saw it and spoke to our administration, and our principal had me put my observations in writing so that he could see to it that the sub never came back to our school. Part of the problem, even with a sub, is that there needs to be documentation of specific incidents. The only reason that sub isn't coming back is because an adult who works for the school witnessed the behavior. It was sad to me that if the children had reported to their parents or regular teacher than the sub was "mean," nothing would have happened. These were kindergartens -- they really couldn't have relayed how the sub behaved. If I hadn't put my observations IN WRITING, the principal still could not have done anything.
"Everyone knows" isn't a way to make change happen. If you know of a specific incident, document it in a non-emotional way. It's actually really hard for people outside of the classroom to know what is going on IN the classroom. Going in and out or even doing a formal evaluation is such a tiny snap shot as to be almost meaningless. Even if your one documented incident doesn't seem to make a change, you don't know when the point will be that there are enough issues that it is clear that something needs to happen.
Children often say that adults in authority are mean -- I was described as mean and scary this school year. In one of the classes I spent time in every day, I was supporting a child who had no interest in doing ANY school work, was bossy and unpleasant, and felt that the school rules were meant for other children but not her. I was very firm and clear with her, enforced consequences when appropriate, etc. I was always respectful for her and the other kids in the class, but the situation required I had a stern, no-nonsense demeanor. Some of the kids in that class thought I was mean, but none of the children in the other classes I spent time in thought I was mean. It was interesting to me to watch how it played out.
but everything has pros and cons
Umm, I did not discount the opinions of the others. I said that about half the people I spoke to liked the teacher (she had retired by then, so which set of opinions contained more truth was entirely immaterial by then, and none of my business anyway, since I did not have any children attending the school at that point). I was merely pointing out that perceptions can vary. I'm not coming down on one side or the other or discounting anyone's opinions. I also affirmed in my last paragraph that there's are no doubt teachers who should not be allowed anywhere near children. I'm not sure why you're appalled.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
Just wanted to add my two anecdotes.
One of my daughters close primary grade friends was of the opinion that every teacher who didn't think she was the bees knees, every teacher who told her to close her mouth when it wasn't her turn to talk, any teacher who required her to follow directions even when she didn't feel like it, they were 'mean'. I learned that she thought I was a mean mom, in fact any of her friends' moms who weren't particularly impressed by her, were mean. She and dd just graduated from high school, and she has calmed down quite a bit, is basically a lovely young lady with abundant self-esteem. She was their senior year homecoming queen.
Then there's the band director at dd's highschool. He's an ass, if I do say so. He has favorites. He plays trumpet, so the trumpet section gets away with crap that no one else does. He's punitive. He doesn't like to talk to adults. He makes me incredibly uncomfortable. However the marching band consistently wins 1st place in competitions. He's a vice principle and acting principle when the principle is out of town. I really can't stand him, but apparently he's a decent manager. He's just an ass if he decides he doesn't like you.
Someone moved my effing cheese.
It is very difficult to fire teachers; some of the teachers that everyone "hates" are the ones who produce results. Our AP teacher is one example of this. We did have an awful Spanish teacher who played favorites and was a racist. Every time the school built a mountain of evidence and prepared to fire her, she would threaten to sue! What was ironic is that she HATED it here! She always talked about how much she hated it. They finally got her to leave on her own, and I am sure she is teaching somewhere else. Our state recently changed the tenure rules and the blowback has been unreal. Before a teacher can get tenure now, they have to be rated as excellent for 5 years. Prior to this, a teacher gained tenure simply for teaching for three years. I do think tenure should be a difficult thing to earn; at the same time, I understand the reason behind it. But even without tenure, a teacher cannot be fired for just any reason; a principal still has to provide evidence for termination, just like with any job.
I also agree with posters who point out that not all students hate these targeted teachers. The AP teacher I spoke about regularly gets visits from former students and messages regarding how well prepared for college they felt.
I teach 10th grade english; I am sure I have students who don't like me. I also have many students who love me. Many times it is the loudest voice that is heard, even if it's in the minority.