At Quillette, Mary Hudson, an experienced high school French teacher, describes how well-meaning liberal ideology makes teaching efforts in ordinary New York public schools completely ineffective and education a joke. Amazingly, I found myself rooting for the Teachers Union, and read about Union reps operating as the good guys.
As the weeks dragged painfully into months, it became apparent that the students wouldnâ€™t learn anything. It was dumbfounding. It was all I could do to keep them quiet; that is, seated and talking among themselves. Sometimes I had to stop girls from grooming themselves or each other. A few brave souls tried to keep up with instruction. A particularly good history teacher once told me that she interrupted a conversation between two girls, asking them to pay attention to the lesson. One of them looked up at her scornfully and sneered, â€œI donâ€™t talk to teachers,â€ turning her back to resume their chat. She told me that the best school she ever worked at was in Texas, where her principal managed not only to suspend the most disruptive students for long periods, he also made sure they were not admitted during that time to any other school in the district. It worked; they got good results.
This was unthinkable in New York, where â€œin-house suspensionâ€ was the only punitive measure. It would be â€œdiscriminatoryâ€ to keep the students at home. The appropriate paperwork being filed, the most outrageously disruptive students went for a day or two to a room with other serious offenders. The anti-discrimination laws under which we worked took all power away from the teachers and put it in the hands of the students.
Throughout Washington Irving there was an ethos of hostile resistance. Those who wanted to learn were prevented from doing so. Anyone who â€œcooperated with the systemâ€ was bullied. No homework was done. Students said they couldnâ€™t do it because if textbooks were found in their backpacks, the offending students would be beaten up. This did not appear to be an idle threat. Too many students told their teachers the same thing. There were certainly precious few books being brought home.
I tried everything imaginable to overcome student resistance. Nothing worked. At one point I rearranged the seating to enable the students who wanted to engage to come to the front of the classroom. The principal was informed and I was reprimanded. This was â€œdiscriminatory.â€ The students went back to their chosen seats near their friends. Aside from imposing order, the only thing I succeeded at was getting the students to stand silently during the Pledge of Allegiance and mumble a few songs in French. But it was a constant struggle as I tried to balance going through the motions of teaching with keeping them quiet.
The abuse from students never let up. We were trained to absorb it. By the time I left, however, I had a large folder full of the complaint forms Iâ€™d filled out documenting the most egregious insults and harassment. There was a long process to go through each time. The student had a parent or other representative to state their case at the eventual hearing and I had my union rep. I lost every case.