Friend MF, who has been living and working in China for a few years now, recently sent a query to Xy via e-mail:
I’m working at a teachers’ college now, and a lot of my students are doctoral students in education. Could you write a little something about your life as a teacher, about issues that confront you as a teacher, about curriculum planning, or anything like that you’d think would be interesting for Chinese people? I think my students are really interested in the intersection of school and societal factors, if you see what I mean. If you would like to do it or have any questions, can you let me know?
Here is Xy’s reply:
It’s real interesting you ask this because after the first quarter, I’m good and disillusioned by now.
We have something called mandatory inclusion which is where special ed and behavioral and emotional disorder students are mainstreamed into a regular class. In theory it sounds all democratic and all, but in fact not only is it harmful to the special ed child which largely gets ignored, it’s also negative for the “regular ed” kid as well. For example any extra time is spent on them instead of the bottom of my class which needs help as well. To talk against inclusion is very not Politically Correct, except most teachers IN REAL LIFE hate it.
Now George Bush says, in fact he just did at the last debate, that part of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND will ENSURE that these special ed kids will get “extra services. ” Lie number 472!
Not only are we supposed to modify all of their work, but we are to read all material out loud! You say, put them all at the same table, what’s so hard about that? Wrong again my friend, we are required to have heterogeneous groups mixing low and high. I do a lot of peer tutoring to get around that.
My beef isn’t really against the special ed or academically slow student. Yes it helps engender a sense of community by taking care of all in society , but invariably my tutors don’t get as far, and some of my higher achieving students don’t want to do this tutoring thing, so I have to ask the medium achieving student.
Anyway the behaviorally and emotionally disturbed children are just too much to bear and end up draining the whole class. One child shouts out “suck my dick” and physically pushes the girls. No, he doesn’t have Turrets Syndrome.
So anyway, being a psychologist and social worker on top of a teacher is impossible. Not to mention class size is out of control, I have 31 sixth grade students in too tiny a room in too tiny desks.
REMINDER: I teach in an urban setting. A lot of the suburban issues are different. But as time goes on we’re seeing apathy, lack of parent involvement and control and violence creep in their schools too.
To teach in an urban setting, certain facts are inevitable. Schools are funded by tax bases, and poverty is rampant in these areas, so the supplies are less than adequate. Many parents are not there due to drug abuse, or maybe they’re not home because they are working two or three jobs. It seems it’s only getting worse in this arena because people don’t support a living wage here. A lot of New Orleans parents work in the service industry (restaurants and hotels) supporting our number one industry, tourism.
Also education is now driven by test scores instead of real academic discourse. It’s paradoxical because schools of ed are teaching inquiry based ways of teaching and snubbing skill and drill, when really it’s test scores that matter.
One way to look at schools here (ranked 50 out of 50 — low end): Most children are two levels below their grade level. So I teach 6th grade, all my text books are at the 6th grade reading level however only a handful of children actually read at this level. Oddly enough, when they are tested they cannot achieve well because it’s on level.
I combat this by supplementing the lesson with easier activities, all of which cost me my own money and take a lot of time and dedication to plan. Also I have a husband earning a significant amount more than me and we have no children. Other teachers may be dedicated but not able.
One last note is that you are judged as a good teacher by management first, curriculum and instruction second, in the real world of teaching — which is ironic because that’s not the focus in teacher training at university level. I find this maddening. As society views teachers lowly, it’s hard to engender respect in the room, thus management is a constant battle in addition to the already difficult art of teaching.
Good luck and please don’t teach here if you want to keep your sanity!