search  current discussion  categories  teaching 

unleashed vitriol toward teachers

updated tue 12 aug 03


Jan L. Peterson on sat 9 aug 03

Dear Nanci:

My youngest is 32 now. He was an honor student. All five of my children are
devout readers. I had to battle the school to allow my oldest to get the
reading she needed. I had to go to school to tell a teacher that left-handed
children are not abnormal. I had a foster kid that started with a 1.64 GPA. With a
little help from home, she became 3.89 and vice-president of the Honor Roll
Society. I taught her research and how to go the extra mile at school. None were
ever suspended. One devoted teacher would have made all the difference in the
world. Just one. I got that one when I was in school.

General math was beyond my kin. We came to Algebra and I took off like a
I was really lucky in getting another good teacher. This one was a History
teacher. Changed my reading habits and made a difference in English class and
book reports and research.

You can't complain about size of class. Seems to me, and I went to one of the
old country schools, one teacher handled four grades each, and we little guys
picked up fourth grade very easily. Well, I did.
And the teachers that taught my Grandparents taught subjects in the sixth
grade the teachers today can't begin to touch. Gramps graduated as valedictorian
of his sixth grade class, and was doing high geometry, history I doubt college
students are getting and writing music, complete with all the notes and
lyrics. More, of course. I would imagine the English classes were Senior college,
as the first grad stuff back then was comparable to fourth grade.
Only involvement family had was if a child was punished at school, he got a
visit to the woodshed when he got home. No volunteers. The older boys and some
of the men brought wood for the wood stove. Teach was janitor as well. They
stayed late, and arrived early, and had a very strict moral code.

My Aunt was a teacher from the time she was sixteen. She taught all grades,
because they didn't have too many in each grade to warrant more than one
teacher. Every year she went for refresher courses. She taught until she was 68. She
was strict even when the discipline within the schools started going down
hill. The parents, children and the principal loved her and backed her up.

What needs involved in school is the teacher and the staff and the students.

Our area is a mining area. A lot of our children had no running water, and
couldn't afford to be any better dressed than well-hand-washed rags, and dirty
clothing. Some kids had shoes only for school. You're not teaching clothing.
You're teaching the brain and the minds. Lots of kids didn't have any breakfasts
because their folks spent all the money at the bar. Some parents would move
uptown, and leave the kids to fend for themselves for weeks. Other kids got
locked out of the house until one in the morning. Way things were here.

You make at least twice what my husband does, risking his life every day to
make sure the other miners are safe, and we live pretty well. No new cars, but
we're comfortable.

The curriculum in school these days, I could have done the Senior year in the
fifth grade. Our academics are poor here, poorer yet over in Washington
State. I know the statistics, but I new them better when my kids were in school
over there, and it was shameful.

Well, that's my rant. Once you teachers can band together for a better
stronger academic course for the children, and teach it, we parents and grandparents
will back you. The only thing I see you asking for is more money, better
benefits, and smaller classrooms. Those are not what a dedicated teacher would be
worrying about. A dedicated teacher is horrified at the courses the children
are being taught, suspensions, the detentions that require the child to do
nothing, and the fact that children are escaping your notice about the ability to
read. And, the fact that so many inept people are calling themselves teachers,
and should be required to take Achievement tests. And Aptitude tests. And
duly licensed. And going to school in the summer to refresh their skills. Jan

Nanci Bishof on sat 9 aug 03

I am a teacher and an artist who is a member of this list. Over time there
have been several barrages of vitriol unleashed against teachers and the
education system. I and other teachers who I've emailed off list have picked
up on
the hostility toward us. Personally, it makes me feel unwelcome to be a
of this list.

I know of no teacher who rises in the morning thinking of ways to
deliberately damage the psyche of any student. Perhaps I am just blessed to
be among
those who truly care about our students. Most of us are at school early or
late or do both. Most of us carry our jobs home with us literally and
figuratively in order to provide our students with appropriate, timely
feedback on their
work, develop lessons that relate to their lives and that will help to make
them want to learn. Most of us worry for their futures as we do for our own
children. We want them to be prepared not just in knowledge but in skills
will carry them beyond the knowledge. Often that effort is unmet by the
the parent or the community.

Yes, we meet in rooms arranged to facilitate communication to a large group.
We don't have the luxury of just a few students within the class. Rooms
buildings specialized to help provide the resources for an environment for
learning help us to be successful. The only thing I've known a teacher strive
control are the environment and behaviors supportive of learning. Most of us
think of ourselves as facilitators. We can present information in a learning
friendly environment and manner. We can help guide a student toward
achievement. We can't however do it for them.

Unlike the factory that has control over the 'quality' of its components and
can send back to the supplier inferior goods, the public schools can't and
wouldn't want to send back the students that don't meet the highest
Our job is to provide the environment and opportunity for all to learn.
the factory, we aren't interested in 'cookie cutter' outcomes that are
identical. Teachers celebrate the development of independent thinking and
of their students beyond the expected benchmarks for success.

Teachers are only 1/5th of the equation. The rest of that equation includes
the parent, the student, the community and the government. How many of you
lobbied for your legislators to fully fund the needs of education? How many
of you are willing to pay taxes to support that funding? How many of you
volunteer your time in your community's schools? How many within your
community are
functionally literate, capable and willing to prepare their children for
learning? How many aren't and how many who are volunteer to fill the void?
teachers do. We can make far more money in industry, have better benefits and
retirement packages than we do on average in teaching.

Too many of our kids, and yes, teachers do call them 'our kids' come to
school without having enough sleep for them to physically stay awake or fully
participate in learning because they're too tired. How many come to school
proper nutrition which does impair their ability to learn? How many come to
school with inadequate or inappropriate attire for a learning environment?
many have parents that don't send them the message that school and learning
important? How many parents don't go beyond their child's response that there
is no homework, they did okay on the test or they've turned in all their
work? How many parents don't begin to provide the basics of a physically or
emotionally safe environment for their children? Too many for me to count.
number of parents not providing these necessities far outnumbers those who do
today. That's the environment teachers are working within in our society
today. Oh,
and please don't assume that because a child lives in a nice home, in a
'good' neighborhood, their family is religious and has enough resources to
for them appropriately that the child has a safe environment. Teachers know

I suggest that each one of you try to be part of the solution rather than
part of the problem. Our schools desperately need your help rather than your
condemnation. Our children's futures as well as our future as a country and
form of government as a democracy is dependent on the education of our
There is nothing more important than the education of our children.
Everything else falls from that.

nanci bishof

Jan L. Peterson on sun 10 aug 03

Good teachers should be honored. They are like very precious gems. Jan

Nanci Bishof on sun 10 aug 03


I'm going to answer you on Clayart because that is where you address this
issue and there are many misconceptions in it the general public holds. For
others, please send it off-line if you wish to spew because the venom on teachers
and the educational system is not what Clayart is about.


and should be required to take Achievement tests. And Aptitude tests. And
duly licensed. And going to school in the summer to refresh their skills.>
I hate to burst your bubble, but teachers do have to take achievement tests
both on subject matter and general knowledge and pass them or they can't get a
license to teach. Only private schools are exempt from hiring licensed
teachers. I know this will be a surprise to you, but teachers take classes all year
long including the summer to learn new skills, methods and approaches to help
them be better teachers. We have to pay for them too. Our 'company' doesn't
reimburse us for them either. Its called Professional Development. We must meet a
minimum number of courses to maintain our teaching licenses. Most of us have
credits far in excess of that minimum. I got triple the number I needed for an
entire 5 year period last year alone. That's not the exception for me or

A child that can't read rarely escapes my notice. I usually work to see they
get resources to help them learn to read. Often its the child's choice not to
avail themselves of the help and their parents are permissive of that choice.
Sometimes the child wants the help but the parent won't sign the permission
slips for the program, its held both before and after school to make it more
convenient and accessible for the parents, not the teachers. The parent would
have to bring the students to the early sessions but the student can ride a
special bus for after school programs to get home at night. The program lasts 2
hours after the end of the school day. Oh, we do feed our kids dinner during that
time. No charge either for the dinner or the program to the participants.

tomake sure the other miners are safe, and we live pretty well. No new cars, but
we're comfortable.>
Miners today make far better wages and under safer conditions than their
earlier counterparts just as teachers today make far better wages than their
earlier counterparts. I wouldn't presume your husband makes less money than I do.
Salaries fluctuate by region. Unless you know my gross pay that's a gross
assumption you make. The fact that historically both teachers and miners have been
underpaid does not make it right for either. I don't begrudge the miners their
pay or profession even though coal as source of heat or energy fouls our air
and destroys forests. I don't hold the miners responsible for the pollution
created by what they mine. I don't pass vitriol on to you or them because they
do. Rather, I feel that industry could develop ways in which that fuel source
could be utilized without creating pollution if they put the resources required
toward finding a solution. I hold the miners in respect for the difficult job
done at risk to self and family for the benefit of others. And don't worry, I
don't have a 'new' car. I've only owned 4 cars. All of them have been kept
about 10 years until they get more expensive to keep repairing than to buy
another newer car by the time I donate them to a charity. The one I'm driving now
is 6 fast becoming 7 years old and was not new when I purchased it.

the old country schools, one teacher handled four grades each>
As to my working conditions, I currently have 260 plus students on my rolls
within 6 classes. They range in enrollment from 29 to 55 in a class. Oh, and
that is spread over 3 grades: 6th, 7th and 8th. Our school year began last week.
If I choose to go back into healthcare I will make in 95 work days what it
takes me all year to make as a teacher. And, I'd have a smaller work load and
less stress in healthcare even though what I do affects whether or not a person
lives or dies. My healthcare employer would also reimburse me for my
professional development expenses.

better dressed than well-hand-washed rags, and dirty clothing. Some kids had
shoes only for school.>
As to the dress code, it has nothing to do with whether or not the clothing
is brand name, new or clean. It has everything to do with not being sexually
revealing clothing: no short shorts with rear ends hanging out, no low cut pants
revealing thong underwear, boxers or briefs, no low cut revealing tank tops,
etc. Wrongly or rightly, the administration decided they didn't want kids
looking like drug dealers, pimps or hookers at school. What students wear at home
on their own time is their own business. We do have community programs
locally to help kids have new, clean clothes for school and again at the Christmas
holiday along with gifts. Another program specifically helps by providing
winter coats for kids. Teachers along with others in our community support them
with their own giving as well as tapping in to that resource for kids they notice
need the help.

visit to the woodshed when he got home.>
Often parents within our community do not support discipline in the school
and communicate that to the children. They often communicate an attitude of my
child can do what they want without consequences; no detentions, no
responsibility or consequence at home for their actions or lack of performance in
classwork or assignments. That's not all parents, simply the majority of what we
experience with far too many kids.

< I taught her research and how to go the extra mile at school.>
To your credit, you are an involved parent that communicated the importance
of an education to your child. The single greatest indicator of educational
success of a child is parental involvement. The parent sets up the expectation of
performance in the child. That reverence for learning and setting up the
learning expectation creates the atmosphere of respect both for learning and
teachers in children. Your parents communicated it to you. The fact that in your
community shoes for some children were reserved for school speaks volumes to the
child in the importance of school.

Teachers are not responsible for the cycle of poverty many have due to the
lack of educational opportunities & resources their financial situations create
for many of the working poor. There are 'bad apples' in every profession,
including mining, ceramics, law, medicine and any other profession one can name.
Teachers, as a group, work to give the skills to others that will allow them to
elevate themselves from a cycle of poverty into professions that will provide
them more opportunities to better their income. Education isn't a guarantee
of success. It does help provide the keys that can unlock doors to opportunity
within the structure of our society. Success isn't measured by money alone.
Money just seems to be an easy public measure of success within our society.

Eleanor on sun 10 aug 03

To Nanci and also Phil, who challenges: you are both right; you are both wrong.

I think I am qualified to comment--I am a former teacher, a mother
and a grandmother.

I have a high IQ, got almost all A's in my Brooklyn College ed.
courses and placed 49th out of almost 1000 on the NYC teacher
licensing exam. I got immediate placement as a 4th grade teacher in a
depressed Brooklyn neighborhood.

I failed miserably--could barely control the children, got next to
nothing across. Many days I went home from work in tears. But I
didn't have the guts to walk away. And I got tenure; there was a
teacher shortage in those days. After 6 years, marriage and
motherhood freed me from this Living Hell; I never went back.

As a child in Brooklyn I went to PS 253, a new building in Brighton
Beach which opened in 1937. With one exception, every teacher I knew
in that school was young or young at heart, enthusiastic,
innovative,---qualities you look for in a "good" teacher. School was
a joyful experience; I cried if I got sick and had to miss a few
days. And it was wartime---few materials, crowded classes, etc.
The one exception was a mean, mean-spirited woman who mishandled the
kids; after one semester, she was history.
We moved to a "better" neighborhood when I was in 6th grade. The
teacher, when she was angry at the class, called us, and I quote,

I had a friend who had to take the NYC exam twice before she could
pass it and wind up near the bottom of the list. She was appointed to
a "ghetto" school. After a year, people from the NYC Board of
Education were coming to her classroom to observe her methods; she
was teaching these "unteachable" kids to read and do math and enjoy

There was this teacher in or near Chicago. By the time I heard about
her, her students were being referred to as "deprived". Parents were
complaining: their children were losing sleep because they were
reading books by flashlight concealed under their bedcovers. This
teacher had no special educational materials--just her dedicated self
and a bunch of books.

In order to maintain my teaching license I had to take additional
course work. I took a couple of graduate ed. courses but in light of
what I was experiencing in the real world, these courses were so much
philosophical blather. I found out I could satisfy the requirement by
taking POTTERY courses so I signed up at the Brooklyn Museum. The
teacher, Hui Ka Kwong, could barely speak English, but somehow, I was
able to learn most of what I know now from him. He was a good teacher.

My 3 children went to school in Suburbia "good" schools.

The oldest, my daughter, had a Jr HS Algebra teacher who failed her
on the mid term report card even though Laurel had passed all her
exams. When I inquired, there was some mumbling about
unresponsiveness in class. Laurel was, and is, shy. She got 100% on
the algebra regents.

In high school, Laurel had an English teacher who took an immediate
dislike to her and gave her only low passing grades on her creative
writing. But when Laurel was able to submit a story anonymously, this
teacher gave her an A+.

Laurel had a Spanish teacher who recognized her remarkable ability to
learn languages. He gave her some books, put her (and another kid) in
an empty classroom and she completed two years of Spanish in less
than a year.

My older son was a vulnerable crybaby in the early years. A
perceptive third grade teacher, recognizing that he needed space and
time to grow up, pushed his desk into a quiet corner so he could do
his schoolwork in peace. In 6th grade, Matthew finished the
reader/workbook by October. The teacher responded by sending him on

Matthew's high school AP Math class finished the curriculum early;
the teacher taught them all to play bridge. He was a good teacher.

At a parent-teacher conference, the first grade teacher complained
that Jeremy was "always staring out of the window". But, she
admitted, he seemed to be learning everything. Didn't she see that he
was bored?

"Good Education" is not defined by fancy school buildings, expensive
teaching aids and equipment or elaborate "individualized" learning
programs. We pay some of the highest school taxes in the country here
and my children have run into teachers who misperceived, misspelled,
mispronounced, misunderstood....and who, in spite of advanced
degrees, were incompetent. So pouring money into school systems isn't
the answer.

The "good" teachers I have encountered over the years all seem to
have an instinctive ability to "mind-meld" with their students,
feeling what they need and responding in tune with those needs. No
amount of education courses can instill this instinct; I have seen it
in people who have never had an ed. course in their lives.

This instinct is rare--Hui had it, the third-grade teacher had it,
that woman in Chicago has it---I suspect Nanci has it. It should be
sought after, nourished, encouraged. Good teachers should be given
raises; bad one should be fired. Tenure allows incompetents to stay;
it should be abolished or at least awarded after a long trial period.
I never should have been given tenure.

Very simplistic, I know. There is a lot more wrong with Education in
America but I think finding and keeping the "good" teachers would
constitute a good start at reform.

Eleanor Kohler
Centerport, NY


Rare - Earth - Design on mon 11 aug 03

Dear Nanci,

I have not seen venom spewed on teachers by way of Clayart, but I have seen
some towards the "education system", American that is. Whether it is right
wrong I do not know, I do know that most systems do not really work for
who are intended to benefit/learn from them.
I read a little book once, it is probably still available, called
"Deschooling Society"
by Ivan Illych. I think it is worthwhile reading for both teachers and
Teachers and cooks, in my opinion are on a hiding to nothing, I am glad
are people who still want to do these jobs.


Bob Hollis
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nanci Bishof"
Sent: Sunday, August 10, 2003 5:26 PM
Subject: Re: Unleashed Vitriol Toward Teachers

> Jan,
> I'm going to answer you on Clayart because that is where you address this
> issue and there are many misconceptions in it the general public holds.
> others, please send it off-line if you wish to spew because the venom on
> and the educational system is not what Clayart is about.
> nanci

Nanci Bishof on mon 11 aug 03


Teachers are the system. They are where the rubber hits the road.