Not All Guilty

It’s June and for teachers, like myself, it is a month of anticipation. A school year is winding down and soon the summer and its freedom will be upon us. I take stock at this time of year as I am sure many others in the teaching profession do. Did my students learn what I wanted them to? Was I as affective as I could have been?  What can I do to make next year more effective?  It is my goal to continually get better and one of the ways that happens is introspection. I believe this is true of many teachers. In fact, my experience has shown me that the majority of teachers are hard working, responsible, and dedicated professionals who care about their students and want the best for them.

As a New York City school teacher (I work in the East New York section of Brooklyn), I am particularly aware of teachers in the news. Unfortunately, lately it’s been all bad.  There have been multiple reports of relations between teachers and students. Of course this is wrong in every way and if found guilty, the teachers should be punished to the full measure of the law. They have violated the public trust. We are responsible for our students – not only to teach them but to be a role model for them as well.

These incidents and their constant reporting in the newspapers are demoralizing.  Am I the only one who thinks if these are being reported then how many more incidents are going on that we don’t even know about?  I doubt it.  Due to this cloak of suspicion and doubt, it’s as if each of us in the profession must prove that we are not guilty.

I don’t know all the specifics of these cases as I shy away from reading all the gory details. However, I do know that one of the teachers was reassigned after a picture of her kissing a student appeared on the front page of the newspaper. The student is 18 so apparently it is ‘okay,’ and she will retain her job.  Yes, the union is responsible to us, its members, and everyone deserves a trial.  However, when they try to defend the indefensible, it pisses me off.  My teacher hat comes off and my parent hat goes on. What if it were my child that was involved in such a case? Even worse what if the predator teacher got involved with my child after already being involved in another case but instead of losing their job, they were retained due to some technicality? I can’t even imagine how angry I would be.

There are many problems with the education system in America, and changes are overdue.  The problems come from a variety of sources and anyone who has thought about the problem and is honest with him/herself can recognize this issue. One problem that must be dealt with right away is the removal of teachers who act immorally and compromise themselves as professionals and harm children.   While I take this summer as a time to refresh and prepare for a successful school year in 2012-13, I want to focus on preparing myself and not defending myself.

27 thoughts on “Not All Guilty

  1. I live in So Cal and there has been many reports here as well, about teacher and student relationships, and sometimes worse. It is terrible news, and as a mom I pray I hear nothing of these sorts at any school my daughter attends.

    • Sometimes, it feels like a matter of time. There is a school that many people in my community send their kids to that recently had a teacher who was accused of viewing child porn. Scary stuff.

  2. It is the bad apples in any profession that tend to stand out and make the public cry out and be wary. Both my parents were teachers and I think that is part of the reason I hold teachers in such high regard. Teachers are more than just there to teach, they offer themselves up as a moral compass to our children and when this is compromised it is scary. Eighteen or not, the teacher-student relationship should go no further.
    What a good teacher you must be to, at this time of the year when summer is upon us, reflect and wonder what you could have done and what you will try to do better.

    • Firstly, kudos to your parents. I have great respect for anyone who chose a career in the classroom. I very much agree with everything you said – moral compass, bad apples, etc.
      In terms of me being a good teacher, I certainly try and do believe students can gain from being in my classroom.
      Thanks for the comments.

  3. I hate when people thinking that teachers just take a break over the summer and sip mojitos. I have lots of friend who are teachers and its definitely the time they take both to refresh and also to analyze what worked and what didn’t and how they can improve in the coming year. I wish teachers weren’t as underappreciated as I sometimes feel they are!

    • I can definitely relate to your friends. While I definitely do dial it down in the summer, it is a time I do think it helps me be better the next school year. We are underappreicated at this point but many people are. Are you involved in education?
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. You mean we cant _____ the kids. (just a small joke between memyselfandkids and myself) I agree it is a big problem, and unfortunately there are many good teachers out there who get their name sullied due to some bad apples. Keep up the good work teachers!!! Have a great summer you deserve it.

  5. How lucky is Brooklyn to have you as a teacher! I also can’t imagine the rage I would feel as a parent if a teacher or any authority figure was a multiple offender who hadn’t been removed from a position. Scary and heart-wrenching. Thank you.

  6. Larry, this was great! However, when teachers are innocent how much media coverage do they get? This is just one of the reasons why teachers always need to be on their best behavior.

  7. The problem with “morals” is that they are not usually universal. An 18 year old student is ostensibly and adult, and has most of the rights, responsibilities, and privileges accordingly. If the student was 18 at the time of the reported incident, I’d have to hold my nose and accept it.

    The same problem happens with teachers who are homosexual, or Mormon, or Evangelical, or Lutheran, or Buddhist, a woman, a man, a transgender individual… There is nothing that prevents them from teaching, even though some parents may object to the particular teacher on any of those grounds.

    I’m not defending the teacher in any way. What she did was obviously in poor judgement and she will be tried by a jury of her community. But what she did is not illegal, no matter how much it shows her poor taste.

    I have three kids myself. Oldest is 18, youngest is 13, and middle is 17. One is in public school, and I would be appalled if this happened to him, and I would counsel him that way. But, once he turns 18, all I can do is disapprove of his actions, since he will be a “responsible adult”.

  8. I hear you but I can not go along with holding my nose and accepting it. As the teacher of this 18 year old, her responsibility is to do educate him. If at some point after this relationship has concluded, they want to form a romantic bond – well, that is up to them.

    I don’t think a teacher’s religious background or sexual orientation is comparable. If a parent has a problem with that, then they should try and find private school that caters to their unaccepting narrow views.

    My children are younger than yours so I am only guessing how I would react. However, I think my reaction might be more heavy handed than yours particularly if he is living in my home.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate the debate.

  9. What you said about being a role model is important. I think that it is this, more than the content of what you teach the kids, that stays with the kids the longest. The teachers who I felt were honest, good people were the ones I respected and inspired me the most. It’s easy to forget this, with all the standards and expectations placed on teachers these days to cover the material.

    It’s interesting also how things have changed in recent years. There was a teacher in my high school who openly flirted with the female students, and nothing was ever done. Another one cursed and used very derogatory words and he was also there till retirement. Although there are many developments that have been for the worse, this no-nonsense policy on teachers crossing the line with students is a positive one.

    • I agree with you in that we generally remember how teachers treated us more than what they specifically taught us. Those who I liked for whatever reason are the ones I remember. That is not to say conect is important but it is not the only thing.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  10. Wow, such a loaded topic. But I worry about the few that are accused by student but innocent. It is such a tangled web. I don’t envy teachers in the least. Hats off to you for doing what has come to be such a difficult job these days.

  11. Hi,
    May I say that I agree with you totally. The problem that you are addressing is horrible, and I know this is not any comfort, but let me say that the problem exist here in the schools in Europe also. Somewhere along the line, we have forgot to be role models. I believe it is this constant push to be young. It is like getting older than eighteen has become a sin. It is sad because it seems no one wants to mature. However, mature adults are needed in this world.
    I like the fact that you step back and take an inventory of yourself and what went on around you. That is probably why you are such an excellent teacher.
    I hope you have a great summer, with lots of barbecues, and time for writing and enjoying your family.
    I enjoyed this post tremendously and learned some things. The world is smaller than we think.

    • I don’t know that I am an excellent teacher but I certainly aim to be. Thanks for your summer wish – you have a good summer as well.
      I am sorry to hear that this issue is everywhere but not so surprised. your analysis that it is due to the constant push to be young is interesting. I did not think of it that way but you may very well be right. We do need to be mature and recognize what is and is not appropriate.
      Thank you so much for the feedback. You give awsome feedback, and I so enjoy reading your comments!

  12. Part of the problem is they don’t publish all the stories about the dedicated teachers who are making differences in children’s lives; negativity weighs heavier with the press and the public gets a distorted view of what’s going on. Clearly, the “bad” teachers need to be dealt with but we should not forget that the vast majority of teachers are decent, dedicated people.

        • It is so easy to see the dirt – like craning your head to see the accident on the road.
          Substituting is even harder. You have to prove yourself daily and kids dont feel they have to be ‘good’ because you can’t give them a grade.

          • It is so easy to see the dirt – like craning your head to see the accident on the road.
            Substituting is even harder. You have to prove yourself daily and kids dont feel they have to be ‘good’ because you can’t give them a grade.

          • It was hard but let me share my best memory. I had a long term history class with jr. highers. They tested me and tested me. On my last day, they gave me a baby shower. I loved those kids but it took weeks to gain their trust. Well worth it.

          • Very nice. One of the great things about teaching is that chance for instant feedback and genuine moments. Kids don’t always know or care to hold back. It feels great when you feel you made an impact.

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