Sunday, December 18, 2011

Free our educators

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Thank goodness the Law and Order spin-off, Special Victims Unit, hasn't been canceled yet in spite of Mariska Hargitay's imminent departure. It looks like we will be treated to more "ripped from the headlines" tales of those crazy teachers sleeping with students because of the seductive lure of the Internets.

Love NoteIt's tough being a teacher in the United States. The new education codes for teacher certification or licensure are making it virtually impossible to advise people who want to become teachers because whatever the requirements are this week could change next week. Once teachers actually get into the classroom, the newest ones are often stuck with the most challenging assignments--as in a twenty three year old white girl from Nebraska teaching in a Harlem high school after all the seasoned teachers made a mass exodus to Idaho. That's bad, but it gets worse. Not only does that new teacher need to spend more time every day trying to prevent her students from killing each other than teaching, but she needs to be held "accountable" for everything they learn. Oh yeah, and it's totally normal to expect her to buy supplies for the classroom on a salary that is so low, she's practically living below the poverty line.

I have nothing against holding anyone accountable for doing a good job. I just think that accountability should extend to the administrators and the Board of Education who are ultimately, um, accountable for making sure that teachers have what they need to do a good job. For example, teachers need classrooms that aren't falling apart, school schedules that don't make their students eat lunch at 10 a.m. or (even worse) 2 p.m. Little things like pencils, paper, and textbooks are nice too. Teachers don't even have those simple materials to do their jobs, and yet they are supposed to be accountable? Since when have business executives been expected to fund ad campaigns they are accountable for with money out of their own bank accounts? Never! You know what happens if their campaign fails? They get a severance package with more money and perks than most of us will ever have in a lifetime. Then, they call up a buddy and start working on ruining another company.

Now, teachers aren't supposed to use social media to reach out to students. Facebook and Twitter are two free resources that teachers and students have access to, and a bunch of weirdos are freaking out because a few teachers have used those resources inappropriately. According to "Rules to Stop Pupil and Teacher From Getting Too Social Online" in The New York Times, school administrators are hard at work developing policies to regulate how teachers use their Facebook and Twitter accounts to interact with students. Without those polices, who knows what would happen? Those wild teachers might organize keggers using the Events app on Facebook. OMG! WTF?!?!?! Really? Of course, it's so much more serious than that. I mean, these inappropriate interactions start with teachers sharing details about their personal lives like pictures of their children to having sex with their students. You see how that works? It's a slippery slope that leads from photo sharing to real world intercourse. I didn't know I was putting myself at that level of risk with every party photo I post.

Sometimes, I think tenure for anyone is stupid because some college professors seem to treat it like a license to underachieve, but now I can see why educators need it so badly. They need and deserve protection from this type of idiocy.

Here's a bulletin for anyone naive enough to think there is something to this crackpot theory that too much casual online banter leads to sex: our schools have always had a few pervs in them. You know what used to happen? Budding child molesters would go to college and choose a major that would give them plenty of contact with children. Then, they would go on to become gym teachers, coaches, or other types of teachers. If a student seemed vulnerable, they'd go in for the kill with offers of support and things like, "Oh, you can come over to my office/house/car to talk any time you need to." If the kid went for it, well, you know. This isn't something that the digital age invented. The only thing Facebook and Twitter have changed is they've made it even easier to track down this disgusting behavior and make arrests. Is that really such a bad thing?

If teachers aren't responsible enough to know how to use social media on their own, I suggest removing all other potentially dangerous implements from classrooms. Here's a list for the really concerned child advocate: chalk (some children are allergic), pencils, paper (it can cut), scissors, chairs, desks, books, pens, crayons, markers, tape, television sets, bunsen burners, pipettes, magnets . . . you know, basically, empty out the classroom, and remove the doors. In fact, why even have walls between classrooms. It's important to see what everyone is up to because who knows what they'll do if nobody is looking?