Sunday, September 06, 2009

There Is Always Something The Teacher Can Do

Last week, Anthony Pantaleno had an opinion piece in Newsday on on how teachers should "go the extra mile" to get to know troubled students on an intimate level.

I sent in the following reply:

The article is right on target except for one thing--it does not give a clue as to how this can be done in schools as large and over populated as many in NYC are. I teach at Packemin HS, in a building that was built to hold 2000 students but now holds over 10,000 and is growing every day. It was just announced that we are adding a 27th period to our day which means we, like Seven Eleven are open 24 hours. Class sizes are at their capacity level 34 students. There are no empty classrooms or offices to use during the day so there is no place to get to know the student. In other words, his plan is impossible.

One of the biggest problems in education is all the solutions to the problems being offered by non educators, people who have not been inside a school since they were students and have no idea what is going on. If people like Mr. Pantaleno really care, they have to get their hands dirty, get involved in the buildings and then offer advice.

Billions of dollars are being spent on computer programs to show us the problems that exist but zero dollars are being spent on the actual solutions.

(I sent this to Newsday, but it has not been printed. They only print one per person per 90 day period and I think I am still in that 90 day period.)


JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Everybody is an expert on education except for the frontline troops. Maybe if these journalist and politicians spoke to us without our supervisors present they could get a clearer picture as to the reality. Teachers themselves like you and me have to begin speaking up and not just through our union.

Schoolgal said...

When I first started teaching, my school had 2-full guidance counselors. Now one, and some work on a part-time basis serving 2 schools at the same time. As teachers, we do what we can to gain insight on a situation, but it really does "take a village". A school should be more than teachers, it should be a professional community.

I remember having a student in my fifth grade class. He was bright, but never did any homework and it was pulling teeth to get him to do the classwork. When I tried him in partnerships or groups, he would disrupt the process. He also never smiled. I finally met with the mother who seemed clueless and told her I would like her son to see the guidance counselor and if she can, get someone he could see on the outside. She agreed--or so I thought. When I mentioned this to the principal, she told me this has been going on since 1st grade and that the mother would not follow through. I didn't want to believe her, but she was right. She would write me excuse after excuse as to why she couldn't follow through. My only other recourse was the guidance counselor who still was looking for an available time slot for him since she was so overbooked. I tried my best working with him one-on-one, but also had to deal with the others in my class who needed my attention.

Sometimes a school can look great on the outside. Visitors come and go thinking what a good school. What they don't see if the powder keg on the inside. The writer of that article is on the staff of such a school. I can only surmise that his "letter" is a call for help from his end too because of a heavy caseload.
His suburban high school has an enrollment of 800 (100 on staff) with above average regent's scores.

I think a majority of NYC teachers do take the time to try to reach students. PoD is a good example of someone who goes the extra mile.

NYC schools need a priority budget to ensure that every school has at least 2 counselors in the elementary schools. But individual schools have to pay out of their own budget, and counselors are as expendable as the Arts. The alternative would be over-sized classrooms and then the teacher wouldn't get to be part of this process.