Public School Horror Stories

My mom is a grade school teacher (usually 2nd-5th) in an inner city school. Over the past 5 years or so, she’s told me some of the policies she’s seen in action. She keeps track of these things because she may try writing a book once she retires. I’ll relate a few here:

  1. Teaching vs. Facilitating
    Under no circumstances is a teacher supposed to “teach” in the classic sense of the word. If a principal comes into the room while kids are listening attentively to the dissemination of material, the teacher can get written up.

Principal says: “A teacher is supposed to facilitate children ‘choosing their own learning.’”

  1. Spelling/Memorization
    Under no circumstances are spelling, math tables, or handwriting to be taught. If a principal catches anyone teaching handwriting, all pencils (teacher’s and students’) will be confiscated on the spot. No workbooks are allowed in the classroom.

Principal says: “You know spelling doesn’t work; computers are actually better teachers.” Computer spell-check is okay. Surfing the Net is okay.

  1. Recess/Library
    There is no recess. PE is once a week.
    “Library Day” is every other Friday.
    “Library Day” entails watching movies or film strips. Once, my mom had a couple of bright young girls who really wanted to read. They had no books at home (no computers either, see #2 above), so my mom went to the librarian about getting permission for them to come check out books.

Librarian says: “Absolutely not. I’ve got better things to do with my time than have a bunch of kids in here looking at books.”

  1. Child Can’t Read
    The policy depends on where the child came from.

Principal says: “If the child came from another school, tell the parents the previous school failed to teach the child how to read. If the child came from this school, tell the parents that we taught the child, but that he/she forgot how to read over the summer.”

5)Grading Policy
Through 3rd grade, no 'D’s or 'F’s can be given and no child can be held back. 4th-6th grades, a child can be held back, but then skips the missed grade the next year. So, if a child fails 6th, he/she repeats 6th, then automatically gets promoted to 8th. There is no truancy policy, nor is there an absentee policy.

There are more examples I could post. If there is interest in this thread, I’ll do so.

My mom has had parents threaten to shoot her for such egregious things as sending a child to the back of the line. She gets no backing from the administration in these cases.

If anyone else has any examples (from real life, not the Web), I’d love to pass them on to my mom.

Oh my God. <–Not taking the Lord’s name in vain, but an actual prayer because I’m scared for our children’s future. These are the most horrible things I’ve ever read. No workbooks? No handwriting? No spelling? Am I the only one who has the feeling that the kids who hated school are now in charge?

“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it,” Jack Handy

Please, Divemaster, tell us your mother is making up these things.

What city/school district?


If the librarian at this school doesn’t allow kids to check out or read books, who are the books in the library FOR?

I’m not flying fast, just orbiting low.

That principal and librarian both fall into the “If The Parents Had Known They’d Turn Out This Way, They’d Kill the Little Jerks When They Were Infants” category. I personally would crack that principal over the head with a bat. No D’s and F’s? I vote that anyone who makes all F’s or all D’s on their report card gets thrown out of school. It would make the classes at my High School a lot smaller.

But, you mentioned it was an inner city school. If it is a school with a large African-American (I hate that term! Too bulky and makes people seem like foreigners) population, then the librarian and principal my be racist. That would explain why they want kids to cruise through school without an education.

"No job’s too small, we bomb them all."
-Ace Wrecking Company

Is this a joke? If you tell me it isn’t I still won’t believe you.

Please, please, please, tell me this isn’t true, Divemaster! Until now, I thought it couldn’t get much worse than here, but I was wrong, obviously.

Please say this is some awful joke!

“Of course, that’s just my opinion; I could be wrong.”–Dennis Miller

No BOOKS out of the library? No SPELLING? What the (sputter spit sputter sputter) is going on there?

Excuse me while I go spit & sputter some more. Then when I’m done, I think I just may cry.

Seriously. Tell us what school district these idiots are in. Not only do I never want to teach there, I want to make sure that my future kids are educated several states away from that kind of nonsense.

I wouldn’t go to Kansas either. Evolution is heresy after all.

Only humans do inhuman things.

I’m not bragging or anything. Just stating a fact: I am not easily frightened.

This really, really, scares me.

I mean that in the most strict literal sense.

DIVEMASTER - Sounds like bullshit to me. But as a master media manipulator, please feel free to get in touch if this is indeed true and I will take it upon myself to get this the publicity it deserves.

If it is bullshit… Well, please don’t waste our time!

Yer pal,

These examples are not bullshit. (I only post from work, so I apologize for the delay in replying). This is a very specific school district in a very specific city, under a very specific administration with principals and assistant principals that my mom works with every day; not things that I saw on the Web or read in the paper.

This has been an ongoing topic of conversation between my mom and me for the last 5 years or so. We both agree that there are terrible policies in force. On the bright side, this summer my mom finally got the transfer she wanted to another school. Same city, same school system, but with a principal and staff that is not quite so bad. She feels like a new woman, actually able to teach the kiddos a little.

Last week, I told my mom that I wanted to post these examples on the internet. She asked me not to mention the city, given the fact that thousnds or tens of thousands of people could be reading this, most certainly in her city (it’s a big one). Given her tendency to challenge policies and not sit by quietly she said that they would know in two seconds who was behind the spread of information that has to be extremely embarrasing to the school district and the administration. She’s already walking a tightrope with the system, and still has 10 or 20 years before hitting retirement age. She could easily get fired or “reassigned” (public education can be very political). I will keep my promise to my mother. If that causes some to disbelieve me or think that I am exaggerating, so be it.

My mom was only one of a very few white teachers/staff at this school. I don’t know offhand the exact number, but we’re talking less than five. I don’t think racism is a factor. Except when aimed at my mother by parents.

And yes, the rules against teaching in the classical sense of the word are strictly enforced. No spelling, no handwriting, no workbooks, and no math tables. Math is supposed to be taught be playing ‘math games,’ not by memorization. They do get a six-week course in civil rights, so they can learn all about MLK, Malcom-X, you name it. They may not be able to actually learn to read the material, but they certainly hear about it over and over again.

Overall, teaching becomes sort of a cat and mouse game with some of the teachers trying to teach the ‘forbidden’ subjects on the sly, so that higher administration doesn’t find out. My mom does this a lot.

Here’s some more policies to chew on:

  1. Teaching to the Test
    Whenever a city or sytem-wide evaluation is coming up, the teachers are supposed to prepare the students by using the actual test. My mom actually has the test in her hand for a month in order to get the students ready to pass. If they don’t pass, the teacher gets blamed (but the students can just take it again until they do pass).

  2. Free Lunches
    Parents can sign their kids up for free lunches. There is a salary level for acceptance, but it is never checked or enforced. In theory, if a child does not qualify for a free lunch, then the cost is 10 cents (remember, this is an inner city school where everyone is assumed to be from a disadvantaged background). So far so good.

However, the school sponsors afternoon snack time where students can purchase popcorn, chips, cokes, and stuff for 75 cents, of which most kids take advantage. So the policy seems to be if you can’t afford the 10 cent lunch, you qualify for a free one, but then you can spend 75 cents for snacks. Go figure.

  1. Free Breakfast
    Students get a free breakfast. Note I did not say they can get a free breakfast. The policy is that every student gets one whether he/she wants it or not. My mom said she’s never seen so much food get thrown away, much of it untouched, by kids who have already eaten at home.

Also, the administration did not want for the kids to have to come to school any earlier, so they took first period and turned it into ‘free breakfast’ period. One less class period in which to “facilitate learning.”

  1. Corporal Punishment
    For those of you who think corporal punishment is no longer in effect in public schools, think again. It has to be administered by a principal, or witnessed by a principal if done by a teacher. Of course my mom, being white, can not commence to whack on kids who misbehave, but most of the black teachers have a bullshit tolerance level of zero when it comes to insubordination or cutting up. A number of teachers have told my mom just to send the kids needing a whack to them, and they would take care of it.

I, personally, am not anti-corporal punishment in theory (I’m talking a swat on the butt, not a beating). But I suspect I am in the minority, so I put this forth as an example that y’all may find surprising and wrong.

The instances I bring up only are from lower grades. I have no idea what policies may be for junior high or high school.

These examples come from a specific school system. Other systems may be the same, may be worse, or (hopefully this is the case) much better. I make no universal claims. I do believe, however, that stuff like this goes on much more than what “we” would like to think. We who went to suburban schools, or private schools, or even city schools years ago, I think have no idea what is going on in our inner cities.

My mom went into teaching in order to teach learning disabled or otherwise disadvantaged kids. She has a special certificate (over and above a regular teaching certificate)that took her two years of full-time school just to learn a method for reaching out to ‘special-needs’ children (I forget the name of the program, I’ll have to ask her). What she sees is very depressing for her. Not only on the educational side, but just the situations these kids are in. Fathers in jail or unknown. Mothers are crack whores, and won’t come up to the school for their kids sake no matter what. A number of times my mom hasn’t called on parents to come get a sick or out-of-control child because she knows the kid will get beaten at home by a mother who is infuriated that she has to be pulled away from her soap operas or such.

This is a whole generation of kids that this school system and administration is throwing away on their ivory tower theories of education. I have tried very hard to be factual and not get preachy. I figure this will start a debate, but I say if a parent wants a child to get out of a situation like this and go to a better school and at least have a chance, then they should be allowed to do so. And if that requires a voucher, so be it. How many parents can sit by and just let their kids go down the educational drain?

I used to teach middle school in an inner city school and much of what Divemaster says is true. We were encouraged to let kids advance to the next grade whether or not they deserved it–giving a failing grade was pretty much out of the question. And we certainly “taught to the test” so our kids could do well on standardized tests. I couldn’t take being made to do what I felt was wrong for the kids, so I changed jobs. Teaching is frustrating as hell–I admire those who can stick with it. I sure couldn’t.

I used to teach middle school in an inner city school and much of what Divemaster says is true. We were encouraged to let kids advance to the next grade whether or not they deserved it–giving a failing grade was pretty much out of the question. And we certainly “taught to the test” so our kids could do well on standardized tests. I couldn’t take being made to do what I felt was wrong for the kids, so I changed jobs. Teaching is frustrating as hell–I admire those who can stick with it. I sure couldn’t.

Sorry about the double post. I’m still getting the hang of the system.

I am really and truly depressed now…(sigh)…But I can sorta see how this came about…In these places, school isn’t a place for them to learn, but a baby-sitting service…someplace to dump the kids during the day…and I honestly don’t have any hope that it’ll change…the gap between the inner city kids and lucky ones like us that had at least a decent chance to learn will grow larger and larger. Which will breed animosity between the two classes…which leads to hatred and prejudice…and while I don’t know what the ultimate end to this will be, I’m fairly sure it won’t be a utopian society.

If the elementary schools were that bad, then I really doubt the junior or high schools could do much with the students.

Yeah. I don’t know what the graduation rate for inner city schools is, but it is not good. And those that do graduate, what can they have learned? There will always be diamonds that make it out and go on to college and respectable careers, but for every success story there has got to be many more lost to the underworld of addiction, crime, welfare, etc…

It’s just a shame when schools become part of the problem instead of a solution and a way out.

I’ll have to ask my mom and see what she knows about the upper grades.