A Truly Odious Teacher

Posted: 2011/03/09 in Classroom Teacher, Education, High School, Students

I met a teacher at a recent meeting who I’m certain would pass any teacher assessment with flying colors. She is on committees for this and that and blah blah blah. As I kept smiling at her I pushed my notepad to the colleague next to me so he could see where I scribbled, “This is a truly odious teacher.”

It was the way she talked about her students that bothered me. I had come across it before from a teacher with many years of experience who told me to give my time and attention to the A students and ignore the “dead weight.”

This woman at the meeting spoke about her students being “pooooooor” in such a way I wanted to say, “dear lady, may I offer you a disinfecting wipe?”

She told us she always lets her students pick their own teams for group projects. I told her that my classes include a lot of group projects but I form the teams, otherwise students will simply work with their friends. But that’s exactly her point: she doesn’t want to mix up the teams because she doesn’t want the A students dragged down by the “dead weight.” Let those D and F students team up together in the back corner without any hope of their project being completed. Then all of them will  be relegated to the F’s they deserve.

On the student teams I form, there are different tasks done by different team members and four students on a team won’t share the same grade. I even have teammate assessment forms and self-assessment forms along with rubrics for all students to fill out when projects are completed. I stack each team with at least one strong student and no more than one student who needs “extra support” (so much nicer than calling them dead weight).

Those four boys who goof around together in the back of the classroom will groan when they find out they’re split up on four different teams. It may be that three of the four will contribute nothing to their teams and maintain their typical D-to-F grades. But one of those boys will surprise you. Being on a team with students who are clear on the assignment and the skills has made a difference for a lot of those kids other teachers gave up on.

But, as I stated, that teacher at the meeting is the kind who will score high on any standardized assessment for teachers. Oh, someone may look at a spreadsheet and make note that she needs to do better at “closing the achievement gap.” But then the person making that note may just whisper behind his hand, “But there’s not much you can do with THOSE kinds of students.”

I believe in teachers. I believe in the goodness of teachers. I’m not sure there is such a place as teacher hell, but I know there are some who deserve to go there.

  1. Indigo Spider says:

    I was one of those students considered “dead weight.” My guidance counselor told me not to even bother applying for college because I’d be lucky if I graduated from secretarial school. When I walked down the aisle to take my Master’s degree I thought about that teacher and wished I knew where he was so I could stick my degree in his face.

    I wish I had a teacher more like you when I was in high school, maybe I wouldn’t have struggled as much.

    • BTW: I am shameless when it comes to getting students to succeed. I let one girl do a final project about hairstyles through the decades (she still ended up with a D). And I’ve had tears in my eyes when I told certain students “If I have to give you an F at the end of the year it’s going to break my heart. Do you want to break my heart?”

  2. Indigo Spider says:

    Oohh, shameless manipulation! But, whatever works, right? Sometimes all a student needs is to know that someone cares enough for them to do well.

  3. You hit the target! The power of a kid KNOWING YOU CARE! (You can be shameless, but you can’t fake it… don’t ever try the deep meaningful “I care about you” — they have to see it in your actions.)

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