I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Overwhelmingly Positive Reaction to PNJ Viewpoint on School Discipline, Part I

With the publication of the viewpoint op-ed on discipline that ran in Sunday's paper, came an overwhelmingly positive response.  I've been called, emailed, and spoken to in person by many persons affiliated with our schools, and the only thing I can surmise is that with the publication of this piece, I have struck an exposed nerve in the district.  Like a bolt of lightning hitting an umbrella, this piece has started a conversation.  Along with these numerous emails, phone calls, and personal expressions of thanks for writing this piece, I have also had friends of friends contact me through third parties, thanking me for writing this and speaking the truth.  On the PNJ site, the story has been "shared" more than 110 times--that is a lot of facebook walls that this story appeared on!   Some of the hardest hitting responses:

"Thank you for your spot-on editorial.  My elementary classroom has been disrupted by students who know their misbehavior is tolerated with no real consequences.  Hopefully your voice of reason will become the norm."

..wrote one elementary school teacher.

"Dear Jeff, I would venture to say that you will receive a "landslide" of response to your article. It is extremely accurate in that strict discipline should apply to all children regardless of a child's circumstances, with some exceptions of course. Those, who are advocates of "sparing the rod", will live to regret it. There is probably much regret now."

..wrote an interested community member and parent

I strongly agree with your PNJ piece.... i.e. disruptive kids do not belong in a classroom.  
long ago while waiting to do six months Army reserve training I sub taught at middle and high schools. I soon saw there were always a few "students" that were disruptive and ruined the classroom learning ambience for the rest. It seemed obvious all would benefit if the disruptive few were allowed to leave the classroom...Years later when my son was navigating the Pensacola school system much remained the same.... a disruptive few were allowed to screw others by their presence. When I mentioned this to administrators I got the same response. It was school policy to try to keep all kids in class regardless of their interest or ability to learn what was being presented."

....Wrote a parent 

"You could not be any more correct in your logic and presentation than was printed in your VIEWPOINT.
Working in the district for 39 years and seeing "discipline" become a matter of laughter among students, I wish to let you know how much I appreciate your words and efforts. Trying to sweep back the tide seems impossible, but maybe enough effort directed toward students to adhere to rules, self-discipline, pride may yield positive results.  Schools in many cases are warehouses for young criminals, Mothers are allowed to claim their criminal spawn for financial benefit as long as that individual is enrolled. Special education classes often are the worst case scenario, in that a plethora of exemptions allow these criminals to circumvent the rules "normal" student may adhere to.
Racism is the catch word for any and everything for those not wishing to adhere to civilized behavior. Following closely behind is the word poverty. XXXXXXX  XXXXXXX by and large perform and excel because of family and personal honor and commitment to make the best possible out of what is available. Check any school...XXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXX or any XXXXXX child is not a problem to be dealt with. If so, rarely!
At the end of my career...last ten years or so was spent at XXXXXXXXX after completing my sentence at the Gulag XXXXXXXXXXXXX. Sentence was imposed for questioning and challenging XXXXX XXXXXX and others as to spending of Federal money...waste, fraud and corruption. Branded as negative and not a team player, demoted from XXXXXXXXX to XXXXXXXXX at The XXXXXXXXXXX. ;) Keep the course and let me know if I may be of assistance in your effort."

...Wrote a retired 39 year veteran teacher

To say you 'hit the nail' on the head is an understatement...for the past two years I have said repeatedly to any one that will listen, "We are creating the thugs and criminals of the future," in the county.   I used to love my job, the kids, and even the extra effort that must go into each day.  I am sad to say I do not feel this way anymore.  Our district is in major need of an overhaul. 

 Administration does a poor job of providing resources and materials in a timely manner.  They seem to rule our schools as the King of England tried to rule the colonies - from afar.  They have no idea what goes on and what has to go on each day in order for a real teacher to do his/her job. It is as though the left hand and right hand are not in communication, let alone the same page.   Parent accountability is null in every facet of education.  It seems that the state dumps on teachers, the district dumps on teachers, and more this year than in years past, the parents dump on teachers. The demands being placed on a classroom teacher are having the opposite effect of what they were intended in my opinion.  When one feels unappreciated, taken for granted, and all authority is stripped, but the responsibility in many cases is multipliedit is a recipe for failure.  Not to mention the learning environment in hindered by one or more students who will not follow rules and procedures.  Personally, this year I have had two different phone conversations with two different parents of students in my class who have told me they do not care what I do, where I put the child, it is not their problem, it is MY problem, but I am not to bother them on their job.  While at the same time I am being told by administration, I am expected to work it out with the parent.  All the while I am supposed to be running a classroom where learning is fun, the students are engaged and active, and I am able to provide feedback. ..  It's not only disheartening and frustrating, I feel like a total and complete failure at the end of the day.   At my school this year alone, teachers are openly disrespected, verbally and physically abused, and have no recourse or help.  Students remain in the room and continue daily to set a tone not only for the testing environment, but for the learning environment.  One would think learning and testing environments would be valued equally.  The past two years, I haven't been able to focus on learning.  At my school, we are simply in survival mode, hoping that we (as a whole) make it through each day without being forced to deal with a real life tragedy situation.  Through the rumor mill, it has been said that on several occasions students have brought weapons on to the campus.  Faculty members were never given this information.  Faculty would be a major line of defense, but if we are not aware, we cannot be vigilant in keeping our students and faculty safe.   
My primary purpose for writing is to ask, what can teachers do now that you have put the information out to the public? Writing a referral has become a joke, because you can write it, but until someone chooses to do something with it, it's still a piece of paper.   
I appreciate your acknowledgement of these issues more than you will ever know....

...wrote another district teacher

I have had subsequent conversations with several other teachers and support employees in the wake of the publication of this piece, and some of what I'm hearing and learning is absolutely stomach-turning.  We have a massive discipline  issue that must be addressed, otherwise our schools will continue to struggle academically--we cant keep fixing the carpet and drywall while ignoring the gaping hole in the roof.

Lack of discipline enforcement is the gaping hole in our school district's roof so far as I can tell.

  I'll document the gist of these verbal communications in a follow-on post.


Gulagathon said...

Much of the time during my stint in teaching, I often felt alone, I felt nobody had my back, and when it came down to it, I was at the mercy of the students, and I HATED that. Why do the kids have all the power, and the adults have illusionary power. It was stated perfectly, you can write a referral, but will anything happen.. Most of the time, they'll tell you to try to relate more to the student, or some CRAP like that. Nobody has time for that!

The school I was at here in Escambia county, was a complete GULAG. It's a GULAG school system. The madness is certainly spreading. It sounds like more people are pissed off about this, and it makes me HAPPY.

Anonymous said...

Even if 1,000,000 people believe a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing.

Perhaps it takes the ability to see things abstractly -- in other words, to see how institutions perpetuate a problem instead of improve it -- to know why current policies, and a lack of trying alternatives (policies without using other methods) is the problem.

Another problem is the fact that stereotypes exist, not just racially charged stereotypes, but many kinds. Stereotypes effect our expectations of people or groups of people. For example, we may expect Asian kids to be smarter, and may be surprised that they aren't. Those stereotypical expectations play a role in our behavior and how we treat people, and often times it's unknown to even us.

We must have integrity to admit that we do have racial stereotypes that are harmful to minorities.

A teacher is more inclined to notice a black student than a white student. One benefit of cameras in classroom may be to prove that point.

The other problem is that veteran teachers are so caught up in a certain way of seeing an issue that they fail to think creatively about a situation.

Innovative, big picture thinking is needed, or else the south especially will stay behind.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous-what are you talking about? What is the one foolish thing? and are we, am I, supposed to set aside the dozens of teachers who have gone out of their way to contact me saying I got it exactly right, because you think they all have it wrong? I do not believe that your thought process is logical. You cannot believe in 2015 that institutionally entire school systems are targeting some minority students--if you believe that we may as well start a conversation about bigfoot being real. The fact of the matter is we have been treating too many kids with leniency, dictated downward from administrators that don't want to confront difficult decisions. Meanwhile, more and more teachers are caught in the middle and are leaving. So are parents and students with means. And we wonder why enrollments are stagnant and nobody wants to teach anymore. Strict, firm and fair discipline with one standard, evenly applied, is the solution---not chasing unicorns with a fanciful, delusional mindset that every public school employee is a racist. That is insane!

Anonymous said...

And the lack of interest in investing in alternative discipline programs is what keeps the district stagnant and not performing to its potential. It's not just setting policies, it's knowing how to implement them and knowing how to fill in the gaps between policies and programs. If investing in viable solutions isn't seriously pursued, the achievement gap will not close.

"You cannot believe in 2015 that institutionally entire school systems are targeting some minority students."

Your point implies that there is a *conscious intent* to target, but this is a misrepresentation of the issue. There are psychological, social, and historical factors at play that cause this effect -- which have greater control over our lives than we'd like to think. When you justify the fact that minorities are targeted more, by saying they do, just somehow, act worse, you aren't helping your position. It only shows you believe -- "for whatever reason" -- these minorities just can't get their act together. Is it really that they tend to be more disruptive, or are other factors at play -- factors that may be hard to discern?

There are reasons why minorities make up a greater proportion of the poor and a greater proportion of prisons. Even in a recent study, identical resumes were sent to employers, but the only difference was in the name. One name was a traditional white name, the other was a minority name -- Hispanic or Black. The resumes with the white names received a greater call back despite the similar resumes. It may be hard to believe, since we know consciously that racism is unwarranted, but our subconscious also plays an important role in our decisionmaking.

Another problem is that we have a preference for those who are similar to us, and tend to discriminate when we see difference, which is one reason why diversity IS important. When we only are exposed to people like us, it increases an in-group/out-group mentality and increases the likelihood of stereotyping.

I think the problem is that I have had several psychology courses that had study after study showing how our biases and stereotypes affect us without our even realizing it, whereas many people haven't had that exposure.

Psychology is just one factor and it plays a bigger role than people would like to think. Historical and cultural differences play roles too. Issues are complicated, yea.

If you're interested in understanding our subconscious brain, check out "Subliminal" by Leonard Mlodinow.

Anonymous said...

A personal example is this: I started as a sub, and for the first few weeks of subbing, I had trouble administering equal expectations on girls. That's the truth. I can't not all the reasons why, but I am sure it had to do with my gendertyping of females, that I should treat boys harder, that girls can't handle a stern look and maybe just need to be pulled to the side, etc. I've seen grown from that, I hope, but I definitely told others that I realized I treat boys and girls differently when they are doing the same things.

If you look at the stats, boys also tend to get more referrals too.

I think we tend to give more grace to cute little white kids hopping around in the back of class than we do with black kids just as we tend to show more grace to girls.

Again, it's an interplay of factors, but I emphasize psychology because it is definitely important to be aware.