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Substitute Teaching is not a “Tea Party”

During the 1976-77 school year, I subbed daily in a half-dozen school districts during the first semester.

Substitute teaching is not easy.

Whoever called first at five in the morning — that would be the school district where I taught.

I taught in Arcadia, Monrovia, San Dimas, Rowland and a few other Southern California school districts I’ve forgotten. Most of the time, I worked in Rowland Unified in La Puente, where I interned the previous year.

When some of the teachers in Rowland knew they were going to be out, they requested me in advance and my calendar quickly filled up.

After the Winter Break, I was called to sub at Romier Elementary for a fifth-grade class.


Watch the video and discover what it is like from another substitute teacher more than thirty years later.

The teacher had a heart attack and was in the hospital. Two weeks later, the principal offered me a long-term position for the rest of the year when the regular teacher died.

I consider that fifth-grade class as the one from Dante’s Inferno, and I worried that this would end in me losing my teaching credential while landing in jail for murder and mayhem.

I asked, “Why me?”

After all, there were many substitute teachers with more experience. This was my first year. However, I needed the job.

That’s when I learned that I had been the thirteenth substitute teacher for that class — not a good omen. The other twelve left after the first day and refused to return.

However, I survived two weeks and discovered why the regular teacher probably had his heart attack and died — a rather drastic way to escape those kids.  He should have quit or retired.

In addition, I knew why I had survived — a combat tour in Vietnam as a United States Marine had prepared me for this teaching job.


This video shows a substitute teacher that lost control. With students like these, I cannot blame her. Do you know that half of new teachers quit within three years and never return to education? This is one example that explains why.

That fifth-grade class had thirty students in it. Half the boys were hyperactive, which probably isn’t the politically correct term to call them but too bad since over the years, political correctness has become a language bully.

One boy, James, would attack anyone that stared at him for more than a few seconds. It didn’t matter if the student staring at him was a girl or a boy. He jumped the other students and his fists started flying.

James should have been America’s secret weapon in Vietnam.

Another example why it is so challenging to teach in America’s public schools may be found at Narcissism at its Best.

As a substitute teacher, it would have been nice to have a black belt in judo or karate. I knew one sub that did, and he started every a class with a demonstration of his skills to tame the wild beasts.

Once the class from Dante’s Inferno was mine, I moved the desks around to create a better arrangement for controlling the hyperactive gang.

I moved the teacher’s desk and placed two bookshelves behind it to form a space in a corner large enough to hold one desk so no one could make eye contact with James.


Another recent substitute experience.

The problem was, James wouldn’t sit still, and I had to keep my sonar turned on. When I sensed he was moving, I’d throw my arm up as if it were one of those arms at a railroad crossing to keep James from getting out and causing a train wreck with the other students he attacked.

At times, when it was too quiet in that cubbyhole hemmed in with bookshelves, I’d discover James on top of his desk spinning on his head like a top with his feet in the air.

If I saw any child from that wild bunch lifting a fanny off a chair, I’d fling myself across the room twisting my face into a Marine Corps drill sergeant‘s evil, killer mask.

“Don’t move another inch,” I’d say in a menacing tone that threatened bodily harm. There was never a dull moment. It was in that class that I perfected the killer sociopathic stare that would serve me well until 2005 when I was paroled from the classroom after thirty years.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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  Note: This revised and edited post first appeared as a three part series on January 31, 2010 in Substitute Teaching is not a “Tea Party” – Part 1

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Due Process – Part 2/4

Lawyers are extremely expensive and even if a teacher accused of a crime or of incompetence was innocent, without the union to pay legal fees, most teachers would be helpless victims.

In addition, legal assistance from the teachers unions is not automatic.  When a teacher is accused of being incompetent, and he claims to be innocent and goes to the local branch of the teacher union seeking help, legal experts that are retained by the NEA or AFT will usually consider if the case has merit.


You Pay for what You Get!

If the union’s legal experts feel the teacher deserves a defense, then the union will stand behind that teacher. What I mean by evidence may be twenty years of satisfactory evaluations by more than one administrator, which is often the case.

However, if the union’s legal experts say there is not enough evidence to defend the teacher, the union will not defend them.

I taught in the public schools for thirty years and know of cases where teachers went to the union and were denied legal support.  I also know of cases where the union’s legal experts ruled in favor of teachers and recommended the union assist them.

To demand that teachers accused of incompetence be fired without due process is undemocratic and un-American. If Wal-Mart can have its day in court when accused of discrimination, then teachers should have the same privilege when accused of incompetence.

How many teachers are we talking about that may be incompetent? A possible answer will appear in Part 3.

Continued on September 20, 2011 in Due Process – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

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Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 7/7

This post is the conclusion to a topic motivated by the August 2011, Costco Connection‘s debate between two education experts about teacher seniority.

The hours spent in the classroom with students are only the tip of the iceberg. Most teachers are in the classroom with students five or six hours each school day but the total hours worked may average much more.

For me, I averaged between 60 to 100 hours a week (with no overtime pay) for most of the thirty years I taught, which did not leave much time for other activities.

In addition, “Waiting for Superman” insinuated that most public school teachers are not highly educated. This is a ridiculous claim.

For example, when I became a teacher I already had six years of college with a BA in journalism, which included another year of training and classes to earn my teaching credential. Then, over the years, I was required to earn more than 20 quarter units thanks to state legislation increasing teacher requirements in addition to earning a MFA in writing.  Then there were endless workshops—some after school for a few hours and some lasting an entire workday.

By the time I retired, I had more than nine years of college and this does not count the seven years I attended writing workshops out of UCLA’s writing extension program. It is easy to claim that most teachers are lifelong learners.  Too bad we can’t say that of most students.

When I was teaching journalism in addition to several sections of English [for seven years of the thirty], I often arrived at 6 AM and left at 11:00 PM (that is a seventeen-hour day at school/work) when the night custodians turned on the alarms and locked the gates to the parking lot.  The student editors of the high school paper would have stayed longer (along with me) if the alarm had been left off.

In fact, the US was never a pioneer in public education as “Waiting for Superman” claims (find the truth in the March/April 2011 Foreign Policy magazine), and most factors that cause a child/teen to drop out of school has little if nothing to do with teachers. What influences children to drop out of school has more to do with street gangs, poverty, hunger, child abuse, parents [or lack of parenting, which is an epidemic in America today], being a latch key kid, the environment a child grows up in, and the lifestyle his or her parents provide

Sydney Morris, instead of stabbing dedicated teachers in the back by getting rid of the seniority system, why not use that youthful energy to fight for something worthy, such as demanding a public education system more like the one in Finland where teachers are supported and trusted to make the decisions.

Return to Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 6 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 5/7

A recent study by an expert in combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), studied teachers in a Texas public school district and discovered that one out of three teachers had PTSD.

If seniority is removed as the sole factor for deciding which teachers lose their jobs, then every teacher in America must be evaluated for PTSD (possibly every five years) and when a teacher is discovered to have PTSD (a job related disability), he or she should receive a disability and free counseling from the Veterans Administration, which is organized to deal with this mental disorder brought on by combat and/or repeated stress related experiences.

The question in the August 2011 Costco Connection was “Should Teacher layoffs be based on seniority?”

The results arrived in the September 2011 Costco Connection and the result reveals that more Americans have abandoned its teachers after special interests have turned them into scapegoats for the failure of students that do not study and parents that do not parent and a system that does not allow teachers to make the decisions as Finland does.

The result was 31% yes and 69% no.

I’m not surprised by the results. My wife and I saw the documentary “Waiting for Superman”, which is an indictment of the public schools and teachers in America and it was pure propaganda and extremely misleading. As usual, nowhere did it mention that students must be held responsible by parents to do homework and study when a teacher assigns work to be done at home.

“Waiting for Superman” claimed the US was once a pioneer in public education, which is a lie. Ben Wildavsky writing for the March/April 2011 Foreign Policy magazine blows that myth/lie apart, when he said “Even at the height of U.S. geopolitical dominance and economic strength, American students were never anywhere near the head of the class … the results from the first major international math test came out in 1967 … Japan took first place out of 12 countries, while the United States finished near the bottom.”

In addition, what “Waiting for Superman” doesn’t want you to discover is that in the 2009 PISA international test, America placed in the top 26% for Math, top 11% for Reading Literacy, and the top 20% for Science Literacy, which is a huge improvement from near the bottom in 1967.

In 1967, twelve countries were compared in Math, but in 2009, that number was 64 countries in three subjects.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, doesn’t ask questions when he or she is confused about a lesson [correct me if I’m wrong, but teachers cannot read minds], avoids class work, avoids homework, avoids reading assignments, will not read independently, will not study and/or misbehaves in class?

Is that the teachers fault?

Continued on September 9, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 6 or return to Part 4

____________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 3/7

In the August 2011 Costco Connection, Norm Scott, the founding member of the Grassroots Education Movement and one of the producers of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman”, said, “The fact that I was able to develop long-term relationships with parents, siblings and even children of former students, who were in my class, created a stable and secure environment for many of these students.”

I found this to be true.  Several years before I retired from teaching in 2005, I started to receive the children of former students that were now parents. Some of those former students had been a challenge to control and teach but maturity comes with age and by the time they were parents, they understood the value of an education and dedicated teachers.

My experience with the children of former students was always rewarding.

As a teacher that taught for thirty years and more than 150 classes (between 5,000 to 6,000 students), I had only one class where every student passed because so many studied and did the homework—one of more than 150.

Often, in most of the classes, when I walked around the room to collect homework, which reinforces the lesson I taught, of thirty-four students maybe three to five would turn the work in.

In addition, I made phone calls to parents as my friend does. Each day after school, I’d spend an hour or more calling parents asking them to make sure their children did the work assigned and studied or talk about a behavior problem.

Even with the phone calls to parents, few of the challenging students did the work and the bad behavior often continued.

I am at a loss why this fact never seems to come up in media discussions of public education. It is as if the entire burden of education rests with the teacher while the role of students and parents in the educational process is ignored or doesn’t exist.

One other factor is the stress that teachers often face daily.  When I was a U.S. Marine serving in Vietnam in 1966, we did not see action daily.  In fact, days might go by before we would go into the field on patrol, on a recon, an ambush, a field operation, or our camp would be hit.

In fact, thousands of public school teachers are phyiscally assaulted by students each school year and some end up in the hospital.

During the thirty years I taught, not a day went by that there wasn’t a behavior problem with a student. I witnessed drive by shootings from one of my classroom doorways once as school was letting out. On another evening when I was working late with the editors of the school newspaper, the member of one teen gang was gunned down outside my class by a rival gang, and not a year went by that I wasn’t threatened by a member of a street gang that was also a student in my class.

He would say, “What would you do if we jumped you, Mr. Lofthouse?”  This was one of those times when it paid to stand at six foot four and weigh 180 pounds without much fat while being a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.  I also had this cold-eyed “killer” stare.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, doesn’t ask questions when he or she is confused about a lesson [correct me if I’m wrong, but teachers cannot read minds], avoids class work, avoids homework, avoids reading assignments, will not read independently, will not study and/or misbehaves in class?

Is that the teachers fault?

Continued on September 7, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 4 or return to Part 2

____________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 2/7

In the August 2011 Costco Connection, Norm Scott, the founding member of the Grassroots Education Movement and one of the producers of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman”, said, “The biggest danger to education is turnover. Fifty percent of teachers leave within the first six years… Removing seniority rights would create an even higher turnover rate, those cost of which would be devastating—not only financially, but for students.”

In fact, I suspect if it weren’t for seniority, I would have lost my teaching job long before I finished my 30th year, and I would have been fired not because of the quality of my teaching but because I taught by ignoring some of the popular fads that teachers are forced to follow such as boosting self-esteem by inflating grades and dummying down the curriculum, which has caused more students to learn less than any incompetent teacher.

What happens when an excellent veteran teacher ends up with a class full of students that do not study or do homework? During the thirty years I taught, I had many students like this and was often told by administration that I made more phone calls to parents than any teacher at the high school where I taught.

A teacher’s lessons may be excellent but if students do not pay attention, study or do the homework and there is little or no parental support, the chances are those students will not learn much.

A former colleague and friend still teaching in a public high school said in a recent e-mail that he is demoralized because the students and parents do not care or support what he does in his classroom.

For an idea of how bad it can be, the administration at the high school where he teaches requires that teachers spend so much time contacting parents in an attempt to gain support that my friend had to hire a retired teacher at $25 an hour (out of his pocket) to correct work his students turned in so he could free up time at home weeknights and on weekends to call about 200 different parents to tell them about the assignments and to virtually beg them to make sure their children study and do the work that was assigned.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, does not ask questions when he or she is confused about a lesson [correct me if I’m wrong, but teachers cannot read minds], avoids class work, avoids homework, avoids reading assignments, will not read independently, will not study and/or misbehaves in class?

Is that the teachers fault?

Are there incompetent teachers?

Yes.

However, even “Waiting for Superman”, as propagandized and flawed as it is, admitted that studies show 7% of the teachers fit in this category (other studies say that number is only one percent). In the US, the average student probably has about 50 teachers from kindergarten to the end of high school.  Seven percent of fifty is less than 3.5, which leaves 46.5 teachers that were adequate or incredible.

Do we change the public education system and remove job security due to seven percent of the teachers?

Continued on September 6, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 1/7

If you believe every negative message you hear or read about public education in America, there is a strong chance you have been brainwashed by corporate and political propaganda. An example of this propaganda is the documentary “Waiting for Superman”.

In August, Costco Connection published a debate about teacher seniority between two education experts. Norm Scott, the founding member of the Grassroots Education Movement and one of the producers of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman”, said, “An experienced, seniority-based teaching force is essential for building a top-rated educational system,” and he was right.

The other expert, Sydney Morris, who was against seniority and looks like one of my former high school students, said, “We must send a strong message to both current and prospective teachers that performance matters. It’s only fair that we be judged on the quality of our teaching and the growth of our students, not just on our years in the system.”

However, the quality of teaching and the growth of students do not always go hand in hand. In fact, a highly qualified teacher could still have a significant number of students that do not learn. Many of the posts published in this Blog deal with a different reality than the one we often hear on the news, from special interest groups or from politicians stumping for reelection.

The reasons why many students do not learn has nothing to do with the quality of the teaching.

What I often find missing in most if not all of these debates such as this one is the responsibility of students and parents.  In Finland, one of the best unionized, public school systems in the world, the best teachers are placed with the students that need the most help and weak teachers with the best students. The philosophy is that highly motivated students that are at the top of his or her class will learn no matter how good the teacher is.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, doesn’t ask questions when he or she is confused about a lesson [correct me if I’m wrong, but teachers cannot read minds], avoids class work, avoids homework, avoids reading assignments, will not read independently, will not study and/or misbehaves in class?

Is that the teachers fault?

Continued on September 5, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 2

____________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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