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Tag Archives: Teacher

“Half Nelson” teaches a truth about K-12 education in the US

What causes a dedicated and charismatic teacher to become addicted to crack cocaine—to become burned out and a victim of drugs and/or PTSD?

The answer is not broken schools, teacher unions, or incompetent teachers, but a dysfunctional culture and society demanding through laws and legislation that teachers fix the problem or be accused of failure.

While critics of public education often play the political game by blaming teacher unions and so-called incompetent teachers (even though there are no reputable studies or evidence to prove these alleged claims), few seem to care about what Forbes reported in High Teacher Turnover Rates are a Big Problem for America’s Public Schools.

In March 2011, Forbes reported, “NCTAF’s findings are a clear indication that America’s teacher dropout problem is spiraling out of control. Teacher attrition has grown by 50 percent over the past fifteen years. The national teacher turnover rate has risen to 16.8 percent.  In urban schools it is over 20 percent, and, in some schools and districts, the teacher dropout rate is actually higher than the student dropout rate.”

Forbes says, “Teachers cite lack of planning time, workload, and lack of influence over school policy among other reasons for their decision to leave the profession or transfer schools.”

 

And if you think Charter Schools are any better, you may be surprised to discover what The Washington Post reported, “Teacher turnover, which tends to be alarmingly high in lower-income schools and districts, has been identified as a major impediment to improvements in student achievement.”

The Washington Post said, “The authors (of a study) find that the odds of charter teachers exiting are still 33 percent higher than those of regular public school teachers. There is an even larger difference in secondary schools, where charter teachers are almost four times more likely to leave.”

Half Nelson reveals a primary reason so many teachers quit even if they have the so-called job protection of tenure (a report from the public schools of North Caroline says about a third that quit annually have that so-called precious tenure critics complain of).

Why would someone with such an easy, kick-back job with labor union protection quit?

Dan Dunne (played by Ryan Gosling) is a young, urban, middle school, inner-city history teacher taking drugs to make it through the nights and weekends but during the weekdays he is a popular teacher—the kind that  students see as a role model.

I identified with this movie. For thirty years, I taught in public schools surrounded by barrios infested by teen street gangs that had been around for generations. I witnessed drive by shootings from my classroom doorway, riots between gangs, grieved with my students when kids were shot down in the streets never to return to school, and a year didn’t go by that some gang banger that was also a student in one of my classes didn’t threaten me by asking what I would do if a gang jumped me.

Half Nelson brings us closer to that world and reveals another reason why so many teachers quit and never return to the classroom.

If you want to discover the truth about many of America’s schools and why teachers and possibly many students drop out, I suggest you watch this movie that the odds say you haven’t seen.

If the average ticket price of a movie in 2006 was $6.55, and Half Nelson earned $2.7 million in North America, that means less than 500 thousand people saw the film and there are more than 314 million Americans that did not see it.

Maybe most Americans do not want to know the truth, because many parents would have to accept the blame for illiterate and/or failing students. Parenting is a serious job—not a game.

Discover a film with a clear political agenda against teacher unions

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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Modern-Day Witch Hunts and Vigilantes — the politically-correct Mob’s (sex) War against Teachers – Part 3/6

According to About.com, eighteen is a magic birthday, a milestone into adulthood accompanied by great privileges as well as serious legal implications. At 18, a teen can vote, buy a house or wed his high school sweetheart (however, if Jordan Powers’ mother has her way, that list will not include former teachers). Once one is eighteen, he or she can also go to jail, get sued, gamble away his or her tuition via online poker, and make terrible stock market investments – just like anyone else that is the same age or older. That’s because an 18-year-old is considered an adult in nearly every state in the union (except for the mother of Jordan Powers).


Young Women – Older Men

To prove the fact that teachers are discriminated against, on Snopes.com message board you will discover comments that provide evidence of this double standard that has plagued teachers in the United States for more than a century.

It isn’t as bad as it was a century ago, but the discrimination against teachers still exists and may be getting worse.

For example at Snopes.com (find the link in a previous paragraph), you will read: “When my grandmother married my grandfather in 1928, she resigned her position because ‘married women could not teach school'” … “A schoolteacher must never be seen patronizing a tavern or ale house.” … “Some of the articles I dug up quoted people who maintained that they had female relatives who, as late as the 1950s, had to resign their teaching positions when they got married.” Source: Snopes.com

In fact, when I first started teaching in 1975, the Southern California school district where I worked did not allow dating between teachers that worked at the same school, and if two teachers working at the same school did marry, one of them had to transfer to another school in the district. Later, in the 1980s, that rule was abolished.


Older women looking for younger men.

In the first half of the 20th century, the Lewis Country Board of Education in West Virginia adopted the following policy: “That no married woman will be employed by the Board to teach during the school year 1934-35, and if it is discovered that any lady teacher was married at the time of her appointment or gets married at any time during the school term, her position will immediately be declared vacant.” Source: wvculture.org

These examples prove that America has always had a double standard where teachers are concerned, and it is obvious that James Hooker is a victim of this discrimination, which is similar to how many loving gay/lesbian couples are often treated by many mainstream, average Americans (according to the latest US Census data, about 132,000 same-sex couples are married in the United States, while 515,000 are unmarried but live together).

Continued on April 14, 2012 in Part 4 of  the Mob’s War Against Teachers or return to Part 2

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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).

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5His 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

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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Modern-Day Witch Hunts and Vigilantes — the politically-correct Mob’s (sex) War against Teachers – Part 1/6

When the media erupted in its usual ‘Yellow Journalism‘ fashion after James Hooker (age 41) quit his job as a public school teacher, and left his wife and children to shack up with former student Jordan Powers (18), my first thought was that he was going to be the victim of a witch hunt, because there is a double standard when it comes to teachers.

And I was right.

According to the law in California, 18 is the age of consent where one is considered responsible for his or her own decisions and actions in life.

For example, at 18, one may join the military and die for America.

That’s what I did after I graduated from high school, but I didn’t die. After Marine Corps boot camp, at the age of 19, I was sent to South Vietnam, where 58,269 American troops were killed in combat and 153,303 were wounded of the 2.6 million US troops that served there. The average age of a soldier in Vietnam was 19, and more than eleven thousand under the age of 20 were killed.

Why aren’t more mothers protesting this choice by their adult children?

For Powers, when she turned 18, instead of joining the Army or Marines to fight/die in Afghanistan or another foreign country, she chose to live with Hooker, her former teacher from an earlier school year. She dropped out of school and he quit/lost his job, which is what happens to most public school teachers that have an affair with a student that is age 18 or older. If the student is under age 18, the older teacher usually ends up in jail.

However, now a Republican California legislator by the name of Kristin Olsen has introduced Bill 1861 to make it a felony for a teacher to have a romance with a student, even if the student is over 18.

In fact, Mercury News.com reported, “Power’s mother … continues to lobby for a bill introduced by Modesto Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen that would make it a crime for high school teachers to date students of any age.”

In addition, there are currently 23 states that make it a felony for a teacher to date a high school student even if the student is 18 or older.

No wonder America has more people in prison than any other country in the world. If California’s Bill 1861 becomes a law, it will focus only on teachers. This means if Powers moved in with a 41 year-old fireman, policeman, used car salesman, lawyer, doctor or a corporate CEO, while she was still a senior in high school, that would be legal.

If Bill 1861 passes in the state legislature, an eighteen-year-old high school student such as Powers may have a boyfriend age 18 or older, and change them daily as long as the man isn’t a public school teacher.

By focusing on teachers, Bill 1861 is discriminatory. Leaving his wife and children at age 41 and giving up his job to live with an 18 year old might be poor judgment on Hooker’s part, but it is not illegal and never should be no matter the opinions of mothers or others.

In fact, The Economist published a piece on this topic called Rough Justice in America—Too many laws, too many prisoners. Never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little.

The Economist reported, “Justice is harsher in America than in any other rich country… America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan… Half the states have laws that lock up habitual offenders for life. In some states this applies only to violent criminals, but in others it applies even to petty ones. Some 3,700 people who committed neither violent nor serious crimes are serving life sentences under California’s ‘three strikes and you’re out’ law.”

Currently in California, a teacher can only be charged with a felony for engaging in a relationship with a student who is under 18 years of age.

Did you know that 60% of public school teachers leave the profession in the first five years and never return?  If California’s Bill 1861 becomes a law, that will be one more reason to stay away from the classroom because too many laws makes it a very risky profession—anger a student or a student’s mother, lose a job and possibly go to jail for a long time—all in the name of love with a consenting adult.

Continued on April 12, 2012 in Part 2 of the Mob’s War against Teachers

_______________________

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

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5His 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

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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The American Teacher “is not” Waiting for Superman – Part 1/2

The documentary “American Teacher” focused on the low pay of teachers when compared to their peers working in the private sector with similar educational backgrounds, and the back breaking demands on most teachers (working an average 60 hours or more a week – for example, I often worked a 100 hour week often starting at 6AM when the gates to the school were unlocked and staying as late as 11:00 PM when the alarms were turned on and the gates locked).

While the film was not perfect because it didn’t mention the role of parents and other pressures teachers face, it offered a more realistic view of education in America than “Waiting for Superman” did.

Points made that many of the critical reviews of this documentary ignored were:

1. 46 percent of public school teachers leave the profession within the first five years of being in the classroom.

2. Salaries and stress are among the top reasons teachers say they leave.

3. 62 percent of our nation’s teachers must have second jobs outside of the classroom-like tutoring, mowing lawns, selling stereos, or bartending—to be able to afford to teach.

From a few positive reviews of “American Teacher” —

Mark Phillips of the Washington Post said, “A film about education that gets it exactly right… Powerful and compelling. Every policymaker should be required to see American Teacher”

Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News said, “This heartbreaking and essential look into the lives of those who put so much into educating other people’s children ought to be seen by everyone concerned about the fate of the public school system, and the nation as a whole.” – “Sobering and powerful.” – Ernest Hardy, Village Voice

Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times said, “A heartfelt, bittersweet portrait.”

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said, “As we watch the individuals in American Teacher struggle with the burdens of the system places on them, it’s hard not to feel like crying, both for them…and our national culture.”

Note: I also spent thousands of dollars for educational materials over the years that I taught, and for a few years, I also worked a second job to pay the bills in addition to working summers in jobs such as construction, since I wasn’t paid as a teacher during the ten weeks of the summer break.

Continued on April 2, 2012 in The American Teacher “is not” Waiting for Superman – Part 2

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

Graphic OCT 2015

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The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 4/5

It is a fact that misery loves company and when the accountants, carpenters, clerks, plumbers, reporters, salesmen, and secretaries and many other professions in the private sector read the Yellow Journalism in Don Thompson’s Associated Press [AP] piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny, many of these people in the private sector will say, “It isn’t fair. If we have to work longer and suffer, so do they.”

In fact, that is already happening. Due to pressure from the private sector, this has led to: “Earlier in New Jersey, part of a legislative deal struck between Democrats and Republicans raised the normal retirement age from 62 to 65,” AP’s Thompson wrote.

In addition, “An initiative circulating for California’s 2012 state ballot seeks to increase the minimum retirement age to 65 for public employees and teachers and to 58 for sworn public safety officers.” [California’s teachers may retire at 55 now but those that retire early also will earn about 30% of gross pay and most will have to go without medical coverage.].

I know where the money comes from that funds CalSTRS. Part of it was from the monthly contribution from my paycheck for thirty years and when I retired, the taxpayer money that was used to pay me as a teacher stopped.

Moreover, I was a public school teacher in California for thirty years but I do not qualify for Social Security.  I also retired without medical benefits because I was unwilling to pay $1,400 a month for COBRA insurance until I qualified for Medicare.


The Teacher Pension Blues” tells the story AP’s Don Thompson did not!

On the other hand, when given a choice, many private sector employees do not save toward retirement other than Social Security. Many do not put money into 401k plans or pay into tax deductable IRAs.  Many that own homes take out equity loans to finance vacations, purchase new cars, pay off credit card debts, or to have money to go on spending sprees.

The result is that the average family in America cannot afford to retire as early as many public employees that paid into employer-based defined benefit pensions.

For example, total U.S. consumer debt was $2.43 trillion as of May 2011. Average credit card debt per household with credit card debt: $15,799. Average total debt in 2009 (including credit cards, mortgage, home equity, student loans and more) for U.S. households with credit card debt: $54,000. Source: Credit Card.com

As for me, instead of paying into Social Security while I taught, I paid 8% of my gross monthly pay for thirty years into CalSTRS, and the school district where I taught contributed a matching amount of about 8%.

To force public educators in California to work more years may cost more than it will save.

When I retired, the school district stopped paying me and saved the tax payers money since most teachers that retire after teaching 30 years or more are replaced by younger teachers that are paid much less.

Keeping older, higher paid teachers longer will only cost the taxpayer more in the long run since those same teachers that are working longer will end up with a larger monthly pension check since the longer a teacher spends in the classroom, the larger the pension.  [Note: Part 1 explains how this works.]

In fact, I know three teachers that worked more than 42 years in the classroom and all three retired with a raise, while my annual retirement is about half of what it was the last year I taught.

Continued on December 19, 2011 in Part 5 or return to The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 3.

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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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Blind, Deaf, and Dumber to the facts and doomed to fail — Part 4/4

Since so many Hispanic/Latinos and African-Americans live in poverty, you may believe poverty is the problem, and the facts support this progressive politically correct opinion. After all, in 2010, the National Poverty Center reported, “27.4% of blacks and 26.6% of Hispanics/Latinos were poor, compared to 9.9% of non-Hispanic whites [caucasions] and 12.1% of Asians.”

If you support  this “politically correct” opinion, think again as we visit one “tiny” rural Kansas school district.

Liz Goodwin writes in The Lookout, “The average student at the Waconda school district of 385 kids scores better than 90 percent of students in 20 developed countries on math and reading tests, according to The Global Report Card, published in the journal Education Next.

In Waconda school district, “Most of the students are white, and no kids need English language learning classes.”

However, 65% of these white students qualify for free or reduced federal lunches, which is an indication that they live in poverty.

The formula for success in the Kansas Waconda school district is that “almost every parent shows up for parent-teacher conferences at the elementary school level and participation stays high in the older grades as well.

[Note—the public school where I taught (1975 – 2005) always had more than 70% Hispanic/Latino students, and less than 10% of parents came to parent-teacher conferences annually]

In addition, the district keeps its pre-kindergarten to third grade classes “very” small so the teachers may deal with a lot of problems quickly and early in child development.

A third difference is that the district keeps an assessment card of each student and that card follows the child from grade to grade. The card lists skills the state expects each child to master in each subject and teachers update the cards continuously.

Another factor is that this small Kansas district does not follow education trends. “We don’t believe in the next biggest thing or the next biggest theory,” the superintendent, Jeff Travis, said, “We’ve not made any major changes.”

[Note: the public schools where I taught in Southern California implemented many of the biggest theories and these education trends often made my job as a teacher more difficult and the situation worse]

In conclusion, according to Robert Weissberg, “Regardless of geography, everybody, white, black, and brown, knows what a bad school is — a school dominated by poor black and Hispanic students.”

However, it doesn’t matter if one is an American conservative, moderate or liberal, few muster the courage to speak this truth even when that truth is supported with solid facts.

Return to Blind, Deaf and Dumber to the facts and doomed to fail – Part 3 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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Revealing the Uncouth Fraud One-Step at a time among Public Education’s Critics – Part 2/2

The second of the TOP 5 REASONS MANY TEACHERS QUIT  was “unreasonable, much-too-heavy workloads”. [Source: Patty Inglish at Hub Pages]

[Note: teachers are often required to contact parents daily since most parents of failing students do not contact teachers. This seldom results in any changes among failing students because the home environment and lifestyle is usually the reason students are failing.]

Number 3 was poor general working conditions.

[Note: I’ve written about working in poor conditions in several posts such as Bookies Dream, Old Faithful and Chewing Gum, Teaching With Pain, Pollution and People, Sewer Teaching is a Smelly Art, and HEPA Filters Do Not Work Miracles]

Number 4 was “Too much responsibility for accountability scores on No Child Left Behind and other standardized testing and accountability initiatives was listed as another major reason to quit.

Last, Inglish wrote, “Teaching was no longer rewarding, emotionally or fiscally, since raises in pay were denied when students’ scores were not raised high enough. Some teachers were fired for this and others quit. All this created problems regarding unfair terminations with the teachers’ labor unions and growing bad blood between teachers and their unions with administrations.

Inglish says, “One -fifth, or 20%, of public school teachers that had no previous full-time teaching experience quit in the school year 2004-2005. Overall, 65% of former public school teachers report that they are better able to balance work and personal/family life since they quit teaching. Before quitting, nearly all their time was spent on such things as rewriting lesson plans, purchasing their own supplies, and working unpaid overtime hours without additional needed training.”

[Note: as I’ve said before, my work weeks ran between 60 to 100 hours for the same monthly salary I would have earned if all I did was teach the 25 to 30 hours a week I spent with students.]

Return to Revealing Uncouth Fraud One-Step at a time among Public Education’s Critics – Part 1

______________

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 “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column, click it and then follow directions.

 

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