Dealing with Dysfunction: A Review of “What It Is Like to Teach in Failing Schools,” Part 1

Nelson Rosit


What it is Like to Teach in Failing Schools: A Memoir, an Inquiry and a Critique (2016)
by A. Teacher

Even without the students present, a visitor familiar with middle-class White schools would notice that Atlanta’s “Fairfield Junior Academy” is different. Walking the halls he would observe that there were no lockers. “[W} e moved all the lockers into the classrooms because most of the fights and drug deals took place during transition time when students went to their lockers” (76). If the visitor was unfortunate enough to need the restroom, he might see “dried diarrhea on the walls and toilet in the bathroom stalls” (111). Venturing into a classroom he might encounter vandalized computers and locked file cabinets that had been broken into.

As the subtitle indicates, this book is part a memoir, part a scathing critique of the educational establishment that some call Big Ed. This reviewer has twenty years’ experience in secondary and tertiary education. Fortunately, I have not experienced many of the problems the author relates, at least not to the same degree. Thus some of the dysfunction A. Teacher (AT) describes is particular to his type of school — a failing junior high — while other problems are systemic and likely to be experienced by most public school teachers in America.

The reader might conclude from the opening paragraph that Fairfield in one of those neglected, underfunded minority schools one hears about. While it is a non-White school (70 percent Black, 27 percent Hispanic), it is not underfunded. “Our school was flushed with money” (12). There was plenty of technology — computers, iPads, smartboards, and printers in every room. There was also widespread theft and vandalism, plus poor maintenance of the facility.

American education is often top heavy with administrators. This is particularly true of urban schools. So, in addition to student misbehavior, a major complaint of Mr. Teacher was the reams of paper work and endless meetings his position required. These demands left little time for lesson planning, and made classroom management more difficult. Because every behavior issue needed to be thoroughly documented it was less likely a teacher would take action.

One way a bureaucracy insulates administrators from day to day problems is the put-it-in-writing strategy. A “Response to Intervention” form was required “to document every infraction a child commits, complete with where the incident took place, what preceded the incident, what the infraction entailed, and the consequences that followed” (89). Even with documentation teachers at Fairfield felt the administration did not support their efforts to maintain order.

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If contacting a parent was required additional documentation was needed. Every phone call to a parent needed to be reported,

a task that takes forever because parents always provide us with wrong numbers or numbers that have been cut off, [this] necessitates me going to a secretary who is very busy and getting her to unlock the student’s records and pull all the numbers of the student’s Auntie, her baby-daddy, her social worker, etc. What if, after all that the numbers are still wrong? Then I get to document that the numbers are wrong on an electronic form and email it to the (1) School Counselor (2) Parent Coordinator (3) Team Leader of that student (4) Grade-Level Administrator. (19)

In chapter three AT adds a bit of levity to his grim tale with a description of some of the characters who teach at a school such as his: The Burnout, an older teacher who started teaching decades ago before the school went downhill, is now just hanging on until retirement. The Homosexual, for a variety of reasons some homosexuals are drawn to minority schools. The Criminal, “convicted of a professional violation or actual crime,” he could get hired nowhere else. The Great White Mother, is an upper-middle class missionary to the poor. The Pissed-off Black Woman, is usually large and loud. “You got a problem with being loud?” The Substitute, Black schools use a lot of subs. Subs are often “hopeless,” and teachers “have no sympathy” for them. The Born Housewife, wants to be a stay-at-home mom, but cannot afford to.  The Foreigner, usually eastern European or Hispanic, they do not know what they’re getting themselves into. The First- Year Teacher, has that “deer in headlights” look. Failing schools have a high turnover rate, and a disproportionate number of first-year teachers (24-44).

The author has contempt for most so called educational experts who often have little classroom experience. In one chapter he directs his ire at academic coaches. He compares them to the political commissars of the old Soviet Union. The job of an academic coach is to propagate and enforce teacher fidelity to the ideology and practices advocated by Big Ed. AT believes these coaches waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars, and thousands of hours of teachers’ time. Their main effect is to demoralize the faculty.

Mr. Teacher has three degrees related to education, yet he was treated more like a wayward child than a credentialed professional. “[I] was reviewed up to eight times [a year] by five different administrators (some were from the district office). These reviews [were] separate from the reviews I received from the academic coach which were weekly” (95). Despite receiving a “needs improvement” rating, AT “had the best class scores on standardized tests in Language Arts in the whole school.” Meanwhile his principal treated him with “disrespect and malice” (96).  When an employee is closely supervised, and has little or no autonomy, it is an indication he is not in a professional position.

The motif that Mr. Teacher paints of Fairfield Middle School is one of disorder and disregard for both persons and property. These characteristics were on prominent display at a dance the author chaperoned. Teachers at his school were required to monitor four extracurricular activities a year. Dances were considered the worst assignments.

Out on the dance floor the students formed a knot with the girls grinding in the middle and the boys in a circle around them. “And what Atlanta’s budding scholars are doing is fingering girls’ vaginas, massaging their butts under their skirts and over their skirts, and cupping the girls’ breasts.”  Remember, this is middle school. “There were twelve-year-old students at this dance.” AT tells one of the nearest boys “to knock it off.” The response: “Man, f*ck you. Leave me alone before I bust yo’ dumbo-looking head!” (72). The cops finally broke up the dance.

This sort of behavior is an extreme example of a widespread problem. A. Teacher relates how even in places such as Gorham, Maine, schools have had to cancel dances due to lewd behavior. In other schools, where decorum is enforced, attendance at dances is way down because students cannot imitate the style of dancing they see via the mass media.

As mentioned above, failing schools have a high turnover of faculty. The same is true for administrators, and this exacerbates existing problems. Long-serving administrators “know what works and what doesn’t.” A certain amount of trust develops between faculty and administration leading to stability. Veteran teachers do not trust new administrators. When a new principal comes in he is likely to “repeat mistakes that have been made before” (77). A new administrator feels pressure “to implement change to justify his job” (78).

Throughout the book the author describes the extreme pressure he was under to achieve good behavioral and academic outcomes amid the violence and disorder. “The stress and fear I experienced mirror descriptions from warfare” (152). Part of this strain is the result of teacher bashing currently in vogue among some educational experts. Big Ed is desperate to close the racial achievement gap, and turn around failing non-White schools. Other remedies have not succeeded, so the fault must lie with the classroom teacher.[1] As one commentator put it, teachers today play the dual role of scapegoat and savior.

As with many erroneous theories, there is a kernel of truth in blaming the teachers. The classroom teacher is the most significant component in education. According to a Rand study: “When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership” (80). The missing information is that between 75–93 percent of student success is attributed to individual and family factors (including genetic differences that affect individuals’ educability as well as his or her family environment via passive g.e correlations).

Because the school has little or no control over what happens off campus, they put pressure on the most important factor they do control — the classroom teacher. The higher turnover rate of faculty and administration in failing schools means they have a less-experienced staff.  Many of the most promising teachers transfer to better schools where their efforts are more appreciated; many of those who stay feel they cannot get a comparable job elsewhere.

Being part memoir, this book includes some personal information on A. Teacher, though the reader might wish for more. Obviously the author wishes to remain anonymous, so his biography is sketchy. The readers’ biggest question is why AT continued at a job that caused such traumatic stress that his health deteriorated and his marriage floundered? “I took up smoking. It helped. I drank profusely. . . I couldn’t sleep. I tried prescription sleep aids . . . they made things worse” (151–152). The author mentions a $120,000 mortgage, vehicle payments, a wife and two children to support, the fear of letting his students down, and being unable to find another job. His attorney advised him “to quit teaching. If only I had listened to him” (155). His wife demanded he get another job. Yet he persisted for ten years. What is he doing now? Is he still teaching? Did his marriage end in divorce? We do not know.

Go to Part 2.


[1] Education historian Ray Wolters has described other failed strategies used to improve the academic performance of minority students including: large increases in per student expenditures, massive busing to achieve racial integration, and innovative teaching strategies. See “An Egalitarian Quest” The Occidental Quarterly, 15.4 (Winter 2015-2016) a review of Raymond Wolters, The Long Crusade: Profiles in Educational Reform, 1967-2014 (Arlington, VA: Washington Summit Publishers) 2015.

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21 Comments to "Dealing with Dysfunction: A Review of “What It Is Like to Teach in Failing Schools,” Part 1"

  1. VICB3's Gravatar VICB3
    February 11, 2017 - 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Just out of Graduate School with an MBA, I worked in South Central, Compton and Inglewatts as a Substitute while looking for a real (corporate) job. Yeah, there were the bright lights – usually the Hispanic girls – but they were few and far between. Mostly it was a combat zone where the best survival strategy was to:

    A) Become the Psychotic Fiend from Hell for the six hours you were there (but without actually killing somebody), difficult and stressful if you’re otherwise an affable and easygoing person.

    B) Never sub in the the same class or school two days in a row, if for no other reason than being a Substitute you’re expendable, and the (mostly) chickenshit and left wing racist administrators will write you up and get you fired so solve a problem if the equally anti-white parents decide to piss and moan. (Some exceptions were Dr. Ernest Cash and Dr. Helen Drye in Compton, but they were the shining exceptions.)

    That’s a thumbnail of course, and there are plenty of wars stories on tap. Suffice to say that when, after a few months, I started subbing in in the mostly mainstream Beach Cities of Redondo Beach and El Segundo, the pressure came off. For example, I had a Principal apologize for the the behaviour of a classroom in Redondo, and my reply was something on the order of: “What? Compared to what I’m used to, these kids are Angels!” They were country clubs, and at long last I could go home at the end of the day not feeling like I wanted to murder everybody out of hand.

    Anyway, the entire experience left me with a very bad taste in my mouth regarding Inner City schools and Public Schooling in general. If those schools are failing, it’s because you have a toxic and dysfunctional subculture that, amongst other things, doesn’t emphasis academic achievement and personal self control combined with a highly politicized bureaucracy that doesn’t want to make the hard choices lest they be castigated for political incorrectness.

    Just a thought.

    VicB3

  2. Fenria's Gravatar Fenria
    February 5, 2017 - 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Gods, this reads like a biography of my time as a student in Los Angeles inner city schools, as one of the few white kids left in changing neighborhoods. All of these things are so true, from the descriptions of the teachers and substitutes to the absolute ghetto nastiness at the dances, which I never attended.

    I think the best microcosm from which to view this situation is my seventh grade homeroom, where the ubiquitous gay white teacher is desperate to control a classroom of mostly blacks and Latinos, with a slight peppering of confused middle easterners and terrified whites. Two black girls start arguing about gods know what. One of them, named Fanta, yes, like the soda, is enormous and she picks up a desk with chair attached over her head and hucks it across the classroom at the other girl. The other girl whose ghetto hoodrat name escapes me today, 30 years later, turns to run, but is struck in the back with the corner of the desk. Instead of falling to the ground like, maybe, a normal person would, she develops some sort of super-sayan rage and charges at Fanta. They tangle on the floor, pulling at each other’s weaves as other black kids form a circle around them, cheering on one or the other. The Latino kids laugh and yell. The white and middle eastern kids sit like stones in our chairs, hoping none of the blacks pick a fight with us next, while the little gay teacher is on the intercom, desperately trying to get security into the classroom as fast as possible.

    And this went on day after day. The stories I have about inner city Los Angeles schools could fill a tome, and let me tell you one true thing: What goes on at these schools is NOT the fault of teachers, no matter how tired or broken they are. It is 100% the fault of students, their non existent parents, and the asinine home environments they’re raised in, along with the fact that the students causing the most destruction invariably have the collective IQ of a slug.

  3. John C.'s Gravatar John C.
    February 5, 2017 - 6:52 am | Permalink

    Well, it goes to show those who were opposed to the integration of schools were right all along. Before integration Black schools were lousy but at least White schools were good and White children could learn. Now not only Blacks have bad schools but Whites do as well, thanks to the Black “students”. The result? Nobody can learn. Another Liberal achievement.

    • February 8, 2017 - 11:28 am | Permalink

      An achievement? It was deliberate policy. Another Jewish policy – to damage white education. NOTHING to do with liberalism.

  4. Amasius's Gravatar Amasius
    February 5, 2017 - 1:22 am | Permalink

    People of the future will laugh at us so hard for ever believing in racial “equality.”

    • February 8, 2017 - 11:30 am | Permalink

      Sigh. Us? Believed in racial equality? If so, why would Jews have had to push legislation to force e.g. segregation? It was a deliberately damaging policy.

  5. February 4, 2017 - 8:41 pm | Permalink

    The breakdown in basic school learning began during the late 1960s and by the 1980s had taken hold in all so-called western democracies. It was a planned and systematic event orchestrated at all levels of education.
    Cultural Talmudic-inspired Marxism aimed to destroy the nation state and then ruthlessly to embrace internationalism/globalism/NWO that would exterminate the latest 500-year European civilizing influences.
    Juergen Graf’s book: White World Awake: Stopping The Planned Extermination Of Our Volk, details the horrors that Europe will find itself in, and what could possibly be done about – http://barnesreview.org/product/white-world-awake/

    On a parochial level such global impulses played itself out with tragic consequences to dedicated teachers. During the 1980s in Australia’s state, Victoria, there were over six thousand teachers on stress-related leave because they had been emasculated through detrimental legislation.
    If interested, read: The Boston-Curry Party – http://www.toben.biz/docs-2/

    • February 6, 2017 - 3:49 am | Permalink

      OT

      (Mod. Note: “Katana”, prefacing a totally off topic comment does not “excuse” the comment. Why even submit it? Why submit a comment which addresses a topic which TOO doesn’t address? Use your own site for a [redacted] discussion dumping ground, not TOO.)

      • February 10, 2017 - 7:33 am | Permalink

        (Mod. Note: “katana”, way too much of [redacted] in your comment. TOO is not about [redacted]. Adhere to that, and repost your comment. The TOO comment trashcan is emptied daily.]

    • February 8, 2017 - 11:40 am | Permalink

      Whatever the merits of Jürgen Graf’s book, ‘White World Awake!’, I note that neither Amazon.com or amazon.co.uk has a single review of the book. There’s no account of the contents, or any other information. Graf’s marketing department seems as slow off the mark as the average white. At least we, here, know it’s about a Eurasian agreement of some sort.

  6. Peter J's Gravatar Peter J
    February 4, 2017 - 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Here is an account of inner city teaching from the United Kingdom….

    • February 5, 2017 - 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Listening to Matthew Roberts, I remembered emailing the ‘Campaign for Real Education’ in October 2012:—
      .
      Dear Chris McGovern—
      I found your website (while searching on ‘Campaign for Racial Equality’ I think) and would like to pose a question. (If your organisation is no longer functioning, apologies).
      .
      In view of the fact that Jews have had a systematic long-term campaign to damage Britain through immigration and increased crime and (for want of a better word) perversions of various types, has the ‘Campaign for Real Education’ made any attempt to check for Jewish influences in movements which damage education?
      .
      For example, the ‘look say’ method may have been promoted by Jewish ‘gurus’; the downgrading of standards by e.g. Jewish ‘experts’ in education, publishing houses, and what have you; the faking of history by disallowing history teachers to teach wars etc except in ways approved by Jews; economics weakened by insistence on Jewish influences studiedly being ignored. (These examples are not of course intended to be exhaustive).
      .
      Since you’re presumably serious about the need for real education, obviously you must have considered this issue.
      Regards
      .
      — Obviously McGovern never replied.

  7. John's Gravatar John
    February 4, 2017 - 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Check out my question on Quora titled: “For three-quarters of America’s history, non-whites were largely kept out of the country. Was that constitutional?”

    https://www.quora.com/For-three-quarters-of-America%E2%80%99s-history-non-whites-were-largely-kept-out-of-the-country-Was-that-constitutional

    One guy gave a very good answer when he wrote:

    I can’t find any evidence of a Supreme Court decision ruling that racial discrimination is unconstitutional for immigration purposes.

    United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923) determined that it was legal to prevent the naturalization of an Indian on the grounds that he was not Caucasian. These policies seem to have been overturned only by legislation, not by Supreme Court decisions.

  8. John's Gravatar John
    February 4, 2017 - 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Check out the CNN article from a few years ago titled: “The Gap
    50 years after the Brown ruling”.

    http://www-cgi.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/presents/index.gap.html

    That’s where I learned that the average SAT score for black students from wealthy families (greater than 100,00 annual income) is worse than the average SAT score for white students from poor families (less than 30,00 annual income) . And if it’s incompetent teachers who are to blame for poor black test scores, they should go after the teaching programs that churn out these bad teachers.

  9. February 4, 2017 - 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I attended a ghetto school in Hampton, VA in the late 1970’s. It was pure hell. I saw several of my white classmates taken away in ambulances. Just going to the restroom was dangerous. I took a beating when a group of negroes blocked the exit and I had to fight my way out. No big deal. Just went to my next class.

    If the libtards were sincere, they would go spend some quality time in the hood. But we all know they are just virtue signaling from their all white neighborhoods and schools. I hate them more than the savages I went to school with. The savages were too dumb to know any better. The SJW’s don’t have that excuse.

  10. cecilhenry's Gravatar cecilhenry
    February 4, 2017 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

    As western countries are being forcibly diversified with unassimilable third-world populations, trust collapses and even the majority distrusts each other, suspicious that others who like like them could be part of the effort to replace a unified core with a mix of outsiders motivated by malice, spite, and envy of the majority.

    We need to keep saying it, loud and clear. The problem is diversity. Diversity is hell. WE have a right to live free of it.

  11. Pat Kittle's Gravatar Pat Kittle
    February 4, 2017 - 1:17 pm | Permalink
  12. Prester John T's Gravatar Prester John T
    February 4, 2017 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Roger Whittaker.
    The Last Farewell.

    • Jud Jackson's Gravatar Jud Jackson
      February 5, 2017 - 12:16 am | Permalink

      I hadn’t heard that lovely song for many years. Thanks for posting the link

  13. Junghans's Gravatar Junghans
    February 4, 2017 - 10:36 am | Permalink

    Blackboard interracial jungles, a’ joy’ that all congenitally naive Whites need to experience, close up, in Make-Believe-America. You absolutely have to ‘experience’ a Negro diploma mill in person in order to find out what “equality” and racial reality is all about. It really is amazing, (and frightening), how many deluded Whites continue to to swallow the “equality” kool aid, as long a the racial lies are repeatedly peddled to them in perfect English by the (((sophists))) of the warped system. Until more Whites endure Negro fatigue in person, they will continue to remain race stupid, (or hypocritically play dumb), until actually bitch slapped by feral Negroes.

Comments are closed.