“Don’t squander time, for that is what life is made of.”
As regular readers know, I retired at the end of the chaotic 2019-2020 school year. Recently, I noticed my lesson plan website has been purged from my past school district’s web presence, as is the inevitable fate of all websites no longer relevant. Such is the way of things. Once you’re retired, you’re no longer part of the day-to-day concerns of those left behind. On that website, prominently featured, was an invitation to parents. I’ll reconstruct it as best I can:
Parents are always welcome in our classroom. It’s your classroom too, and I encourage you to come in anytime. You’ll have to stop by the office to get a visitor’s pass, and I encourage you to call ahead so you don’t drop in when the kids are doing nothing but writing or reading. I’ve discovered most people don’t find that nearly as fascinating as English teachers, but again, come anytime!
Sadly, in my entire career, not a single parent took advantage of that sincere invitation. I’m sure it was mostly because they work, and I hope, because they were confident I wasn’t wasting their kid’s time. I posted that aphorism at the beginning of the year as a reference point. After discussing that, and adding “squander” to their vocabularies, I assured them I would never waste their time, unlike the teacher—probably teachers—in this article at PJ Media from Matt Margolis:
Do you need another reason to homeschool your kids? You’re about to get one.
On Saturday, a teacher in Philadelphia started a thread on Twitter lamenting that the virtual-classroom model for school might prevent teachers from having “honest conversations about gender/sexuality” with students because parents might be listening.
‘So, this fall, virtual class discussions will have many potential spectators — parents, siblings, etc. — in the same room. We’ll never be quite sure who is overhearing the discourse. What does this do for our equity/inclusion work?’ tweeted Matthew R. Kay, a founding teacher at Science Leadership Academy (SLA).
‘How much have students depended on the (somewhat) secure barriers of our physical classrooms to encourage vulnerability? How many of us have installed some version of ‘what happens here stays here’ to help this?’ he continued.
I’m speechless. Well, actually, I’m not. I invited parents to my classroom because I didn’t waste the time of my kids. I taught English, and there was never—never—enough time to teach them everything I ought. The idea of teaching anything other than my discipline did not cross my mind, because I had so little time, and less every year, to teach what they and their parents were depending on me to teach.
Kay’s big concern is indoctrinating kids about sexuality.
‘While conversations about race are in my wheelhouse, and remain a concern in this no-walls environment — I am most intrigued by the damage that ‘helicopter/snowplow’ parents can do in honest conversations about gender/sexuality,’ he added. ‘And while ‘conservative’ parents are my chief concern — I know that the damage can come from the left too. If we are engaged in the messy work of destabilizing a kids [sic] racism or homophobia or transphobia — how much do we want their classmates’ parents piling on?’
“Piling on?!” Mr. Kay obviously needs a lesson in the responsibilities and limits of his employment contract, in the employment contract of any teacher.
While this is obviously just one Twitter thread, are we really expected to believe there aren’t a significant number of other teachers with the same concerns—that their attempts to brainwash kids with leftist propaganda will be hampered by the virtual class model during the pandemic? Kay even acknowledged this by asking how many teachers have some version of a ‘what happens here stays here’ policy in their classrooms.
“What happens here stays here?!” Mr. Kay apparently thinks himself the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. During my Air Force police days, a wise old sergeant—he was actually in his early 40s, but that was old to me then—told me not to do anything I’d be ashamed to tell my mother. That’s a good aphorism for teachers as well. I doubt Mr. Kay has any shame, but he obviously understands he’s doing things he should not be doing, things that could—and should—get him into deep trouble. And who is Matthew Kay? Sadly for my chosen profession, and for his students, he’s an English Teacher. Here’s his entry on the Science and Leadership Academy faculty webpage:
Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s page:
Do you feel prepared to initiate and facilitate meaningful, productive dialogues about race in your classroom? Are you looking for practical strategies to engage with your students?
Inspired by Frederick Douglass’s abolitionist call to action, ‘it is not light that is needed, but fire’ Matthew Kay has spent his career learning how to lead students through the most difficult race conversations. Kay not only makes the case that high school classrooms are one of the best places to have those conversations, but he also offers a method for getting them right, providing candid guidance on:
*How to recognize the difference between meaningful and inconsequential race conversations.
*How to build conversational “safe spaces,” not merely declare them.
*How to infuse race conversations with urgency and purpose.
*How to thrive in the face of unexpected challenges.
*How administrators might equip teachers to thoughtfully engage in these conversations.
With the right blend of reflection and humility, Kay asserts, teachers can make school one of the best venues for young people to discuss race.
In being a self-imagined expert on gender and sexuality as well, it appears Mr. Kay has branched out a bit. As regular readers know, I too am an author. I displayed a copy of my book in my classroom, but did not spend any time in my class discussing it or the great many issues of the day upon which it touches. I just didn’t have the time, and so doing would have been academic malpractice, fraud even. I was hired because of my knowledge and expertise in teaching English. My employers—the people of my community—entrusted their children to me and expected me to teach them literature, reading, writing and how to think more effectively. They did not want me to teach them what to think—that’s political indoctrination—but how to think, which of course includes learning to discover the meaning of what they’re reading and writing.
Teaching kids about sexuality? Gender? Race? Not only were those subjects far afield from what I was hired and expected to do, trying to indoctrinate the kids on those subjects would be boundary violations. That’s the territory of their parents, who not only have every right and power to determine what is taught in the classrooms for which they pay, but the responsibility to know what is being taught.
As Matt Margolis suggests, there are surely a great many teachers across the nation doing the same thing. I occasionally write about those that come to my attention. And while I don’t believe education is in an Earth-shattering crisis as some portray it, this kind of academic fraud is not helpful in encouraging the public to believe their local teachers are dedicated professionals worthy of being entrusted with their children.
Mr. Kay is black, and since I do not know him, it’s difficult to make any judgments about his character. However, it would appear he is a black English teacher—when he bothers to teach English—rather than an English teacher who happens to be black. Perhaps he would sincerely argue it’s the job of all teachers to do as he does, but if so, who is going to teach their disciplines?
Are Mr. Kay’s principals aware of what he is doing? Do they support an English teacher taking irreplaceable class time teaching anything other than English? It would appear Mr. Kay has far more interest in D/S/C race, gender and sexuality hustling than in teaching English. The parents of his school should see that he has the opportunity, at the earliest opportunity, to engage in his chosen field of interest at an institution established for that purpose. He’s obviously not teaching English.