, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sadly, this is no surprise:  

Democrats are all about censorship when the ‘wrong people’ are on the receiving end. Look no further than the Joe Rogan situation.

But with the growing parents’ movement and legislation being introduced in at least 12 states that would require curriculum transparency, now Democrats and their friends in the teachers unions are crying, you guessed it, ‘censorship.’

Currently, under federal law, parents are allowed to request a review of their child’s curriculum if their school is federally funded – meaning most, if not all, public schools.

But because schools are not required to post that curriculum online, Republicans and parents are pushing for bills to do just that.

Allowing parents and the public to see what is going on in public schools has some Democrats and teachers in a tizzy.

Indeed it does.  It’s time, once again, for me to put on my retired curmudgeon hat.  This, gentle readers, is the kind of teacher I was:

*I sent a monthly newsletter to the parents of all my students outlining exactly what we would be doing, including the titles of virtually all the literature we’d be studying—unanticipated events sometimes caused necessary changes–and the writings we’d do as a result of that literature.  I did this for as many as five separate preps—classes with entirely different content and often, different grade levels.  In every newsletter, I included complete contact information, including my home phone number and e-mail address, and an invitation for parents to visit classes whenever they liked.  I did ask them to call ahead, but only so they wouldn’t drop in when the kids were writing, doing research in the library, were at a mandatory pep rally or something like that.  Staring at kids doing those things tends not to be terribly revealing.

*I wrote a complete lesson plan for every week, which included even more detail than the monthly newsletters.  That lesson plan was posted on my official website—part of our school district’s overall website—and was posted no later than Thursday of each week for the following week.  My general website and lesson plan websites included all the contact information I enclosed in my monthly newsletters.

*All my students kept a hanging file portfolio in the classroom containing all of their work and assignment handouts and related papers from the first to the last day they were in my classes.  They even were graded on how well they organized that portfolio, because attention to detail is important, as are developing simple office skills and productive personal habits.  In the aforementioned publications, I constantly reminded parents they were welcome to review the contents of their child’s portfolios whenever they chose.

*I kept hard copies of all assignment handouts, or kept them on the hard drive of my personal computer in the classroom.  It was an iMac.  Apples were just much faster and easier to use than the clunky PCs provided by my district.  I used that only for required things.  Mrs. Manor, who taught special education, and I spent $2000 or more a year on supplies for our kids. In the aforementioned publications, I constantly reminded parents they could have copies of any and all assignment handouts, and could pick them up in person, or I’d e-mail a copy.  I told them the same with tests, because I never used the same test twice.  I updated every test every semester or year, so having last year’s version provided no advantage for a potential cheater.

*I continually told parents, again in the aforementioned publications, if they had concerns about any book or other piece of literature, I’d be happy to provide a copy for them to read.

*In the aforementioned publications, I constantly encouraged parents to check their student’s computer gradebook.  I updated every gradebook for every class and every student every day.  All they needed to do to be constantly aware of what we were studying and how their child was doing was to check the weekly lesson plan publication and their child’s computer gradebook. Both were available 24/7 online.

*At the beginning of each semester, we had “Meet The Teacher Night.”  Unlike many of my colleagues, I really enjoyed those nights, in part, because I had all of the aforementioned material ready for any parent who wanted to see it, and I also happened to like teaching and people in general. I was always amazed by the number of people in teaching who apparently didn’t.  I had at my fingertips every student’s up to the minute grade, a complete list of all their assignments and the grades for each, and if they had any questions, we could step to the filing cabinet where their portfolio held every assignment, so they could see why their child received each and every grade.  Or, if they didn’t keep their assignments or maintain their portfolios, that explained things rather eloquently as well.

*We had a six-week grading system, and at the middle of each six weeks, if a student was failing, I sent a detailed e-mail to their parents explained exactly why.  It was usually because out of 12 assignments, Johnny had not bothered to hand in eight, which I conveniently listed, with a screenshot of the gradebook, which revealed the assignment type and title, the due date, and the grade, or lack of one.  I did the same thing at the end of the six weeks.  As always, I included all of my contact information and encouraged parents to use the aforementioned resources, to call or stop by, and to encourage little Johnny to do better.

No parent ever had to “request a review,” by some formal process.  If they wanted or needed anything, I’d immediately e-mail it to them, chat by e-mail or phone, or ask them to stop in whenever it was convenient for them, even if we needed to meet on an evening or weekend.

Of course, some parents didn’t have e-mail.  I used to do all my parent notifications by snail mail, but the District decided they didn’t want to pay the postage for that, even though I was just about the only teacher doing it.  I always believed parents and students bore at least half the responsibility for their student’s education, so I wasn’t about to go to their homes or try to ambush them at work.  I had a life apart from school—when we ran into each other in stores, kids were always shocked to discover I existed outside our classroom–and adults have to have some responsibility, don’t they?

How many parents took advantage of the opportunities to be fully informed about what was happening in the classroom?  Not many.  Not one ever sat in on a class.  Not one ever requested a copy of a book.  There were a few bites in other areas, and there were a very few misunderstandings about what were truly non-controversial assignments, but I was able to sort those out easily and quickly.

Would it surprise you to learn I was the only teacher in my mid-sized Texas school district—to my knowledge and that of my principals—who sent out a monthly newsletter?  All teachers were required to do weekly lesson plans for their teacher websites, but I was one of the few who posted them so early or included such detail.  Some never did post lesson plans, but most of those were coaches, so they got away with it.  I remain unaware of any other teacher who regularly encouraged parents to stop by any time, or to sit in on classes.

I did all of this and more, and it was a great deal of work most teachers would never think of doing, because of my belief it is a teacher’s job to provide the best educational opportunity their abilities and resources allow.  The rest is up to kids and their parents.  Teachers can’t make anyone learn, though they can make them appear to be learning, or at least be quiet and not distract others.  I also had a few advantages many teachers don’t have.  I read very quickly and remember what I read.  I write very quickly, and enjoy writing, so what might take others hours would take me only a fraction of that time, and I enjoyed doing it.  In all my years of teaching, I actually heard a few teachers brag about never reading.  I’m sure more fell into that dismal category, but were sufficiently self-aware not to say it to colleagues.

I was glad to have parents fully informed and involved because I didn’t waste a moment of class time—a teacher’s most precious asset—on any kind of political or social indoctrination.  I never had remotely enough time to teach what I should have taught, and less time every year as fads and ephemera more often intruded.  I never told students my personal political inclinations.  In fact, I told them, often, I did not care what they wrote—as long as it was responsive to the assignment—I cared about how well they wrote it.  I retired before the current CRT lunacy struck education full force, and our town was pretty conservative overall, and so were our schools.  I was blessed with a professional principal who believed his first and most important job was to maintain discipline so learning could take place.  Adults were in charge in our classrooms and in our high school.  In any case, I would not countenance any political lunacy; there was little enough time for the curriculum.

My principal for 16 years loved all of this.  In the case of any inquiry or complaint, it made his job a great deal easier.  The principal I had for my final few years, not so much.  They evaluated teachers not on professional criteria, dedication and competence, but on their fawning fealty to whatever useless and destructive educational fad was being pushed at the moment.  I considered that sort of thing fraudulent, and was never any good at ass kissing.

I had no doubt who employed me or who had ultimate power.  It was the taxpayers of my district.  Obviously, we needed administrators and principals—a coherent chain of command–who were also paid by our employers, and we couldn’t have every parent demanding their own curriculum.  That’s why we have our republican form of government.  But I always believed parents were my customers, and it was my job to hear their concerns and make sure they were happy.  I never worried about who had power—I knew I had damned little–but I always worried about whether I was doing my job as well as possible.  I did my best not to fail my kids or their parents.

What do you think, gentle readers?  Would my model eliminate many of the problems we’re seeing in education?  Do you, like “jack” and me, think teachers, educrats and politicians who oppose transparency do so because they’re doing what they know is wrong and shouldn’t be teaching at all?

Don’t get me started on contemporary teacher’s unions…