I Feel So Cheap and Dirty, Part I

Three days after I published the last video, the sadly prophetic one about teachers being coerced into giving students grades they don’t deserve, here’s what happened to me:

I had entered senior grades on Sunday night. When I checked my email in the morning I found a few papers that had been turned in overnight. I graded them. I entered new grades. No big deal. That was Monday. The seniors were officially done with classes.

On Tuesday they all started coming around to get things signed off for graduation. I have to “verify” that they have read a certain number of books in my class, that they turned in the text-book, and what grade they earned in the class just now ending. In order to graduate, you have to pass my class.

So little Timmy comes up to get his stuff signed. (Side note: I feel compelled to call him Timmy or Johnny so that no one will say Why did you call him Shae’Quan’trello? Why did you call him Jesus? Because black and Hispanic kids are dumb? No. I’ve been teaching for six years and I’ve never even seen a white kid. ALL of the brilliant, stupid, lazy and industrious students I have ever had have been non-white, none named Timmy. But I’ll stick to that in the spirit of avoiding controversy….(By the way, why don’t white people name their kids Jesus? And why are Muslim kids named Mohammed, but you get killed if you draw a picture of him with a ribbon in his hair riding a pony? Or, what if I had a student named Mohammed; I drew a picture of him and wrote “Mohammed” on the bottom and somebody found it? That would be just a terrible misunderstanding.))

So anyway, Timmy gets his stuff signed. Timmy failed my class. And, as I’ve said before, you have to be really committed to the idea of doing absofuckinglutely NOTHING in order to fail at this school. (And, mind you, this is one of the very best schools in the district.) Timmy showed a great deal of stamina and heart in this pursuit, and he failed. He scored 42 out of 90 on the final exam and a VERY generous 51% overall for the course. After all of the curving, hedging, denominator-adjusting tricks in my bag had been used and creatively reapplied, I still had that hard-core of individuals who resisted my every attempt to pass them. Timmy was one such case.

Later that day I had to go pee. When I finished, I walked out of the bathroom, as I always do, heading east. Coming straight toward me, maybe 20 yards away and in a crowd of students, were four people. I didn’t like the looks of it. Not one bit. One was some kind of social worker/counselor from the school. She was in front. I know her. Behind her were two adults I did not know, wearing bright yellow “visitor badge” badges. Behind them was the pudgy, apathetic figure of Timmy.

My pace quickened. I was headed right toward them. But suddenly I took a sharp right turn down the hall. I was out of sight. Ha-ha! I broke into a jog down the hall, unlocked my door and slipped inside; out of breath. I sat down. Seconds later my door opened. It was them.

You fucking idiot! You decided to hide in the place where they were most expecting to find you and certainly would have looked first before looking anywhere else? Your classroom? Shit. You’re as stupid as cardboard. I’m embarrassed I even know you.

My inner monologue can be pretty harsh. But he’s honest. And he calls it like he sees it. You have to respect that.

Can you guess what happened next…? Stay tuned.

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43 Responses to I Feel So Cheap and Dirty, Part I

  1. Jennie Smith says:

    I already know what happened, but don’t leave us hanging like this…!

  2. I hope there’s pictures in the next exciting installment! (btw, Mr. Bad, I had my arm twisted pretty good this past week. On the bright side, I find that now my arm is completely backward, it’s easier to get things out of my back pocket ;)

  3. kathymp says:

    I do love a cliffhanger. Can’t wait for the next episode of “As the Stomach Turns! (Though based on the text evidence and my prior knowledge, I think I can make a darned accurate prediction of how this whole thing turns out.)

  4. saracita says:

    Oh boy! The suspense!
    Though I’m guessing this is close enough to reality for many of us that your cliffhanger isn’t very suspenseful.

  5. outside looking in says:

    I know how this one ends: Timmy apologizes for being a total fuckup and and says he’s looking forward to repeating your class next year so he can show you just how smart he is and how commited he is to getting a quality education; Timmy’s parents thank you for showing tough love to their misguided angle and praise you to the high heavens for teaching said angle a valuable life lesson, namely, that you get out of life what you put into it; finally , the social worker/counselor recognizes that you’re the finest teacher the school has ever had, because not only do you transmit the requisite academic knowledge necessary for tomorrow’s leaders, but you instill invaluable life-lessons as well. Social worker/counselor promises to do “whatever it takes” to make sure you are recognized as Teacher of the Century, with all the perks that go with such a position: bushels of money, fame beyond your wildest dreams, the undying adoration of complete strangers, and recognition of the fact that your methods are the vanguard of a new movement in Education Reform.

    Am I right or what?

    • M says:

      That was a good fairy tale! I’ll definitely teach that one next year to my seniors during our myths and folktales unit.

    • crazedmummy says:

      And the great Arne Duncan sent a singing telegram to reiterate that our new high standards were being enforced, to raise the skills of every student and ready them for college. And lo! singing and dancing was heard throughout the land, especially at the private colleges which will charge about $10,000 per pseudo-adult next year for teaching basic literacy and how to add fractions.
      Then questions are raised as to how Timmy got this far and passed all his other classes for 4 years when it turns out he can’t actually read. The entire school full of teachers is fired, and the principal is promoted. Oh, wait, that was going to happen anyway. Ain’t life grand.

  6. T says:

    Timmy’s mother and father thanked you for holding him accountable for his slacker ways. They have been trying to make him “get it” for years and finally, through your dedication to rigorous standards, you have reached, him. They will be signing him up for Summer School. Timmy has come to apologize for not working all term and understands he alone is responsible for the cancellation of his graduation party and the returning of his 2012 Acura to the car lot.

  7. Mel Mays says:

    This is all your fuckin’ fault again Bad, don’t you KNOW?! (We need interrobangs!)

    I just came home from our graduation, to find one of our rescue kitties dead on the porch.

  8. libaryteacher says:

    But the question is still hanging there-Do you really want Timmy in your class NEXT year? Because you know that that is where he will end up if you don’t change the grade.

  9. ricochet says:

    I woke up this morning thinking about the arithmetic class I taught this year in high school. I decided (because I am avoided the work I need to do) to run the statistics on it. I have pulled the data, but not played with it yet. Mind, it is a senior level class they must pass to graduate. I think fewer than half graduated. I only failed 5 – but a boatload dropped out at the last minute.

  10. Anti-Slacker says:

    It is unfortunate that “Timmy” does not attend my school. Despite not having the funds in the budget for summer school, Timmy’s grade of 51 would qualify for a slot in our “summer school during exam weeks” program. With parental and student signatures on the “contract,” Timmy would attend roughly eight 2 or 3 hour sessions, be provided with daily assignments to complete, demonstrate competence on benchmarks, and be awarded a passing grade for the year. If I had to come up with a plan to make sure our graduates were completely under-educated, this would be on my to-do list.
    Integrity is free…get some! (Thank you US Navy Diver T-shirt-wearing guy)

    • drivesmecrazy says:

      That is acutally a state iniative here called “Credit Recovery” basically the kid does some busy work and passes any class he/she has failed before.

  11. Mr. J says:

    …Teachbad, knowing the true nature of the evil that is approaching, grabs his shield from its mount on the wall, and draws his broad-sword -named “Tenure”- from his desk. Timmy, his parents, and the social worker come into the room, and then coalesce into a giant ogre, which resembles Michelle Rhee. Teachbad charges, swings his sword, and slashes the Rhee-ogre’s right hand off, which was holding a notice of termination letter. The Rhee-ogre bashes Teachbad with its other hand, and Teachbad falls back. Just then the school principal enters the room, spins and turns into a witch. The Princi-witch shoots green lightning bolts out of its fingers towards Teachbad, but his shield -charmed with magic by the good sorceress Roxanna Elden- deflects the Princi-witch’s attack towards the Rhee-ogre. The Rhee-ogre explodes, and the souls of hundreds of terminated teachers from the D.C. public school district are released. They swarm the Princi-witch and pull her into a vortex that has opened where the dry-erase board was. The vortex is a portal to a land of eternal standardized-testing for all who inhabit it… Teachbad becomes Lord Protector of Rational Educational Practices, and has as his court jesters Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and the guy who directed “Waiting for Superman.”

  12. T says:

    I just finished grading final exams….no seniors this year. Even with a 10 point extra credit question AND 5 points for returning the book, I still had exam grades grades in the 40’s and 50’s. I also had one of 114. Then I went into the online grade book and changed all the 2.4 % marking period grades to 55, so they have a fighting chance to pass for the semester. This means a kid who did no work for the 1st 2 marking periods and had a 12% average can now, with a few assignments pull a 60. In our Math themed Magnet school a 60 really equals a 65, so there you go…..he passes. Very simple.

  13. EBear says:

    Please tell me you didn’t cave. Don’t cave. Don’t cave. Don’t cave. You can do this.

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      Why not cave? Who needs the freakin’ hassle? I used to care. Now, I only care about the ones who care.

  14. batshit crazy says:

    Don’t keep us hanging like this, dammit!

  15. No More Weast!! says:

    I had to deal with something similar last year. I had a senior (Johnny) that needed a D in my class to get his last math credit/graduate. He had skipped so many classes I almost forgot he was in the class. After Johnny failed the final exam the counselor informed me that the reason he missed so many classes was because he got his girlfriend pregnant and had to take her to the doctor because neither one of them had informed their parents. The counselor also told me it would be difficult for him to get a good job to support his family without a high school diploma. She asked if there was anything that I could do. When I told the counselor that I could not pass a student that never earned above a 40% on any test and quiz, she sent an email to me, my resource teacher, the assistant principal in charge of math, and the school principal, stating that I refused to consider “life circumstances” (I’m not sure what that means). They went to another math teacher and had a previous grade changed. It was great to see him get his well earned diploma two days later.

    Don’t give in, but rest assured someone else will.

    • Fed Up in MCPS says:

      You’re right about now more Weast but I’m a little worried about Dr. “Accountability and Data” Starr!!

    • EBear says:

      They are worried about him getting a job. I’m sure they will end up on wel-fare and the mother will be a member of WIC. You don’t need to graduate high school to qualify for those programs.

    • Utz, The Crab Chip says:

      I love this argument. As if giving someone that walked around a building for 4 years and still can’t read a piece of paper somehow increases their employment chances.

      • No More Weast!! says:

        This type of logic seems far too prevalent throughout education. Kids who take at least one AP class in high school are more likely to be in (or graduate from) college somehow means everyone should be put in AP classes. Kids who take Algebra 2 in high school are more likely to graduate from college leads to Algebra 2 becoming a graduation requirement.

  16. Tudorgurl says:

    I know exactly how you feel. I had 30 freshmen fail the second semester (which consisted of TAKS packets, a watered-down version of “Romeo & Juliet” and “The Odyssey.”), even with my help. My assistant principal cornered me last Monday (after all grades have been turned in and verified and my ass is screaming out the door to start grad school) to “convince” me to “adjust the grades” of about 15 students from low 60s to a 70. I looked at him, incredulous, and said, “Are you asking me to change grades? Seriously??” He said that if I didn’t, those same students would be back in my class next year. These kids were terrible this year…it was a horrible threat. I looked him square in the eye and said, “then perhaps they’ll get it this time around because I will not change their grades.” I then walked out of the school.

    All I have to say to those who try to make me compromise on my integrity as a teacher is this: FARK YOU! I will NOT change a grade to “help” a student who did not do a damn thing in my class. Maybe having me again will be an incentive to work their butts off and get their credit so they can move on. I pride myself on being a bitch of a teacher. I am a hard-ass and I demand that my students do their work or else. I know I’m doing it right because I’ve had complete fuck-ups come back and see me this year to show off their full-ride scholarships and their 4.0 transcripts from highly respectable colleges in the area.

    I hope that you, O Captain My Captain, did not cave…

  17. Miss Friday says:

    This had better not be your season-ending cliffhanger…..
    (I hope for the possible, but fear the inevitable.)

  18. C.S. says:

    All right, I’m hooked! This is the first time I’ve visited your blog and you’ve made my favorites list- no easy feat. Now get to the next installment (I’m also a high school teacher, so I love seeing how people handle these sorts of situations).

  19. A Valedictorian says:

    I’m going to preface this by saying I’m not a teacher–I’m a student. I graduated very recently (less than a week ago) and I’ve been feeling a little… Well, there’s something that’s been brewing in me and this post gives me a chance to say something.

    In four years, I received an above-4.0 GPA, took (and PASSED) eight AP classes, and received A’s in all of my electives. I participated in several extra-curricular activities. I was the Valedictorian, though the girl that was second in my class was very close to being first, as well. I worked hard in high school, I applied to the University of Michigan and Cornell. I got in to Michigan, Cornell not so much. But everyone knew I had a chance.

    Ever since I was a Sophomore, I realized that Graduation at my school is without honor. I found out that the Valedictorian is never formally announced, and the reason why is “to not make the other kids feel bad.” I saw kids finish up their online credit recovery classes the morning of graduation in order to walk, I had other kids ask me and offer to pay me to finish up these same classes. (Side note: These classes are online and all of the questions for the tests are multiple choice. The internet is not blocked for other sites while using these programs, so students can literally Google the question and get the answer. They were too stupid to figure that out.) A passing grade in any given class at my school is 50%. I saw several teachers, people who I’ve come to respect and people who I’ve gotten close to, have to pass kids that did not deserve it. And then I saw those kids walk across that same stage as I did, earning the exact same diploma as I did, with no distinction.

    It was a terrible feeling. It made me question everything I worked for. I had a medal, a sash, and some NHS cords, and I got to make a speech, I got to walk after the class officers. But what did that mean? I ended up with the same diploma and the same amount of recognition as everyone else. It hit me–I could have literally done NOTHING all of High School and ended up in (roughly) the same place I was at. Sure, I wouldn’t give a speech, I wouldn’t go to U of M (I was the only student in my entire graduating class to get into U of M — Ann Arbor), but I would still walk. I would still have this same diploma.

    My point in saying this is that there are some students that feel what teachers are FORCED to do. I understand that it is out of their hands at this point. But there are students (the ones who did what they were supposed to do) that feel the mix of horror, sadness, and confusion that I feel. The most disappointing thing was when I realized that, because I did what I was supposed to, my honor and accomplishments are on the back-burner. The kids who have family crying and begging for a 50% or higher grade, they come first. The size of the graduation class, not the merit, comes first. And that, to me, is one of the most shameful things about our education system.

    • C.S. says:

      It’s frustrating for now, but in ten years when you’re (hopefully) making $70,000+ and they’re wondering how they will make next month’s rent (you will have a mortgage) it will be worth it and make sense. Where I teach the idea of just “just get the D- and the credits and you’ll graduate” is definitely prevalent and I see the same frustration. It feels anticlimactic now, which is wrong and shows flaws in the system, but just wait.

    • crazedmummy says:

      You are very forgiving and kind. any teacher with tenure is not being “forced” to change grades. In fact, they can go to their State Board of Ed and complain if they want to. If all the teachers banded together and did this, you would be getting a decent education.
      Second, please don’t assume that the adults did not know that the students can google the answers for the on-line classes – remember, the goal of administration is to increase graduates and classes passed, not necessarily to educate anybody. And the students, I am sure, know that they could search for the answers, but in the last 12 years they have not learned how to do so. You need to be able to copy words correctly, and then read the answers that come back, to type in the correct answers.
      Steel yourself for more of the same in college, only with literate classmates. The goal is to get the diploma, preferably with no learning at all. Education is not valued in this society. However, that does not mean it is not valuable to you.
      Please try to stop comparing yourself with others. Do what YOU want. Pursue an education with integrity for YOU. It is not about what you can get away with, it is about what sort of a person you are. Sure, you could be a worse person, but you would feel – well, worse.
      Oh, and please thank your parents for imbuing you with a sense of integrity. Good work!

      • A Valedictorian says:

        I don’t really know how to phrase what I want to say, but thank you for this response. You gave me more food for thought, especially about how students might not be able to search for the answers because they don’t know how. That idea is something I haven’t thought of–it’s sort of like when I’m helping younger students and they ask me about multiplying positive and negative numbers, they’ll ask me WHY the answers come out like they do–and I don’t have the proof. I haven’t thought about the mechanics behind it for so long. It’s something that is so quick in my brain that I lost the reasoning behind it, and it’s refreshing to be reminded of the inner workings of something like a Google search.

        And I certainly plan on pursuing my education with integrity. When I think “oh, I could have screwed off for four years and still get this diploma,” I know it’s not feasible for who I am. I like learning. Some people don’t. I think comparing myself to others is mostly observation, at least it is in my mind. I don’t think I’ll let that observation affect any decisions I make in my education. I agree, my education is about me and for me.

        And I will thank them–they’ve done so much for me. But I think it’s worth mentioning that it’s the combination of my parents and my teachers that made me who I am today–my parents gave me the foundation, but my teachers are so important to who I am and who I want to be.

        On my last day of school, I was probably the saddest when I walked out of my Calc teacher’s room–he’s someone I admire because he’s so smart in a huge range of subjects. I had deeper discussions about what I was reading in Lit with him than I did with my Lit class. I know I’ll still talk to him but I won’t have the same classroom-type experiences that I had there. Those are the things that I hope stick with me for a lifetime–the lessons my parents and my teachers have taught me.

    • drivesmecrazy says:

      Well said young lady….this is the reality of our school systems we do not push are top kids we are too busy WASTING our time on those who do nothing. How about when a student has “special circumstances” and is out and you are willing to take late work, you send work home, you allow retests, you allow test corrections, you grade make up work. You don’t even get all of it back, but you are ready and willing to give them what they need to pass…….and then the little shit never shows back up again. Yes he dropped out!!!!! AAAAggggggghhhhhh…..by the way all of these things I was willing to do have come from administrative pressures. I could have used that time to plan some really super cool activities with some of my students who actually give a damn and who never cease to impress me with some of the things they know. And yes it is shameful…America is f**** if we continue to graduate illiterate non reading uneducated people who will not contribute one thing society besides a life of crime and their offspring as a result of contant breeding. (By the way I was the SAL of my graduating class and realized I could have done half the work or even gotten on a regular diploma vs advanced diploma track and still would have come out smelling like a rose).

      • A Valedictorian says:

        These types of stories make me so sad for the education system. I hope that something is done to change this soon.

        I actually saw this one statistic that teachers in Finland are considered the “best off” because they’re so respected, and American teachers were in the lower end, being some of the least respected. I’m not sure about the ins and outs of this study but I can certainly believe that Americans think of education in a kind of backwards way. It’s sad.

      • Miss Crabtree says:

        Hey, I would not have worked any less hard or ahcieved any less. It was always for me. Oh, and, my father would have killed me.

  20. T says:

    First of all, congratulations on all your accomplishments. You deserve to be proud of yourself. What you have done will pay off in the end. You have a strong work ethic and that will pay off in the end. The loser with the 50 average will never be able to complete college courses. They are no wired for it, nor were they prepared for it.

    We know that kids like you see exactly what goes on around you in school. I feel guilty when I look at those kids and feel that I am somehow failing them instead of the loser who deserves to fail. According to the PSAT scores and data from my school, ONLY 2.2% of our juniors are college ready, yet 60 % of them will graduate.

    I wish you nothing but success, Hopefully college will even the playing field a bit and you will be surrounded by like-minded students who will even challenge you a bit,
    Best Wishes…

  21. crazedmummy says:

    Hey, Mr. Teachbad, are you out there somewhere…
    Someone send dogs with brandy in little barrels.

  22. Mr. J says:

    So, I did it, I bitched-out, I capitulated… I changed grades. My class averages were fine, my final exam scores were above the district-average; I did not set the students in question up to fail, they did it themselves (lazy, unmotivated, careless, etc). I’m not a teacher that creates problems. There was nothing about my teaching that said Hmm, maybe it was his fault. Still, the number of failures is of great concern to a school’s administration, enough to put their teachers (especially non-tenured ones) in awkward positions to get those numbers down, even when the students in question deserve whole-heartedly to fail… I definitely feel cheap and dirty, and a little like everything I did this past year was meaningless…

  23. T says:

    NYC is all over the media bragging about its 60 something % graduation rate……I just let loose on the DOE page on FaceBook. Wonder if I will be called in? LOL

    • teachTHAT says:

      You know the most awesome thing about that? The press conference that they held to trumpet those stellar results took place in a school’s library. The library was built at great cost to service the THREE high schools located on the campus of the ONE high school the city shut down (that school had a library, but you know, the contractors needed to, like, build another one that was high speed with a wireless Internet connection). Four years after it was built, on the day of the press conference, the mayor stood in a library that has never been used as one because 1) there is no money for a librarian and that doesn’t matter so much because 2) there are no books in the room. Not a one. When the mayor’s office told the school(s) that they were going to need to use the library for the conference, they were informed that the mayor would be standing in front of rows of empty bookshelves in an unused room. Their response? “Oh, that won’t be a problem…” Awesome. Love it.

  24. kathymp says:

    Here’s a version of this. A colleague of mine had several students fail the state exam. She was told to go into the kids’ portfolios and find ONE piece of work that was done at proficiency level (a joke by itself). If they have ONE decent piece of writing, they can pass ELA and move on to 7th grade. One kid’s portfolio had almost NOTHING in it and what was there was crap. So my colleague was told to give this kid (and the 3 or 4 others with crap portfolios) an “exit assignment” – if they can get a decent score on this ONE assignment, they will pass for the year, though they have done next to nothing all year. Well, one kid doesn’t turn it in, and my colleague is told to pull the kid out of class on her prep period and MAKE the kid to the assignment. So, she pulls the kid out and gives her the evil eye while she writes. Kid writes a piece of crap. Colleague brings it to admin and says this is the best she could get. My colleague was then subtly “encouraged” to “edit” the piece for the child and “support” her in her success. Essentially, she was told, without being “told”, to write the piece for the kid to copy and sign.

  25. Wyrm1 says:

    Timmy came to you and asked for help on correcting all of the assignments he had blown off and done poorly on. You agreed to help him do the work, and the next 48 hours could be expressed as a musical montage of writing, reviewing, revising and rewriting that raised his grade to a D?

    Valedictorian: You know what you accomplished, and you are justifiably proud of it. People who’s opinions you should respect know what you did, your parents do, your teachers do, and most importantly YOU do. You will go to college, and sometimes the same frustration will happen. However, if you do the best you can and work hard, you will be MUCH more likely to be successful then someone who doesn’t.

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