I Feel So Cheap And Dirty, Part II

Before you go on, you may want to read I Feel So Cheap And Dirty, Part I. But I can’t make you.

The four come into my room, and I know what’s going to happen. (By the way, Timmy has no IEP, 504 or anything like that. He’s just lazy.)

The social worker introduces me to Timmy’s parents, who speak no English. And I don’t speak what they speak. It’s unclear whether the social worker speaks what they speak, but I think not.

So with no communication happening on most fronts, the social worker just hits me up and lays it out there: “Is there anything Timmy can do to make something up or somehow pass the class? He has been working so hard in English and spending so much time on that research paper…you know.”

Me: He already failed the class. I already put in grades.

Her: Well, I know. But is there anything he can do?

Parents are standing to the side smiling, nervously.

Me: I don’t know. Like what? The class is over.

Parents looking at me, expectantly.

Does he want to take the exam over again? I don’t care. How about this?…I’ll give him the same final exam, his actual same final exam with his writing on it right now, and he can make corrections on it. How about that?

Her: Would that be enough?

Me: For what?

Her: For him to pass?

Me: Thinking: Jesus Christ…how much time do I want to spend on this? How many people do I want to involve? At what cost? For what purpose?

Yeah…it’ll be fine.

Her: OK. Well good. Thank you, Mr. Teachbad.

I walk the smiling, nodding parents out of my room and shake their hands.

Me: Thank you so much for coming down.

Parents: Thanks you. Ees no good. I know. He working.

Me: Thank you. Bye now. Very nice meeting you.

Timmy sits down to take his exam. Again.

After 20 minutes he brings it up to me. I set it down and keep writing the email or doing whatever I was doing. He stands there for a few seconds watching me. I ignore him.

Timmy: Aren’t you going to grade it?

Me: Yeah. But not right now.

Timmy: But I need to know if I passed.

Me: I’m not going to grade it right now. I’m busy. But you passed. It doesn’t matter what you did on the test. We both know that, right?. You walk up in here with your mom and dad and the social worker because you didn’t want to do the work before. You wasted every little bit of time I gave you to study and work on projects. You’ll pass. But we both know you don’t deserve to. Congratulations.

Timmy: It wasn’t my idea for my parents to come here.

Timmy walks out.

So, Timmy passes. But he still has to go to summer school to make up something else. Fudging his grade didn’t graduate him. I may be cheap and dirty, but I’m not a total whore. A man got to have a code (For fans of The Wire.)

Ten minutes later as I continue to send email and work on my resume, in comes another student to get his senior stuff signed. It’s Tommy.

Tommy has severe attendance issues, but when he is in class he works pretty hard. And he is a lot more pleasant that Timmy. But here’s the thing: Tommy is doing even worse in the class than the pathetic Timmy.

Then I was struck with a thought. The timing was just right. Like God himself wrote the script. The arbitrary justice of injustice slapped me right across the forehead: If Timmy can pass, you bet your ass that Tommy will pass.

The moral of the story? I don’t know.

Two wrongs can feel like some kind of existential, ironic sort of right.

Accentuate the arbitrary.

Nothing you do really matters.

These are all just rough drafts. Once we set on and revise it, we’ll make up some shirts.

Jeez…I’m sorry. Was that a terrible story? I’m having some end of the year melancholy.

Mr. Teachbad

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37 Responses to I Feel So Cheap And Dirty, Part II

  1. M says:

    Omar would have lit that motherfucker up with his shotgun and never looked back. Ah, if only it were easy to be that kind of teacher. Instead we’re the assholes who care. Sucks to be us.

  2. drivesmecrazy says:

    story of MY LIFE…the principal just lets those worthless losers get credits without earning them. We can’t have our graduation rate down or we won’t make AYP

  3. Mimi says:

    Almost word for word what goes on at my school. Sigh. Can’t ANYONE spell integrity? I TRIED not to pass a kid who didn’t deserve it – he cut too many classes, missed too much school (he was in jail), didn’t make up one speck of missed work,, talked through the classes he DID attend, and they wanted me to say he was present on a day that he cut so he could graduate. Several other teachers were involved who rapidly caved to the counselor and I was the LAST hold out trying to maintain a standard. I finally threw in the towel when the counselor came in handing me the forms to fill out. Dirty, cheap, and disgusted. Sigh.

    • robbie says:

      Wow. Thanks for being the last holdout. It is something to be proud of in this insane world of education.

  4. I flunked more kids this year then my last 5 years at my school. One kid had a 16 percent in my class and his mom was surprised I asked for the Student Support Team evaluate him since he was 17 and had no IEP. The counselor , The Assistant Principal, the Dean of Discipline, The Special Ed coordinator, myself (using a whole conference period) , mom and her son sat there looking at each other. Everyone had copies of the his record back to kindergarden. Failure since 1st grade cause mom said the school was racist so her son hasn’t performed his perfect work up til age 17. Now he sits there and admits if he can’t do his work perfectly he stops trying. I had encouraged this kid for an entre school year and mostly what he did was write his name. We were all baffled. Mom couldn’t remember the last book they read and the boy coudln’t recall any detail of 8 weeks of To Kill A Mockingbird. They want to pay me based on test scores?

    • robbie says:

      These stories just keep getting worse and worse!!

      • Heo says:


        I had a kid who did about that much this year. The mom came in for a conference, didn’t bring the kid, but brought a message from him: (kid) says he’s going to be fine, and the teachers should leave him alone. He left school with legit zeros in all classes this year, but they let him sign up for summer school anyway.

        Also, so very sorry about John Deasy.

  5. lisa2 says:

    What a sad state of affairs America has become. NCLB has ruined schools, teacher and everyone’s integrity. Pay for Performance is coming to our school system next year. Can’t wait for the back-stabbing, information hoarding, lying, cheating teachers to take over. I need a new job. I am disgusted with what education has become and I am ashamed to be a teacher.

  6. DarwinsRetriever says:

    My Dean and ESE specialist locked themselves in the Dean’s office and changed grades to pass kids. One 8th grader (recently caught smoking pot in the restroom, charge reduced to just smoking and suspended for the lat 8 days of school) (not ESOL, ESE, or 504) came to my school at the beginning of 2nd semester. His previous school’s grades for the 1st semester were all a 0%. Admin called the school, and yes it was a 0%. So the principal had all his teachers gather up a packet of work he could do to make up for his 0%. Of course he didn’t do a single thing.
    Well back to the Dean and ESE specialist working feverously on the grades. It turns out 1st qtr he got a 98% and 2nd qtr he got a 80%. He failed the next two quarters, but he passed for the year. It was a miracle.

  7. Rebekah says:

    Reading all this leaves me stunned. Wow, how absolutely pathetic our system is. And yet, somehow it is us, the teachers, who get the blame. I just truly don’t understand that thinking, and never will. And Lisa, I am right there with you. I’m giving it another year or two while I figure out what useful thing I can do to earn my house payment and put food on the table.

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      And, the amazing part of all this is that it is bad teachers who are the ruination of America and public education. It is my fault and your fault. I am perfectly willing to stand up and be accountable, but not when all of this politicking and finagling and CHEATING is going on. On the other hand, after a number of years of this, you gotta ask yourself: Who needs the hassles and agita of trying to constantly resist the pressures from parents and admins to cut Timmy and Tommy and Johnny and Susie and Nancy and Linda a break???????

  8. Mike Schwaegerl says:

    I had the same issure. First, was Lucy, in my advanced sophmore class got a semester B. She failed to turn in several assignments and that cost her the A. Her mom harrassed me, almost to the point of legal harrassment, claiming that I had lost Lucy’s assignments. After 6 months of this, I had two choices–file a complaint or give the girl her A. The realy problem was that Lucy was hanging out with the fast crowd. In the end, she blew off her senior year. However, I also taught a night school course in which all the students had failed day time English. I edhad a very nice girl who probably should have failed and thus miss graduation. I sat down, staring at the grade report sheed, and I said to myself, “By god, if Lucy can get her A, Melissa deserves to graduate.” So I passed her.

  9. Not bad, Mr. Teachbad. I’ve had quite a few Timmys and a few Tommys… and I’m right there with you.

  10. Mrs. D from Tennessee says:

    Elementary school is pretty much the same. Our admin will not okay a retention–period. One third grader couldn’t work even a year below grade level, pooped his pants every single day, and parents wouldn’t return any notes or phone calls. The classroom teacher wanted to retain, the principal said absolutely not; it looks bad on our school. So just this week, front page on the local paper–“New State Law Ends Social Promotion of Third Graders”. The only ones exempt are those covered by SpEd and ESL. Wonder what Mrs. Principal thinks about that?? We need to get one of those labor dispute banners and camp outside our schools with the SHAME ON YOU signs. We, too, are headed to performance pay as part of our evaluation process beginning next school year. What a mess…..

  11. jobbahobaawobbasobba says:

    Great post. And I’ll tell you why it’s a great post. Because it happens everywhere and no one wants to talk or hear about it.

  12. Standards me once, shame on me. says:

    What a crock of shit being a teacher has turned out to be. Six years of teaching and I feel like a dildo in warehouse churning out cheap porn. How dare the education system ejaculates the word standards at me at every meeting yet perversely turns a brown eye to the students achievement of standards. What dumbass out there surmised that giving a turd an unearned diploma will magically transform them into a productive member of society? A turd is a turd, even if you give ‘em a paper that (used to) indicate that they have the ability to read, write, and compute at a level that makes them a productive member of society. Put in at least a minimal effort….or don’t….you’ll graduate regardless. This is one shit sandwich that we’re all being asked to munch on.

    • Mr. J says:

      Six years of teaching and I feel like a dildo in a warehouse churning out cheap porn.

      The poetry in your words is exquisite!

      Seriously, I laughed my ass off when I read this… But it’s true, we’ve become panderers.

  13. C.S. says:

    I agree with Jobba…. It does happen and of course we’re to blame. Timmy or Tommy didn’t pass our class because we didn’t motivate them. Timmy likes group work and you didn’t give him enough. Tommy’s talents lie in drawing and you didn’t give him assignments that utilized this (umm, it’s English). At my school some teachers give out the D- because they can’t get far with those anyway, which is true, but still, like you said, it’s dirty…

  14. bookworm says:

    In my school, teachers have been reduced to writing the work FOR the student when the student has failed the state exam, turned in no work for the year, and REFUSED to complete the “special” assignment that is given to them with the caveat, “Do a decent job on this ans we’ll forget the tests and your lack of any measurable effort this whole year”. Twice this week, kids in this situation have turned in crap and the teachers were ordered to “edit” the crap until it met “standards” and then have the kid “write a final copy” based on the “editing”, then backdate it a month or so.

    • This might be the worst end of year story yet.

      I have anonymously leaked information to our city’s newspaper and got interesting results. Maybe you should consider doing the same in your town.

      • Miss Crabtree says:

        Phillie Teacher: This is an interesting possibility. Why should teachers be traumatized by being caught betwixt and between the pressures to teach to standards, to maintain accountability, to teach RIGOROUSLY on the one side and then be forced to rearrange grades or have grades changed so that Johnny can pass or grauduate coming from another source (sometimes the very same source)? It is corrupt. However, I would be one of the first to cave. I no longer have the stamina or resilience to fight back against parents and admins.

  15. M'liss says:

    I have a kid in my class again this year who failed my class last year. He turns in nothing, comes late every day, rarely responds to direct questions, never comes after school for help, etc etc. But he understands the material. He passed the state exam, got a B on the midterm a C+ on the final…I told him at the beginning of the year if he could pass 1 quarter I would pass him for the year. I told him this again now at the end of the year, just pass this quarter, turn in all the late work I will pass you for the year. He nods. I remind him he doesn’t want to take 9th grade Biology as a junior. He nods. I call and email his mom, no response. I have spoken to his counselor on a number of occasions, she hasn’t made contact with any parents or the student himself. Right now he has a 34% for this quarter. We have one day of school left. I set up an arbitrary and low standard for the kid to pass and he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, reach it. Do I stick to my guns, and put one more nail in the coffin of this kid eventually dropping out, or do I pass him and hope that the Chemistry teachers fare better than I?

    • Logic, reason and decency say “Fail him.” He nodded his head, right? You documented the times you tried to contact parent, right? Next time have him sign a contract (put it in writing!)

      Then do it. Pull the trigger and fail him.

      Not that I didn’t do my share of passing kids who had no business getting even a 50%. The principal makes it crystal clear who her favorites are.

      If she has so little respect for education, the kid, or me, then fine! What grade do you want Tommy to have? an A? how about a B? what ever you want, Mrs. Piece O’Shit. Because any shred of respect I might have had for you after enduring your bungling and mis-management our school all year is completely gone now.

  16. I'm History says:

    I just resigned my position after 3 years because we got in a new bleeding-heart principal who wanted all the kids to feel good about themselves and their grades. The past 4 months have been one long agonizing battle as I refused to fudge grades, accept late homework, etc. Our seniors all got to “graduate” (and I’m sure that there will be some fudging of grades by the admin not only for them but for the other failures, because the school doesn’t have the space or resources to deal with the kids who failed!). I managed to sit through graduation without puking, all while listening to admin and the school owners talk about all the kids’ hard work, how tough our school’s standards are, how well-prepared they are for college, ad nauseum. I totally despair of our educational system. After 11 years, I’ve had it.

  17. DarwinsRetriever says:

    The principal told us that he was not going to fail any student because of missing work. The CRT told us since we grade on mastery of the standards, that we cannot count any missing work since we can’t tell if there was mastery or not.

  18. Miss Crabtree says:

    You got to,…
    Accentuate the arbitrary,
    Eliminate the customary,
    Latch on to the discretionary
    Don’t mess with Mr. Unforeseen.

    Oh, Teachbad–you rock! Time for Alice Coopers’ “School’s Out!” and a case of brewskis. Puttin’ my feet up, lettin’ it all hang out.

  19. Mr. J says:

    I went to an end of the schoolyear party at a colleague’s home. A common statement made by at least half of those in attendance: “I was pressured into changing grades for kids who failed.” The statement would be followed one of disgust for the administration, then by self-loating for giving in. (I’m not judging, as I gave in too.)

    I’m starting to believe that such practices are formally taught in educational leadership programs, as the policy of nobody fails seems to be an institutionalized phenomena, in many places and at every level.

  20. Orion Pax says:

    I had a moment this year where a student was trying to graduate early. She started off the year well and I thought she’d be one of the best in my class. But then, she started missing classes, getting behind, not being present 1-2 days a week in chemistry.

    I talked to the student, her counselor and told them she was in trouble of failing the course. By the end of the year, the student did indeed fail by continuing her missing classes. She couldn’t understand the work she missed and time ran out on her. The counselor tried to twist my arm by telling me how “furious” the mother was. I stood my ground. I talked to the mother, telling her how the student had disregarded my advice and warnings. She agreed and the earned failure stood. It wasn’t my finest moment, but it had to be done. BTW, the girl will still graduate early since she can do “summer virtual school” to get the credit she needs,

    My advice for any teacher who’s in a similar situation as this…do the best you can, and let it …..go. For every Timmy and Tommy and Linda, there are numbers of kids we do a great job with. Don’t give in to despair. If we do, all the great kids will lose whatever it is we have to share. Don’t give up. Don’t let the bastards win…

  21. Sean says:

    Been gone for the last week to North Carolina….The Smokey’s were lovely and cool at night. Teachbad, don’t worry about it…. you have a job. The action, while making you feel dirty, will keep you earning a paycheck.
    Look, Texas is laying off 100,000 teachers. The Leg. is in the process of passing a law to lay off the older teachers if a district “feels the need.” Those who survive will be those who pass the dumb-asses who don’t deserve it. It is literally survival time right now in the classroom. If you want to stay in the classroom, you have to do what you did Teachbad, it’s just the times we live in…..
    Friends, do you know how fucked up and the education system is in America? Does anyone REALLY know how FUCKED UP education is outside of education?

    • Sean says:

      BTW: 30 years ago it wasn’t this bad. I would have fuckin’ quit 5-6 years ago, but I was too damn old to be hired into another profession and too damn close to retirement. I literally have hated my job for the last 5 years.

    • Fucked up? sure. *I* know it’s fucked up. Listen to this:

      1. Principal comes to my door while I’m teaching and says “I”m sorry” while giving me the Big White Envelope of Death. Guess I was supposed to go on teaching like nothing happened?

      2. Why me? Because I have ONE MONTH less seniority than others in my department.
      Wait – it gets better!

      3. 1600 teachers in Philadelphia schools got laid off because our superintendent (who makes over $348,000 a year) has screwed our district budget so bad that we are $610 million in the hole. But she qualifies for a $100,000 bonus.

      Tell me THAT ain’t fucked up.

      • Mr. J says:

        The superintendent in my district makes twice as much as the next person on the district totem pole (well over $200 grand a year); in fact, she makes more than any other public employee in the county (the sheriff, the county commissioners, the county medical examiner… everyone). It makes sense though: education is no longer a public service, rather it’s now a poorly-funded business whose leaders are propped-up by educational product companies like the College Board. They take in large paychecks for signing contracts for programs such as SpringBoard and AP classes, while targeting the rest of us -the actual educators- for public scorn, to distract everyone from what they’re doing… I sound like a nut-job conspiracy theorist, but the more I look at things, the more I think This is a fucking joke, a game, a con; there is no education reform movement, the higher-ups don’t really care about “learning”, it’s just a money-making scheme… And so many people are going along with it, following along like good little lemmings.

  22. Standards me once, shame on me. says:

    Not trying to one up you but: after teaching for four years, I’ve been laid off and demoted to subbing for the past two years. Just this last week, I found out from my (old) union that the district screwed up royally this past school year by not hiring me back since I got an additional credential (had an elementary credential before and got an additional credential to teach middle and high English). Seems that everyone else who got laid off and then got an additional credential got a job. They overlooked me. In the four years I taught full time, I got laid off every single year. Hired back three of them, not this time though.

  23. Miss Crabtree says:

    Mr. J: You are right on target. Meet me in the darkened parking garage when you see me move the red geranium from one side of my balcony to the other. Just like DeepThroat said: “FOLLOW THE MONEY.”

    Education has been identified as the newest and greatest cash cow. Get in line for your $$$ share. No wonder that it is a “business model” that is being pushed on all of us.

  24. So Damn Tired says:

    I’m getting to the point where I just don’t care anymore. Why bother grading? Why bother standing up there and teaching when stuff like this happens ALL THE TIME. I’m just so, so tired.

  25. mikeo says:

    Maybe Im naive, but in my Michigan district admin is not allowed to “change” grades, only teachers can do that. And though my principal isn’t my favorite, he’s never pressured me or anyone else to alter grades, as far as I know…

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