Tall Poppy Diaries

Observations and musings on life as a happy high-achiever (or what the Aussie's call a "Tall Poppy" ). "Unless you choose to do great things with it, it makes no difference how much you are rewarded, or how much power you have." --Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, August 26, 2004


  Teaching While Incompetent

As the daughter of a school teacher and a college professor, I have the utmost respect for the teaching profession as well as most of the teachers I or my children have had in school. This is why I feel so much concern when I run across the occasional teacher who gives the teaching profession a black eye.

Last night, as I was contemplating how to handle the situation of a teacher who should have been replaced 13 years ago when the first incompetency suit was filed against her, I was reminded of the case of a man who killed a family when he drove while intoxicated. He had 22, previous DUI arrests, 13 in the state where he worked. Yet every day he was handed the keys to drive a gov't vehicle. His employer was aware that the driver drank on the job, yet "in order to do his job, he had to be able to drive". So off he went, six-packs in hand, to drive the highways drunk. When he hit and killed the family of seven, everyone was incredulous! "How could this have happened? It was so obvious there was a problem!"

We have a teacher in our school who is allowed to be reckless with the educations and emotional states of our children. She's Teaching While Incompetent--and her incompetence is legendary in local education circles. She has spent most of the last 13 years on "probation". There have been lawsuits and disciplinary actions that went all the way to the State School board on several occasions. Her classroom has been condemned by the fire department, she has manhandled several children, she leaves the children unsupervised for as long as two hours, she calls the children "stupid" and "idiot", she is emotionally abusive, she drives children on field trips while taking high doses of "pain medication". And as if those weren't sufficient grounds to at least warrant her removal, she doesn't even teach the class! There is no space in the classroom for desks or tables for the children because of all of the junk that the teacher refuses to get rid of, so the children have to sit on the floor. Therefore, they do NO paperwork at school and NO homework. The teacher teaches none of the curriculum. The room is always in utter chaos. The parents are so resigned to their fate, that they gather at the first of each year to assign groups of parents to take turns teaching the various sections of the curriculum. She teaches none except computer.

For the last five years, when the parents have had their annual October uprising and threatened her with a lawsuit, she begged "a medical condition that forced her to stay home", and a full-time substitute was brought in to teach from January-June. She is in the classroom NOT TEACHING from September-Mid December, sends the children into emotional turmoil, then leaves the parents and subtitute to pick up the pieces--AND SHE GETS PAID HER FULL SALARY! She plans to do this for 8-10 more years. Who can blame her.

Like the drunk driver, she is allowed to stay in her position because she falls through the cracks. Once she leaves the classroom each year, the parents and school are so preoccupied with fixing the damage that they don't have time to file the lawsuits anymore. And then, once THEIR kids are out of that grade, they don't have a dog in that race anymore. The cycle begins again each fall with a brand new group of parents who are left to start from scratch when the notorious teacher everyone dreads shows up for her four-month reign of terror so that she can get paid for sitting on her rear for eight more months.

Year after year, she is handed the keys to the classroom to sabottage the children (many of whom have ended up in therapy as a result of the misery she inflicts), and we wait for her classroom to catch fire, or for a child to suffer a permanent disabilty from being shoved into a wall or from being held off her feet and shaken violently (both of these have happened in the last three years--however, the kids were "only bruised"), or a child becomes so emotionally unstable as a result of taunting and teasing by the teacher or other students that they bring a weapon to school and harm someone.

In this country, we have all kinds of laws to keep drunk drivers off the road and abusive teachers out of the classroom. We hire and elect people to take care of all of the administrative details of enforcing those laws. And you would expect that they would take care of a blatant abuse of our laws without our having to recycle the issues, year after year. Unfortunately, it takes an act of God to get through the beaurocracy to enforce either until there is a tragedy like at Columbine. Then we sit around and ask, "How in the WORLD could THIS have happened? It was so obvious that there was a problem!" Yes. And your point is...?

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