"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, January 24, 2014

Burning through Teachers and KIPP's Public Shaming of Children

Here is a tiny clip from one interview with a former KIPP teacher that I have been re-reading today.  Sadly, it represents the norm for the total compliance testing camps where these former teachers taught:

. . . the first thing I would say would be, like I said, there is zero down time. And they are completely understaffed. For example, because the school was on such a ____________, we couldn’t get hot lunch deliveries. And there was no kitchen in the building because it was an office building that was, you know, leased to KIPP. So one thing that the teachers had to do, every teacher, was to assemble lunches for the 30-something kids in your class. And so for me, I was, it was funny. I went to _________ because I wanted sun, and they put me in a basement classroom with no windows. 

So I’m here with my 30 kids in this 20 by 20 room, and I’m assembling their lunches. And they sit down. And again, this is just telling. They sit down and they’re not allowed to talk during lunch. And they’re not allowed to eat until everyone has received every part of the meal. And so to another teacher who was going to teach there, I would tell a story like that, you know, as indicative of what to expect. And I think there’s no reason that an organization with their resources couldn’t hire a bunch of aides to take this job from the teachers so that they would have, you know, resources, you know, energy to do the things that they need to do. And I think what they do is, they just spend their money on recruitment and just burn through teachers. 

And that seems to be, like, they don’t seem to have a problem with that. And that’s hard for me to understand because I know that teacher turnover slowly erodes the mission of the school and the morale of the kids and the teachers. The kids figure, well, she’s not going to be here next year. Why do I care? You know? So that’s definitely, I think, one thing, the first thing that I would say. 

And then the second thing would be, the way I would call it, I’d say it’s corporal punishment, I mean, in the public shaming, you know, the idea that if a kid messes up, you know, the whole demerit system, which a lot of schools have that. I get it. But I don’t necessarily believe in it. And then if a student collects enough demerits, then his shirt is turned inside out, and the kid is, quote, on bench the way someone, you know, a basketball player would be sitting out. And when a kid’s shirt is inside-out, you can’t talk to him. He’s not a member of the class. He might even have to sit on the floor or outside. And the other kids can’t talk to him. And if the kids do, then it’s, like, wildfire. Then they all have their shirts inside-out very quickly. You know? I just don’t see the point in a lot of this stuff. So if someone asked me --

INTERVIEWER: That was part of the public shaming?

JENNIFER: Yeah. Yeah. And that was big. There was another example. . . . ____________ taught PE class. So he walked the kids to the park, and, every day, which wasn’t that far. But they have this very rigid way they cross the street, single file. When they turn a corner it’s choreographed thing that they practice and practice. They don’t have gym class until they get it right. And one student, a little fifth grade boy, he had to go to the bathroom. And it was, you know, with kids that age, it was, like, urgent, right now. The teacher said, we’re in the park now. You're going to have to wait. And the kid just couldn’t wait and so relieved himself on a tree in the park. And when they got back to school the next day, morning meeting, all the kids piled into the community room and the principal brought this kid to the front of everybody, you know, stand in front of all of his peers and, what did you do? And so he had to say what he did. And he had to say that he was sorry he shamed the uniform and the school and everything that it stands for. And this was a fifth grader, I mean, in, like, the second or third week of school, so. That’s an example of what we’re talking about.

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