Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted October 11, 2019

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What people don't know about being a teacher

A Teachable Moment

by Susan Larson

What do you think? Contest Winner 
Though I'm not one to propose more government regulations, I've long thought that no one
should be allowed to hold public office, work for the media or practice law without having worked as a substitute teacher. People don't know what teachers have to put up with.

Take bullying. I subbed in a behavioral disorder class with six students, a teacher and a paraprofessional, who was a retired lawyer just wanting to do something more meaningful with his life than play golf.

Some boys were murmuring. He told me to listen carefully. They were saying things like "Do you like pork?" "No, I hate pork." "I can't stand pork."

The lawyer said, "They're bullying that overweight kid. I know what they are doing but with 35 years of legal experience, I also know I can't do a thing about it. You can't prove anything and you can't falsely accuse them of anything."

Then there are set ups. A male student teacher was monitoring a math test. A girl had her skirt pulled up mid-thigh with math formulas written on her skin. When she noticed him looking at her, she said, "You can't tell on me because all I have to do is say you were looking up my skirt. My parents will sue you for sexual harassment."

And dress codes might as well not exist. Where I subbed, the schools prohibited clothes that advertise liquor. There are thousands of beer, wine and liquor labels. In order to enforce this rule, teachers would have to memorize all brand names and logos and constantly keep up with new ones.

When I questioned a girl about the Foster's logo on her shirt, she said she had the right to wear it because it was her last name.

Dress codes also prohibit clothing with sexual messages or profanity. When I commented on a T-shirt with "FOOK U" emblazed in eight-inch letters I was told FOOK is not a dirty word. Cryptic messages like Big Johnson (male organ) make you wonder about anything that looks "too cute." Do teachers need weekly workshops to stay current on adolescent lingo? And even if they are aware of these expressions, the kids can always play dumb and say they didn't know the words were dirty. Yes, it's happened to me.

These rules are clearly spelled out in the student manuals, but teachers are instructed to not do anything that will bring the media or a lawsuit into the classroom. And even if a lawsuit fails, the incident has already been blasted over the media and the administration has tons of paperwork to fill out, plus this alleged offence put on their record.

I am so tired of seeing teachers made out to look like the bad guys by politicians, talking heads and lawyers who have no idea what they are talking about. I think one semester of substitute teaching would knock a lot of sense into them!

What do you think?
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