Saturday, March 5, 2011

Too bad the kids don't have a union to protect them too.

I've posted before about volunteering in a SAE program that brings engineers into elementary school classrooms to try to motivate young students to pursue math and science.  America needs more engineers and scientists, this is an attempt to introduce them to the kind of things of engineers do and how we design using experiments to test ideas. 

This year marks my 7th year in the program and I have been into 5 different Detroit Public Elementary schools in that time.  Its a great experience getting to know the kids and challenging them a bit.  I have to say, I feel bad for the kids subjected to these learning environments. Each school I have visited has been unkempt and cluttered.  Dirty windows, unclean bathrooms, walls needed paint, floors needed scrubbed, weeds growing all around the school, graffiti on the building, Cardboard boxes stacked all over the shelves and tables in the classrooms.  This isn't a "union" problem.  Its a lack of management.  That would fall on the principals.  Take it up with their union I suppose.

The kids are typical elementary students with the normal assortment of brainy kids who want to learn and ask questions and do their best, others who go along with the program but aren't so into it, and other kids who would rather chat and goof off.  Pretty much what I would expect going into any classroom setting.  Typically 25-30 kids in the classroom.  Oh and 100% African American students.  I don't recall seeing a white kid in any of the DPS schools where I have volunteered.  Detroit's racial polarity is most blatant at this level of the community.  There may still be some white people scattered around Detroit neighborhoods, but you couldn't tell from the public schools.  These kids may grow up never having a single white classmate or neighbor.

Almost every DPS teacher I have ever worked with was white, which seems peculiar but union seniority rules and all.. For some reason they seem to yell a lot.  I mean like YELL A LOT.  A couple of them yelled but at least the message was respectful, just at a higher volume than I care to use.  A few others were just batshit crazy screaming and yelling at the students with tone and words that would likely get them into a "situation" if any parents were within earshot.  I have felt really uncomfortable a few times standing in a room with a teacher having a temper tantrum screaming at a room full of little kids.  I don't get it.  It never works for more than a minute or so.  It makes the screaming teacher look like a fool and the kids just lose respect.  Apparently this is acceptable in the DPS, because I've seen the same thing at a number of schools. Even when the room I have been in was quiet you occasionally hear some other teacher down the hall having a conniption.

I know that it can be frustrating as hell when kids don't listen to you.  But I have never seen where screaming at them and lashing out does anything other give a short-term shock effect.  Maybe its therapy for a frazzled teacher stuck in a failing district to scream at someone/anyone.   But the effect fades if you overuse it.  It doesn't promote the most conducive learning environment.  (free tip here, the best way to quiet a room is with a shhhhhhhh!! not a scream.)

I wonder if I am being unreasonable expecting teachers to control their tempers and not melt down and scream at a roomful of children (disclaimer for football coaches of course..)  They sure wouldn't act like that if parents were in the room or if a video camera was taping their tirades.  They don't seem to mind doing it in front of me. 

Dang people, just settle down.

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