Teach Your Children Well

When Sam was in 5th grade, he was suspended twice by his elementary school in the Scottsdale School District. Once was for imitating Britney Spears dancing on the pole at the Video Music Awards (he used the pole from the swing set). One of the girls in his grade reported to the principal that she found it “offensive” and Sam was told they have a zero tolerance policy at his school for offensiveness. The second time was when his teachers decided to go into all of the desks of the children while they were at recess and read their self-graded language workbooks. Sam had doodled that one of the teachers was fat and also that he “hated fucking Wordly Wise” (the name of the notebook); they pulled him out of recess and confronted him with what they found and when he got “too emotional”, he was suspended again.

Craig and I met with the Assistant Principal who explained how the Scottsdale School District holds themselves to “high moral standards.” We questioned how a boy, who had never seen the inside of a principal’s office in 6 years of school gets suspended for his very first offense. And we wondered how a child could be suspended again for writing private thoughts in a notebook that was clearly told by teachers to students that it was to be seen by no one other than the child. We explained that, when 3 teachers bombarded him and pulled him out of recess to corner and question him, that we felt it was understandable he was upset and embarrassed. Again, they explained their high moral standards (which actually is written out in a school district guidebook, but had never been explained to the kids in detail nor given to anyone unless looked up online). I should also point out that Lauren and her friends were sent to the principal in 3rd grade for playing a game where they tapped each other’s backs on the playground. “We don’t touch each other at school”, said the staff to the 8 year old girls. This from a school that has a Dodgeball Tournament.

This past week, the Scottsdale School District laid off dozens of teachers due to a property tax not being passed by residents. While I do not question how hard it must be for the Board to have to allocate money with budget cuts, what I do question is the fact that the middle school teachers at Cocopah Middle School were informed of their firing, via email, in the middle of the school day on Friday. 10 inspirational, wonderful teachers were visibly shaken and understandably crying in front of our students. While Sam was not there due to the tour, many of my friend’s children witnessed this and came home horrified. No emails were sent to parents to explain how to help the students or what it all means (and what I have learned is that it is possible that some positions may be saved at a later date.) All I know is that this District, with such a high “moral code”, performed one of the most offensive acts I’ve ever heard of in a school.

The District made cuts at many schools last week. Gone is the Cherokee elementary school librarian (who saw Sam in all of his shows and sent us letters telling us how much she loved watching him), and gone is Sam’s most beloved teacher at Cocopah: his middle school band teacher. The teacher who made him feel special and wonderful and provided a home in the band room for him at a school filled with sports-minded boys.

I wish we could understand what we as parents can do to help this situation. I wish that the district would tell us what to do and how to help the kids who are so upset by what they saw on Friday. I know that the Board is trying hard to help, and voted to save all nurses and many specials like art and physical education from being eliminated altogether. But there is more to be done.

Lauren was told that her chorus teacher was being fired so that the school could get a new mascot. Our incoming Kindergarten class is being told that if enrollment is not increased for next year, teachers will be moved and we will have very large class sizes in Kindergarten. There are rumors of conspiracies to let teachers go who voted against political measures. There is so much anger and finger pointing that no one knows what to believe.

Yesterday, I heard that a teacher from Aidan’s preschool was involved in a horrible car accident in which her 11 year old daughter, a preschool classmate of Sam’s, was killed. This mom and teacher was driving her daughter and 4 of her friends to her daughter’s birthday party in Scottsdale. Killed on the way to her birthday party. I cannot imagine the pain this family is going through and send my good thoughts to their family, and the families of the children in the car who were also hurt.

We must teach our children how life is fragile and precious. If this horrible week in America has taught us anything, it is that at any moment it could all come to a tragic end. Our children are our future. We need to show them how to treat each other. We need to show them how to respect each other. We need to remind them how important our teachers are and how school is a safe place. We, as adults, need to lead by example.

By showing these teachers zero respect, and providing families with no clear information, our District has illustrated the real problem in this world: a lack of moral judgment on the part of adults in positions of power. I’m sure we can all think of someone in a position of authority who preaches the highest of morality and demonstrates the complete opposite.

I realize that it isn’t as bad as a boy with no friends in a new school trying to make kids laugh at something that was on public tv, but to me, it deserves immediate suspension.

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7 Responses to Teach Your Children Well

  1. Jon says:

    Thank you for a different perspective. I have a similar story. My fiancee and I had a cat for 20 years. Well, as you can guess, one day our Julius took a turn for the worse and we had to bring our cat in to be put to sleep. Unfortunately, this happened on a blackout day and my fiancee was not given authorization to take the day off and was charged a day of pay. She was turned down by her principal, the blackout committee, another smaller committee, and finally the superintendent (so the process goes I was told). Well, after a letter to the school board, the blackout committee, the SEA executive board, and the superintendent, she was given back her pay for the day. But of course the damage was already done. So when you poke fun of the district’s high moral standards, I know what you mean.

    • Sandra says:

      The policy is actually to charge a day and a HALF for taking a blackout day off. It’s ludicrous that we (as a teacher myself) have to justify when we take a day off. Treat us like professionals. Sure, there will be people who take every day off they receive. When there is no compensation provided if you never use them, why not? However, as a teacher who extremely rarely uses any of the days I am given off, I find it offensive. Especially considering all of the time I am out of my classroom to help the district with its different initiatives and other work!

  2. tammy jakubik says:

    Disclaimer: legally, I am not a Mom but have been Mom when your’s is in absence for more than thirty years and Aunty of SUSD childrent for nineteen years. I also have two brothers who are teachers, one for SUSD. But, I am my own woman, have my own opinions and here is mine.

    DO NOT ENROLL YOUR CHILDREN FOR THE 2013-2014 SCHOOL YEAR. When asked why not say you are looking at homeschooling or charter schools. Or maybe moving out of SUSD because they do not have the CHILDREN’S best interests at heart.!

    It is, at least to me, obvious, the administration will not responsibly act until THEY are looking at a serious pay cut or lay off.

    • Sandra says:

      While I wouldn’t blame anyone from pulling their students from SUSD, please stop and think a moment before doing so. It was suggested that parents pull their children from school on one day-all on the same day-to send a message to the district. Permanently pulling students from the district will not only hurt the administrators, but severely damage the hard-working teachers of the district. They are not to blame for the administrative lack of morals. Just saying… and yes, I am a middle school math teacher in the district.

  3. Mike Norton says:

    A School District that proclaims itself “Zero Tolerance for Bullying” bullies Teachers to a level not seen anywhere else in Arizona. SUSD’s infamous policy of RIF’s followed by reversals of RIF’s later in the summer reached a new crescendo this year with 140 RIF notices issued. Stockholm Syndrome tactics by the hostage takers – teachers are soooooo grateful later when their RIF’s are reversed. This offends me deep in my soul. Especially this year where it is so clear that SUSD RIF’ed teachers out of retaliation for their very prudent decision NOT to give back their Prop 301 Funds.

  4. Kelli James says:

    I come from a family of educators but didn’t realize how incredibly difficult it is to teach until 10 years ago when I started doing it myself. I believe that kids have to be kids and they need a loving and creative environment to learn in. Because of that I have been lectured by some and told I am not tough enough on my kids and I have cried many nights over thinking I’m not doing right by my students. All I can do is follow my heart. I myself was a very sensitive kid and I am still reeling from what a 2nd grade teacher did to me when she called me out in front of the class room for problems I was having with MATH. My Aunt who was a 2nd grade teacher helped me study and I aced my 3rd grade Math tests but was never the same…. I still hate Math to this day and don’t like numbers. When I have been accused of being too soft on my students I just think about how to this day I still carry hurt in my heart for my 2rd grade teacher who scared me to death and made me hate math…..

  5. Jason says:

    Beautifully written and well thought through. Thanks Alison – humanity needs more like you!

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