Monday, March 15, 2010

Teacher Writes "Loser" on Student's Paper Enraging Parent

OK, I never intended the last few days to be on the subject of education here at the Indy Democrat blog, but it appears that I am doing it again.

AOL News writer Michelle Ruiz reports that a teacher in Buncombe County, NC wrote the word "loser" as a comment on a sixth-grader's paper. Here is the story:

(March 14) -- The mother of a sixth-grader in Buncombe County, N.C., is upset about name-calling in her daughter's classroom -- but the students aren't the ones slinging the mud.

Patty Clement is debating other parents in Candler, N.C., over Rex Roland, a teacher who writes the word "loser" on the assignments of his 11- and 12-year-old students.

Clement first noticed Roland's notes in November, when he wrote "loser" in the margin of her daughter's paper. The principal at Enka Middle School assured Clement it would not happen again, but it did, recently, when Roland wrote, "minus 20% for being a loser" on her daughter's assignment.

"This is wrong," Clement told Asheville's WLOS-TV. "The techniques need to change."

Other parents defend Roland's progressive teaching methods, saying he is fond of giving nicknames to students and using the word "loser" in jest, as a way of relating to students.

"A lot of the students he has are academically gifted students, and so one of the ways that he would joke with them would be if they scored a 110, he always gave extra credit, so if they scored a 110, 120 on a paper, he would have a joke on it -- 'loser'," one parent, Kathy Andrews, told WLOS. "That's what he engages in... he gets on their level and their words and tries to relate to them."

Her son, Ian Andrews, a former student of Roland, described him as "the cool teacher that people wanted to be in class with."

Clement said the difference in opinion over Roland, a 12-year veteran at Enka Middle School, has made her daughter a target of bullying and harassment. She told The Associated Press her daughter received almost 100 threatening text messages last week, forcing Clement to keep her home from school.

Clement claims Roland's teaching style is harming her daughter's learning process.

"He threw my daughter's pencil box in the hallway and she got in trouble by another teacher for disrupting his class -- for something that she did not do," she told the AP.

Roland has apologized for using the "l-word," saying it was his way of relating to the students. But Clement continues to press for his suspension.

"I don't know what we're going to do, but I'll fight to the end," she told WLOS.

An online petition titled "Please Get Rex Roland Out of Enka Middle School" currently has 151 signatures, urging supporters to "demand justice for this little girl, anyone else he's doing this to who's afraid to come forward, and all of those who will come in contact with him in the future." It is addressed to Buncombe County School District Superintendent Dr. Tony Baldwin.

The school district has said the issue is a "personnel matter" that is the subject of an ongoing investigation, according to the AP. Roland could not be reached for comment.

10...9...8...7...6...6...6...6...6...ok forget it.

I go back to my own experience as a student and the teachers I had in Wayne Township. Thank goodness I went to school where I did. I can remember the loving and caring teachers that I had over the most formative years of my life. I ended up being a very good student by the time I graduated from high school, but I started out as a little likely ADD-ridden snot. It took a lot to keep me under control, and it took a few special teachers to figure me out...even though one never got me.

I remember the patience of my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Nelson. Mrs. Nelson was barely bigger than I was. She was a great teacher, and, thankfully, I still see her every once in a while today. Little did she know she sparked my first interest in education. She showed a great deal of patience with the squirrels in class...of which I was one.

In first grade, I had Mrs. Trenchard, a very patient and caring teacher. Mrs. Trenchard spent extra time with me to make sure I was ready to learn. I remember her like she is standing in front of me now. As a precocious six-year-old, Mrs. Trenchard always seemed happy to see me.

Then, came the second grade...

I ran across Mrs. Thompson. Mrs. Thompson was an older woman with bright white hair. She wore it in a bowl style hair cut and spoke in a thick southern accent. I always remember her wearing skirts and she had these big bottlecap classes which seemed to make her eyes six times bigger than they were. Unlike Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Trenchard, Mrs. Thompson was old school. I know that I must have given her a few more gray hairs as I refused to finish my work and instead talk to my friends. Mrs. Thompson never seemed to have the time Mrs. Trenchard or Mrs. Nelson had to refocus me.

I never remember Mrs. Thompson yelling at me, but I do remember her locking me in the ditto room one time to try to make me do my work. On hearing this, my dad, who was also an educator, was so enraged that he made one of only two during-the-workday visits to my school to have a heart-to-heart with the principal. Needless to say, Mrs. Thompson never locked me in another ditto room. I think she ended up retiring a couple of years later. In the back of my mind, I can remember that Mrs. Thompson was the kind of teacher I never wanted to be like.

In third grade, I had Mrs. Bowman. Thank God for Mrs. Bowman. Still, to this day, she is one of my favorite all time teachers. I think I was starting to grow out of my precociousness by then, but she really seemed to make the connection for me between the work we were doing in the classroom and what she was trying to teach. Mrs. Bowman was tough, but she had a heart of gold. If not for her, I might not have succeeded in public schools.

After third grade, I had a string of teachers that I loved (in elementary/junior high/high school...Mrs. Angle, Mrs. Reid, Mr. Etienne, Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Albright, Mr. Neddo, Mrs. Rowe, Mr. Doss, Mr. McQueen, Mrs. Lincks, Mrs. McKinney, Mr. Mendenhall, Mrs. Henderson, Dr. Whitmore...and in college...Stephen Watt, Tony Ardizzone, Jonathan Elmer, Chuck Forker, Jack Dvorak, Claude Cookman, David Flinders, Abby Howard Brown, and many more I'm forgetting) and I began to feel the longing for education that my dad did when he went into it. When my dad passed last year, he left behind a journal of his thoughts and an audio tape of them as well. In his journal and in the tapes, he singled out an elementary teacher as someone that had the greatest impact on him. It was his history teacher. If you knew my dad, he was a history buff, and he states several times in the tapes and in the journal how she stoked his fire for history...specifically the Civil War.

Anyway, I'm rambling now. For me, I think it was, when I go back and really think about it, Mrs. Bowman that got me on the right path to being a better student. Something happened in that third grade classroom at Chapelwood Elementary to make me understand that education was something important and that I could get one if I was willing to work. I'm not sure that if I'd had another Mrs. Thompson if that would have happened.

My point is somewhat obvious. It is that teachers can have an amazing impact on their students. In my opinion, this teacher in the story above dropped the ball.

Now, I'm not perfect, and I know that I have failed a kid or two over the years. I know of two instances where I have gone back via the magic of Facebook and apologized to a kid that I thought I had failed. Both times, the student has accepted my apology, and I'm thankful to have a friendship with one of them now.

You see, relating to kids isn't about writing comments you think are funny on their papers. That's not getting to their level. It's never cool to insult them. By insulting them, you are insulting the profession of teaching, and I get very upset when people do this. It's a big job, and it's not for the faint of heart or the weak of character. Teaching will test everything you know about life and everything that you believe about yourself. In the end, you are responsible for the education of that child. You can't do that if you ruin the teacher-student relationship.

I have been there, and I have done it. It doesn't take much to ruin that bond. This teacher in the story above called a SIXTH GRADE GIRL a LOSER! On what planet is that right? I think he should look himself in the mirror and realize that, since he's responsible for this girl's education, by calling this girl a loser that he is in fact calling himself a loser. Maybe he should remember this quote from Henry Brooks Adams next time he feels the urge to go off on a student, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."

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