Saturday, January 22, 2005

What Was She Thinking?

Up in Santa Barbara, there was some er...umm....excitement in a classroom at Monroe Elementary School the other day.

  1. Third Grade teacher Lissa Thomas randomly divides class of 19 children into two parts using orange and blue tickets.
  2. Without any explanation, the teacher begins treating one group nicely, and being mean to the other.
  3. After 10 minutes of this, several children in one group are crying.
  4. Principal Brent Millhollen halts the lesson.
  5. Children go home and tell parents.
  6. Nine parents complain to the school.
  7. Principal Millhollen and Superintendent .J Brian Sarvis of the Santa Barbara Elementary School District discuss the matter.
  8. Teacher Lisa Thomas is suspended from the classroom (with pay) pending the outcome of an investigation.

This particular teacher has some 25 years of experience in the classroom. Obviously, she was trying to teach her pupils lessons about discrimination, using an exercise ("Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes") that was developed by an Iowa teacher in 1968.

The controversial exercise is designed for children that are a somewhat older than third grade. The teacher's big mistake was not informing the parents (and we assume her principal) ahead of time. We don't know from the article if this teacher had been in trouble before, and the district won't tell, but we do know that a 25 year teaching veteran should have known better.

As a classroom teacher (and parent) myself, I also know that the key to long-term career survival is keeping the parents in the picture when one wants to teach controversial material.

Tipped by: Jeff over at Beautiful Atrocities