Friday, June 10, 2005

Please Don't Choke The Kids: A Little Too Much "Hands-On" Learning In Boston

This is the kind of thing that happens when something is broken in a school system:
The Department of Social Services is investigating a claim that a substitute teacher choked a 12-year-old boy until he lost consciousness.

The alleged incident took place last Thursday at the John Marshall Elementary School in the city's Dorchester neighborhood, where Anthony Jackson is in the fifth grade.

According to a report in Wednesday's Boston Herald, the teacher allegedly asked the class how long it would take for a student to black out. When students didn't know, she began to choke the boy.

Anthony told his grandmother that the teacher held him so tightly around the neck for so long that he lost consciousness, the Herald said, and no one called for medical help after he fell to the floor. He quickly regained consciousness and was not injured, other than a slight headache.
School officials have declined to release the substitute's name. She has been transferred to an administrative position pending outcome of an investigation, which should be completed within ten days time.

It's tough to comment on this one without knowing some additional background. For example, what type (if any) of background check and professional training had this substitute completed?

Many districts will hire just about anyone with a pulse and send them into the classroom.

In the California District where I teach, the only requirement (besides a pulse) needed in order to substitute is a bachelor's degree with a major in anything, a certified check or money order in the amount of $60 for the state-issued "substitute's credential," and a background check. Thus "credentialed," substitutes may then render services at the going rate of $90.00 per day. (less taxes)

At the junior high school where I teach, there is no supervision of substitutes at all. No administrator "drops-by" for a look at anytime during the instructional day. Many subs know this, and make only feeble (and at times no) attempts to complete the lesson-plan that the regular teacher had left behind. Many simply throw a video into the player, turn it on, and then tune out with a newspaper while the class slowly degenerates into chaos.

One substitute that has worked at our school for years has been given the nickname "Sleepy" (you can guess why) by both students and staff.

Schools need effective substitute teachers. Substitute teaching is challenging under the most favorable of conditions. Therefore, it makes no sense at all that so many districts are doing little to nothing to ensure that substitutes are actually being trained in order to be productive in the classroom.

Schools will always need substitute teachers. Clearly, training an effective cadre of substitute teachers would be an excellent investment for any district. Our children deserve nothing less.
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