Can you imagine hating your job so much that you act like a jerk all the time to almost everyone you work with, actually trying to get fired or suspended, just so you don’t have to go back the next day!  That would be a pretty miserable way to come to work every day.  Think about how stressed out you would be and how little work you would do – not a whole hell of a lot – right!

Now look at a part of our student population, isn’t that exactly what they are doing?  They come to school every day acting as if they don’t care about anything or anyone as long as peers and teachers just leave them alone and woe be the ones that don’t leave them alone.

I have worked with the so-called “at risk” youth for many years now (with all the different labels) and I have seen this behavior so often from far too many of my students.  They are in a place (school) that they associate with pain and suffering (because they do), and we wonder why they don’t want to be there.

At some point in my career (I prefer not to say when), I asked one of my students who was having a “bad” month why he was acting like such a jerk in class?  You what he told me “nobody in f-ing school really gives a rats-ass about me or anyone else this f-ing room, as long as you keep us quiet, and we don’t cause too many problems for you, no one f-ing cares.”

“You can’t f-ing teach us nuthin because we’re too f-ing dumb, hey you might be a nice guy, but once we leave this room, what to f*(& really happens – you can’t f-ing change things, so why do you even f-ing try, it never f-ing changes?”  He went on for about another 4-5 minutes laying the f-bomb every few seconds, until he just got tired of talking.

I said the only thing that I could – “If I don’t who will?”

I would like to say that those small words turned that student’s life around – it didn’t that day (this is reality not a movie and I certainly am not “Superman”) and after a little more talking, we went back into class and later that period I had to have an administrator come to have him removed from my room for his disruptive behaviors.  That incident has stayed with me since it happened and the student did not do well in school afterwards, even though whenever he has seen me, he is polite, always says hi and we talk for a bit.

I have often thought how I would feel, if I was now a student today who had to come to school involuntarily everyday (for several years) to a place where my peers verbally and sometimes physically abused me, where my teachers nit picked at all the work I did, continually finding fault with my efforts and making those cutting remarks that only a teacher in front of a classroom can make and the only time I saw school administrators was after I did something against the “rules”.

When I finally do find something I am good at, hardly anyone notices and then as a punishment for not doing well at something I am not good at, they take away the things that I am good at doing.  Forcing me to do over and over again the things that I hate and am not good at, until I say f-it.

After a while I would learn the “game” from my “friends” and “others” that if I act like a jerk, people will leave me alone and if I really get tired of coming, I can do something just bad enough to get suspended a time or two.  I learn that I can basically get extra vacation time away from a place I hate as long as I don’t do anything too serious and not have to do a lot when I deign to show up.  What are they going to do suspend me?  Cool I will just go someplace else, it sure as hell can’t get any worse – right.

We subject a bigger percentage of our students than we want to admit to this everyday.

These students are required by law to be in a place they do not want to be, compulsory education for those students is torture, it certainly is not the “good old days” of school that most of you – believe that you remember.

Yet many in education and leadership think of school as a pleasurable experience, they remember the football games, basketball games, getting rewarded for good report cards, thinking about all their friends, Mr or Mrs. Teacher that made a difference in their life and all the other good things that can happen at school.  These former students are the ones that come back as teachers, go on to become politicians, public servants, school board members or some other leadership position.

I have to ask what do these people have in common with the student that dropped all those f-bombs on me that day?

In my opinion – not too damn much.

So when most of the so-called experts start saying what they think school should be like for all students, I have to wonder if they are thinking of my “student” and so many others like him.  I really don’t believe that they are.  They are talking about students like themselves, who were fairly successful in school, went to the right college, met the right people, got into the right career and is now able to make the “right” decisions for all students.

I say “that is a crock of bullshit”?

Do you find this offensive, I find what some of the decisions that are made for the benefit of all students offensive.

I hope that I do offend someone…I am tired of seeing the all student theory, especially when it has no connection to the reality that all of our students experience – not just the ones who do school well.  Students are individuals who have individual needs, wants and skills.  To lump them into an all student lump, does not work and causes schools where ever they are to loose too many of our students either by dropping out or skating by.

If I offended anyone with my verbiage or depiction of education in this blog entry…I do not apologize, maybe it is time that more of us talked about the 20-30 percent of students (yes I think it is that high), who do not believe that school is a good thing.

What can or what will we do for them?

That brings me to why I wrote this blog entry the way that I did…If I don’t who will?

“Do the right thing for the right reason”


  1. (my complete response @ Dufour puts it like this, "Don't tell me that all students can learn until you show me what you are doing for the students who are not learning." matched with Anthoney Muhammad's "It is absurd to believe that the people who benefited from the current system of education would be catalysts for its change." And you have the problem defined.You didn't offend me. You sound frustrated though. Maybe the change, from where you are, is not moving fast enough. It sounds like "all" students is rhetoric to you.If we don't show what we are doing for the students that aren't learning then we are doing nothing. I am not cool with that.If we don't also believe that all students can achieve then the alternative is that not all students can achieve. I am not cool with that either.Thanks for your blog post. I certainly can relate as a school administrator. It seems you are doing just fine at exercising your "inner-catalyst" for school transformation. Keep it up and watch your language or I will have to send you to the Principal's office. (kidding)

  2. Thank you for taking the time to respond. No I am not frustrated, just genuinely concerned about the direction that our educational system seems to be heading. From my vantage point at the bottom, our system is not being developed to take into account for those students who are and learn differently than "all" students.As we become more standardized are we going to meet the needs of those students who do not like school now? How it will the reform movement affect those students? I fear not well.Harold

  3. I have always said that the many of the people who went into to teaching went there because they found it to be pleasurable, to be needs fulfilling and because they were successful there. So many students find school more painful than we can imagine. I have yet to meet an elementary age student who wakes up in the morning and says "I want all the other students hate me, make fun of me, call me names, laugh at me, or better yet, ignore me. I want, my teachers to yell at me, roll there eyes at me, make sarcastic remarks and then ridicule me in the teachers room. Oh yeah and I want to make sure principal can hate me too." "HMMM.. I wonder how I can make the playground teachers cringe when they see me coming?" I get sooooo tired of hearing adults say to me "he is just doing that to get his way" or "she is really just pulling every one's chains, she knows what she needs to do." Really!!! Do kids really, really want to fail from their first day in school? Do they really want to be the one who never finishes? the one who gets their name called 100 times a day with disgust in the teacher's voice? Do they really want to have the entire class listen in as the teacher or principal points out, once again that they are different, because they cannot do what the others have so obediently done? I don't think so! Sorry… last week I was met on the playground by three teachers telling me that my grandson, who has autism, was being "bad" again….. Wake up people!! Not only am I a grandma. I am a special education professional. You have no idea who you are talking to when you speak to a parent……

  4. Unfortunately many children are the victims of their parents poor choices, and never have the support to become good students. I never did; when I required help the most I was abandoned to my own devices and decisions. My parents were too lazy to think much about my education, after dealing with my sisters Special Education needs. I was left behind, not by the school system, but by my own parents. Smart kids can and will struggle with school without support. My own struggle was with mathematics, since the second grade. Instead of catching the problem and addressing it early, it festered into a great humiliation by high school, so much so, that I had trouble asking for help from my negligent mother and the critical teachers. I was embarrassed because they wondered at how I could have made it to that grade without knowing basic algebra skills. I had no response, simply quiet humiliation. I was made to feel as if the blame was my own, even though I was an otherwise attentive and successful student. They would tell me to go home and ask a parent for help. My mother was inept. My father had abandoned me to wolves, to better seek his own self fulfillment. How was a teenager suppose to phrase that? I had no where to turn, it is no wonder I hated school. You are correct, it is not the "good ole days" of yore. I was never a trouble maker and most of my teachers liked me a great deal, when I showed up. However, I had very little to make me attend school, I could easily convince my checked out mother that she should call me in. There was no magical teacher in my life to make a difference, My own parents even cared too little to take much notice of my difficulty. Needless to say I became a statistic. The funny thing is, I got good grades in all my other classes, even was in honor level English classes. I was never held back in math, because I completed my homework and endeavored to better myself, the little I could without betraying my disgraceful math skills to my friends. What held me back was being unable to pass the standardized test for math. I did not know how to measure, use fractions, decimals or divide. Having no adult I was close enough to turn to for guidance, I simply lost hope. I gave up. I am now a statistic, albeit a much more happy statistic than I was being a fatherless teen with a negligent mother. I have improved upon my education since, but will give no thanks to my culpable parents for the improvement.

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