- A New School Year: Here Comes the Fear Again - August 20, 2013
- Jeff Bliss: Ignorance Is Bliss Or Is Bliss Just Ignorant? - May 17, 2013
- Five Lessons For Everyone Who Works in Education for a Living - April 30, 2013
- Teaching Through Trickery: A Snapshot of Theory vs. Reality - February 28, 2013
- Kill Your Idols: A Case for Contemporary Literature - February 6, 2013
- Based on a True Story: A Critical Look at Teachers in Movies - January 24, 2013
Recently, I saw this video in which an angry student named Jeff Bliss went on a tirade against his teacher because he felt she wasn't actively teaching the students in her class. After a few minutes of Internet surfing, I stumbled upon this article, in which Bliss is touted as the poster boy for educational reform. I experienced a plethora of emotions as I thought about all of the people who were seeing this and thinking, "Well, there you have it. Public education is so screwed up that even the students are calling teachers out on it." Eventually, my emotional dial stopped spinning and settled on good old fashioned anger. I was mad that a teacher would run her class in a way that would spark such an outburst; I was mad that a student would voice a concern in such a disrespectful way; I was mad that some other student filmed it and posted it online; and I was mad that, yet again, I feel the need to defend what I do to the vast peanut gallery of the Internet.
I don't want to put too much analysis into a YouTube video that was a minute and a half long, because there are too many unrevealed factors that need to be considered. I just want to go on record and say that, despite standardized testing, I do not run my class in a sterile and robotic fashion. I cannot be replaced with a tape recorder. I can say the same thing about all of the other teachers that I know. I do the very best that I can to make my state's approved curriculum accessible to students. As this article written by Jim Mitchell of Dallas News states, teachers have the responsibility to engage students in their content, but students have to rise up and meet whatever challenges that exist in their schools or classrooms.
One thing that Bliss and his audience have not considered is the staggering amount of complexity that goes on behind the scenes for a teacher. It's easy to blow up and hold a teacher responsible for the faults that are present in the public school system, because we are the front lines of that system. Had Bliss known all the details about how his particular school district had influenced the decisions of his teacher, I doubt he would have had anything to say.
I have made mistakes in my career, and some of those mistakes have upset a student or two. I'm human, it happens. However, when this happens, I expect my students to address these problems in a respectful way. No mistake justifies an outburst of that magnitude, let alone to have it filmed and broadcast all over the Internet. Students should definitely care about their education, and they should get upset when they feel it's not benefitting them. But they should also have the decency to address these problems with the teacher appropriately. What's going to happen when Bliss's future boss makes a mistake that ends up affecting him, and instead of resolving it respectfully, he goes on a rant about how his boss isn't doing a satisfactory job? I see a trip to the unemployment office.
After watching the video for a second time, my inner sadist prompted me to scroll through the comments on Facebook. I felt the need to comment that, as this is one minute inside one of thousands of classrooms, it shouldn't be used as an indictment of the entire public education system. From there, I received replies that claimed teachers had every second of their class time "dictated" to them by a district. Though I wouldn't be surprised if this does happen in some districts, it's never happened to me. I have my curriculum, and I am trusted to use the skills and theories that I learned through a four-year bachelor's program and a two-year master's program to teach that curriculum to my students. If somebody is going to pass judgment on me and how I do my job, it better be based on evidence that they gather from my classroom, not a YouTube video that takes less time to watch than it does to microwave a Hot Pocket.