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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Fear of Kids: Are Teachers Losing Their Minds?

Marie Waltherr-Willard's Fear of Kids

     Marie Waltherr-Willard, a Spanish/French teacher, began teaching French in 1976 at Mariemont High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2009, after 33 years at the high school, the language teacher was transferred against her wishes to a middle-school where she had to teach 7th and 8th graders Spanish. The move took place after the high school French program went online.

     In the middle of the 2010-2011 school year, Waltherr-Willard abruptly retired and began receiving her monthly pension payments based on an annual retirement income of $70,000. In June 2012, the retired teacher filed a federal lawsuit against the school district under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her disability: a pathological fear of young children, a phobia she said had been diagnosed in 1991.  The former teacher claimed that by forcing her to teach middle-schoolers, her employers had discriminated against her by refusing to recognize and take into consideration her disability. The plaintiff's attorney claimed that, as a result of her forced early retirement, his client lost $100,000 in potential income.

     According to the plaintiff, being around middle-school school kids had shot her blood pressure up to stroke levels. Moreover, the little buggers pushed her into a state of general anxiety, mental anguish, and gastrointestinal illness. The civil trial was scheduled for February 2014.

     A U.S. District Court judge dismissed Waltherr-Willard's ridiculous lawsuit in June 2014. In February 2015, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld that decision. (Lawsuits like this remind us there are too many lawyers.)

The Red Pen Alert: Abusive Grading

     The idea that marking up a student's test or homework with red ink upsets kids who don't appreciate criticism, isn't new. (Ever since Mister Rogers started telling children that they were all extremely special, most of them can't handle the sad truth that 90 percent of us, on a good day, are ordinary.) Since 2008, hundreds of schools across the country have replaced the insidious red grading pencils and pens with writing instruments that produce colors that are less aggressive and mean. (I can't imagine a kid who got an F on a test feeling better about himself because the F is written in a nice shade of blue.)

     Education researchers at the University of Colorado published a study that confirmed the theory that marking up a kid's work in red as opposed to more neutral colors caused unnecessary anger and embarrassment. Red ink splashed all over a paper supposedly makes the lousy student feel more harshly criticized. Assuming this is true, so what? What's wrong with criticism with a little zip? If students are offended by red ink, they can solve the problem by doing better work. (Maybe the geniuses at the University of Colorado should come up with strategies for that.) I'd like to get my hands on that study, and in red ink, write: "You people are idiots?" (Is that too harsh?)

Radical Anti-Bullying Advice From a Knucklehead

     Gabrielle Jackson was a sixth grader at the Central Middle School in Moline Acres not far from St. Louis, Missouri. Gabrielle complained to her mother, Tammie Jackson, that bullies at school were making lewd and insensitive comments regarding her large bust. Tammie called the school district to report the sexual harassment of her daughter and was not pleased with the response to her complaint. Over the phone, an unidentified employee of the school district suggested that the 13-year-old student have her breasts surgically reduced. Presumably the anti-bullying expert didn't provide this mother specifics regarding just how small the breasts would have to be to disinterest bullies. Moreover, if the plastic surgeon got carried away and made them too small, kids might bully her for being flat chested.

Zero Tolerance for Paper Guns

     On January 22, 2013, Melody Valentin, a fifth grader in a Philadelphia elementary school, inadvertently took a folded piece of paper to school that roughly resembled a handgun. Her grandfather had fashioned the toy weapon. When Melody realized what she had brought to school, she threw the paper gun into a classroom trash can. A fellow student who witnessed Melody's attempt to ditch the contraband, squealed. The teacher seized the evidence, hauled the offender to the front of the class, and gave her hell for being so reckless with all of their lives. Later that night, the distraught girl's mother found her daughter in the bathroom crying. As a result of the negative attention, some of her classmates were calling her a murderer.

     This example of schoolhouse hysteria came on the heels of an incident in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania involving a pre-schooler suspended for threatening to shoot a playmate with her pink Hello Kitty soap bubble gun. School officers called the incident a "terroristic threat." (See: "The Kindergarten Terrorist: The Hello Kitty Soap Bubble Conspiracy," January 22, 2013.)

     I'm afraid these school employees are so stupid they are immune from ridicule and embarrassment. (Still, I try.) Obviously there are bright, competent elementary and middle-school teachers and administrators, but just how outnumbered are they by all the fools and idiots?


1 comment:

  1. Please pardon my inevitable typo's...I'm on a touch screen device with a swollen index finger.
    These cases you list ARE indeed asanine but it disturbs me that you conflate these anecdotal incidents with the education system at large. Please refrain from being part of a trend in our society that singles out the incompetents from a field and generalizes this to demean an entire field. Perhaps it would help to actually run the numbers of cases versus # of employees in the # of educational facilities, etc., versus these outlandish examples.
    It seems lately that the only time people see teachers as a whole for who they really are and why they are really there is when tragedy strikes and teachers physically shield children from danger, be it a sociopath with a firearm or jettisoning bookcases and concrete during tornadoes. People are shocked into an awareness that, not only did those teachers lay their lives on the line for children who do not belong to them, but they did so at their own expense, despite the pay, despite the frustrations of the job, despite their lack of blood connections, despite the lack of respect people like you, educated, experienced and highly influential, demonstrate towards them and foster in others---despite the fact that they have their own families and will be facing great loss, and they do it anyway.

    People are so quick to point to teachers as failures yet not at their parents, just as people are quick to indict single mothers for their failures, yet not the father that split. We live in a culture that blames those who try against all odds, yet aquit those who show no responsibility. Why are you eager to collude?

    The reason these teachers and principals overreact to the point of hysteria may simply be due to the pressures upon them from parents and stakehokders and the threats of lawsuits. Common sense gets an over ride at times, yet can you guarantee that the child with the pop tart gun won't end up as the child with a .22 and a plan to stab and kill? Are you in the schools training admin in ways to accurately predict signs of ASPD and sociopathy, a condition most psychiatrists vehemently deny children be labeled with before their early 20's? Are you going to later write a column condemning teachers for not recognizing a pop tart gun as a precursor to a crime, an indication of a preoccupation with violence...if that child were to act out later?

    I too think this was an overreaction, but don't blame the teachers, don't mock them or call them stupid. Parents want their children shielded, then you should cast your mantle of irony onto them for buying wii zappers and violent videogames yet wanting admin to have a no-tolerance policy on weaponry and threats. Innocent children can't grasp that they guns are ok to pkay with at home and watch in movies yet, why cant we play/talk at school? Other children may be having different ideas. This is the world we live in. Who has prepared us for it? We know how we got it, now how do we deal with it? You are mocking educators for trying to bail out the Titanic with a teaspoon. Well, please get into the schools and teach them HOW TO BE SURE. What they need is a contribution, not a satire at their best, if at times misguided, efforts.
    Some 'educators' are ill suited to the profession, but imagine the generalizations you include at the end of your columns going into a peer reviewed system and coming out intact. Now that, sir, is amusing.
    I am interested to see if you will post this letter.