September 2, 2006

For the Love of Teaching

Filed under: media,profession — jrice @ 7:54 am

Spencer discovers a genre I was not aware of: students hating, striking out against, putting down, trying to embarrass their teachers, and recording their work for YouTube. I feel a strong sympathy for the young, female teacher, whose ass is being filmed while classmates’ joke or the elder European teacher who is being threatened by an angry, male student. Both teachers appear in these clips to be stuck inside awful systems of disrespect. Overall, you feel the tension that often overcomes this profession, particularly at the lower levels where classes are too large, teachers are under-trained and under-paid, and the government has transformed the profession into standards and test taking. These folks aren’t teaching. They are the contemporary version of the Fordist assembly line worker. Berlin was not entirely correct; we haven’t reached post-Fordism completely.
This weekend, the Detroit Public School System has been ordered by a local judge to come to an agreement with the teachers’ union and prevent a strike. The sticking point? Under-paid teachers must take a pay cut. Asking the teachers to make up for the DPS’ errors (a $105 million deficit) is as absurd as many of these YouTube videos. The DPS is sending a message loud and clear to present and future teachers. Don’t work in Detroit. Your job is not secure. Your job conditions will only get worse. Any financial mistakes the DPS makes, you will pay for.

Don’t work in Detroit unless you, too, want to work the new assembly line of education (it’s hardly ironic that we see similar gestures made in the auto industry, even today). I particularly feel for this situation because this Fall, in my undergraduate advanced writing course, I am sure I will see prospective elementary and high school teachers (I always do). And since the course is a night course, I assume there will be students already teaching. I did a year in a public school system elsewhere, teaching in two “bad” elementary schools. But that’s all I did, a year. I knew it was not a career choice, and while I saw much stupidity (the summer pink slip – “oh don’t worry, we’ll rehire you in the Fall”), I didn’t face anything compared to what DPS teaches face today. What do we tell the prospective DPS students who come to Wayne? Find work in the ‘burbs? Leave the state? Do something else? No. . . . but we, the supposed gate keepers of “critical thinking” should say something before these folks wind up in a metaphoric YouTube space of embarrassment and humiliation. And, at that time, it will probably be too late for them.


  1. As you describe, it’s a bad situation all around.

    Most of the students I teach are English Education majors and current/future teachers. I’ve been using film in various ways in those classes, sometimes movies about teachers and teaching, more recently films like _Strictly Ballroom_ that I see as films about “composition” in the broadest sense. Though I don’t yet know how exactly, I plan to bring these teachers-on-YouTube videos into class in some way. My hope is that the most robust among them will see what the films reveal as useful in developing a pedagogy. Could be wishful thinking, but I feel they have to see these things …

    Comment by spencer — September 2, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

  2. the video and the teacher…

    Jeff and Spencer both write about this phenomena of students posting videos of their teachers/professors on YouTube. Here’s one example titled screaming teacher. I’ll go as far as to provide a link but I don’t want to reproduce it here….

    Trackback by digital digs — September 4, 2006 @ 7:53 am

  3. I left my job in the high schools because I could see that teaching would have done me in by the first semester. If I were teaching ed courses, I’d do a critique of those heart-warming movies in which the teacher fights the odds and brings out the brilliance of her seemingly uncontrollable students. I’d want to know what has been left out of the movie for the sake of the story–like the hours of paper-pushing, lesson-planning, parent-calling, paper-grading and on and on. It’s true that there are some teachers who have tremendous energy and charisma and can be that teacher, but I suspect that at some point, even they burn out and either leave or start to make the kind of compromises everyone else does.

    Comment by joanna — September 4, 2006 @ 10:05 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.