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Problem teacher – many must share blame

Heather Jacobsen
Friday December 21, 2001



I’m writing to provide another perspective on the story: “District Removes Washington Teacher” (12/18). I know the teacher, indeed I removed my child from her class last year because the class was out of control. I removed him from the school and the BUSD because of the way the control problem was handled. The article in today’s Daily Planet makes this teacher out to be some kind of monster (she’s not, and everyone who knows her knows that!). It blames the district for a process that made her termination impossible and re-assignment difficult, until now. Don’t stop there – there’s plenty of blame to go around: 

I blame almost everyone involved. In no particular order, I blame:  

• Myself, for standing by and hoping the situation would get better. Many of us did I blame all of us!  

• I blame the parents who played the system to have their kids assigned to “good” teachers, enabling the situation to continue. 

• I also blame the parents who didn’t pay close enough attention to see that their kids were getting “gypped.”  

• I blame class-size reduction (1996) which in its first year made for a lot of quick hiring and less supervision and support than a new teacher should get. This teacher’s first year at Washington there were five Kindergarten classes, three Kindergarten teachers new to Washington – two of those were first time teachers. 

This teacher was moved from kindergarten to fourth grade last year, to first grade this year, so three of her years have been “first times” at different grade levels.  

• I blame the teachers’ union for protecting the rights of our teachers so vigilantly that what could have been a private parting of the ways four years ago, is now an intolerably public one now.  

• The former principal at Washington School could have had this teacher and others re-assigned after their first year – and didn’t. She passed the problem on to the current principal.  

• The current principal could have acted sooner, and more forcefully, keeping this decision out of the venue of angry parents and one or two teachers with a clear agenda. 

Once the adults have decided not to be supportive of a teacher, its very hard to win the support of children. For that matter, the kids – why don’t we hold kids responsible for behaving themselves in a situation as crucial to their success as learning? 

In the midst of all this blaming, the message that did not come across in your article is that this teacher is a good and gentle soul. She is exceedingly bright and interesting. In the right situation she could really shine. Classroom control is a vital skill for BUSD teachers, and one not easily learned on the job. This teacher’s lack of control and organization are a fundamental flaw, but ALL OF US knew that years ago. The teacher was doomed from the day she entered that school – and the tragedy is that it took this long to chase her away. If all of us couldn’t make this teacher succeed, we could have at least have let her leave with dignity. I hope that many of you will join with me in wishing her tremendous success and happiness in her next endeavor. 

Heather Jacobsen