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What’s A Failing School Look Like?

A business can often adapt, a builder can move their project, but a teacher has only one option when administrators won’t or can’t fix a failing school. Leaving the school and sadly, doing so knowing they make the situation even worse for their colleagues and former students. This is the cynical blackmail the parasitic pencil pushers use to keep their racket rolling.

When the problem is in their own house…politicians sneak off to the greens of a country club while teachers take it on the chin in the classrooms.

There are countless examples of good schools in places with less corrupt political players and all kids thrive when given true opportunities for success. But don’t set them up in simulated prisons and then act all surprised when they end up in the real thing. If kids have to become monsters just to SURVIVE years of poorly regulated school, what do you expect in real life…what do they expect…what do they bring with them?

Here’s an abbreviated transcript of award winning teacher Kerstin Westcott’s resignation speech. I just think it should be out there. She’s not famous. She’s just a 6th grade teacher who spoke briefly at a Regular Board Meeting on June 15, 2017 and as usual…she was ignored. The schools hasn’t been fixed. Several school shooting have occurred since she warned us.

“I’ve been a teacher in your district for the past 12 year…I wanted to work with at risk kids and kids in need. That is my calling in life. It’s what I was made to do and I’m good at it. I won the golden apple…ranked excellent…etc.

Teaching 6th grade was my dream job. I am here today, because it is with great sadness that I inform you of my resignation from…has been in a downward spiral for a long time, but has been deteriorating rapidly over the last 5 years and rapidly during this school year.

I fear for my safety every day. I am equally afraid for the safety of my colleagues and most importantly my students. We are in danger every day when we show up to our school. Students and staff are physically, verbally, mentally, emotionally, and sexually abused every single day in the building. This environment cannot be allowed to continue. Our students have the right to go to school and be safe and your employees have the right to go to work and be safe.

We are sworn at and called vile, crude sexual names every day. I have a list here of horrifying things that were said to your employees and your students in just the last 2 days. It fills a page. I struggled with whether or not to read this list to you in order for you to grasp the abuse we are experiencing…I wanted you to feel how we feel when these things are said to us. However, I couldn’t bring myself to say them out loud because they are so disgusting.

Ultimately, you have to know that these things are being said to your employees and your children all day every day. This constant verbal abuse takes a toll on our bodies and minds. It’s devastating that I can’t bring myself to say things out loud that I have to listen to day in and day out at my work place.

In addition…getting injured more than ever. I thought it would take someone getting seriously injured before necessary changed would happen, but then…just a couple weeks ago a teacher was taken away in an ambulance with a bleeding head wound caused by a fight among three students. Another teacher was physically attacked by students trying to set off a deadly allergic reaction on purpose causing her throat to close and her to struggle to breath.

A student was held down to a table and his legs put into vise grips so that other students could then take his shoes. A student has his pants and underwear pulled down exposing him in a crowded hallway of students. Another student approached a group of teacher, pull his pants down, and started touching himself inappropriately while laughing at their requests to stop.

Male and female students this year are slapped on the butt, pinched in the chest, kicked in the groin. Just last week two students laid on a table in a classroom and kissed each other heavily and pretended to have sex while a substitute teacher tried to get them to stop. All of those things that I just mentioned happened in the month of May.

We’ve had fires set in the school. Weapons brought in, drugs sold and abused and still it isn’t enough. Last week a student told multiple people multiple times that quote ‘I’m going to shoot up everyone in this school.’ Is it going to take someone getting killed for you to finally take the drastic action that is needed.

…our work environment is now so toxic it is literally making us sick. I have colleagues on leave do to stress. It’s a vicious cycle because we cannot get substitute teachers to come to our building so every single day we are asked to cover the classes of our colleagues who are out. This perpetuates the cycle because we are thrown into classes with kids we don’t know, sometimes with no lesson plans or rosters, given no support and then have all our preparations time taken away from our own classes.

This compounds the stress on us and makes us even sicker. One of my colleagues has headaches every single week day and takes medication. Another wakes up in cold night sweats several times a week. One had nightmares for days after being frightened by an aggressive student. Another person, one of my teachers, wakes up every single Sunday night around 2am and throws up in anticipation of the work week starting.

I comfort co-workers who are crying daily. We exhibit symptoms of PTSD because we live in trauma.

Just the other day I broke down after witnessing a student in the office screaming and swearing at a staff member about his cell phone being taken away. This man…this boy had been in my class in 6th grade. He’d never been in any trouble. Never had an office referral. Great student. Polite young man. Happy. But every day for the past 2 and a half years, he has lived in a chaos that we adults have allowed to exist.

…he sees that the only way to survive in this environment is to be aggressive. He saw my jaw drop open at his behaviour and his face crumpled and he started to cry instead of scream because he is not this person. We created this person because of the environment we force him to be a part of…

There education teaches them the skills to survive within the school. Swearing, screaming, skipping class, hurting people…that’s the only way kids survive at…Kids who do not learn these tactics are tormented daily. I look out at the faces of the kids in my classroom and I see fear in their eyes.

I have instructed my students not to answer the door to our classroom because of the truant students that run the school hallways looking for fights. They pound on our doors, shake the door handles, scream swear words into our vents, punch and kick the doors, and terrorize us while we are trying to teach and learn.

And these are some some of the many aggressive and violent behaviours…

We need to hear from you. What are you going to do differently to improve the conditions in our school.

…same thing that got us into this mess by pulling another one of our administrators and sending him to another school this fall. We have not had the same administrative staff once since I’ve been at…

We’ve had 7 different Principals in 6 years.

We need more consistency, not less. More attention, more support long term. We need real solutions that come from above. That’s you. Systemic change around how our school is treated by the district is required…incentives to help keep the best at…long term. If you have to pay them more then do it. Figure out a way to give us the best of the best and then figure out a way to keep them. Our kids deserve it.

We are in crisis. We need you to give us everything you’ve got. We need smaller class sizes. A different approach to the special education…correct placement of students who have aggressive violent psychological problems that we can not deal with. We need you to follow the student handbooks that you have created. Section…states that students who demonstrate violent or aggressive behaviour shall be required to seek an initial screening and ongoing counseling…within one month of their offense.

Simply following through with that one rule would be a huge start to making positive change for us.

…we need a no tolerance policy for abusive behaviour in our schools.

I’m not here to look backward for blame. I’m here to look forward for solutions. Our current administrators are doing the best they can. They inherited a huge mess. And they were not given the tools or the resources or the freedom to do what needs to be done to clean it up. This toxic situation has been a long time in the making and I know it cannot be fixed overnight or by one person. But as a wise person in my life says ‘Nothing changes if nothing changes.’ So what are you going to change?”

Next Up: The Narcissism of Small Differences


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