Teacher fired for breaking up fight with broom

A Detroit public school teacher was fired after she used a broomstick in an attempt to break up a fight between two large teenage boys, reports Richard Fernandez on Belmont Club. The two boys crashed into tables and battered each other as classmates screamed.

One of the children, really the size of a man, emotionally recounted his trauma at being hit by the broom though his mother expressed the hope that a suitable monetary compensation would go far to allay his distress.

Teachers are supposed to use a two-way radio to call a security guard when students are fighting. The radio didn’t work, said the teacher, a small woman who’d been hired in January.

Does it surprise you to learn that Pershing High is a very low-performing school? No, it doesn’t.

Survivor will be history teacher

Eight years ago, a Downtown College Prep senior named Luis Falcon was attacked by gang members in a San Jose park. Stabbed nine times, he lost a kidney and spent a week in a coma. He learned how to walk again. He will earn a degree in history from the University of California at Santa Cruz in May, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel.  A Teach for America corps member, Falcon will return to his old neighborhood to teach history at DCP.

luis falcon

Lying in the hospital for a month after the attack, Falcon started to think about his neighborhood.”Something needed to change in my neighborhood and maybe I could be that little spark,” he said.

Undocumented and ineligible for college aid, he enrolled at San Jose City College but dropped out after one semester. “I was just paranoid I was going to get attacked.”

After working in a factory for two years, Falcon returned to community college. He also tutored at a charter middle school and worked in DCP’s summer bridge program. He legalized his status and earned a scholarship to UC-Santa Cruz.

Jennifer Andaluz, DCP’s executive director, has known Falcon since he was in ninth grade. He has the “grit” teachers need to succeed, she told the Sentinel.  “It’s about developing a mindset where you can actually grow in the areas where you currently struggle, and that growth is only going to come about as a result of hard work,” Andaluz said.

I write about Downtown College Prep’s early years in Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds.

Superheroes rescue math students

An Indiana math teacher created a comic book starring the Solution Squad, reports the Elkhart Truth. Jim McClain self-published the comic. He’s received a grant to create a free web-based comic.

Photo by James Buck/The Elkhart Truth

Silent or spoiled for ‘Game of Thrones’

A French math teacher quiets classroom chatter by threatening to write Game of Thrones spoilers on the board. Most of his students are fans of the TV series. The teacher has read all the books.

When students defied him, he wrote the names of everyone killed through the end of the series’ third season on the board, reports Belgium’s Nieuwsblad, which picked up the story from a French site, DansTonChat. A “religious silence” was maintained for the rest of the lesson, a student said.

The vanishing teacher

Jane Healey is Becoming Invisible In My Classroom, she writes on TeachThought. Since she “flipped” her middle-school classroom, her students ”

are learning without seeing me teach, hearing me teaching or even knowing I am teaching.”

In an innovative classroom, observers might see a teacher wandering around from student to student answering questions about writing a paragraph. Or, they might watch a teacher leaning over students’ shoulders pointing at the “About us” button on websites to check credibility. Or, they might catch the scene of a teacher kneeling next to a table guiding a group trying to solve a math problem about a pyramid made of pennies.

What they won’t see are the hours of prep work finding a “problem that matters,” creating LibGuides for safe web crawls, and setting up the Question Formula Technique for students to create essay questions. They also won’t see the hours of assessments based on rubrics the teacher coached students to develop.

When she’s not talking in front of the classroom, she’s still teaching, writes Healey.  Her “voice and ideas and coaching” are “in different places than they were before.”

Hero teacher disarms shooter

A 12-year-old boy shot two classmates with a shotgun at his New Mexico middle school. A teacher persuaded the shooter to give up his shotgun. John Masterson, an eighth-grade social studies teacher is the hero of Berrendo Middle School in Roswell.
John Masterson

At a vigil this evening at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, Gov. Susana Martinez said, “Mr. Masterson … was a hero …who stood there and allowed a gun to be pointed right at him. and to talk down that young boy to drop the gun so that there would be no more young kids hurt.”

One of the wounded students is in critical condition.

Mason Campbell, a seventh grader, has been identified as the shooter.

What did I teach you?

As a teacher at a Florida magnet school, David Menasche developed “the priority list” to help his students understand the motivations of Shakespeare’s characters. What does Othello value? What about Iago? Students began to think about their own priorities.

After fighting a deadly brain cancer for six years, losing most of his vision and some of his memory, Menasche had to quit teaching. He traveled the country to talk to former students. He wanted to know if he’d made a difference. The Priority List is the story of his journey.

Ex-teacher wins defamation suit

Several 11-year-old girls at a San Jose Catholic school said their P.E. teacher touched a student and peeked into the girls’ restroom. School officials and the police cleared John Fischler of misconduct. Students and their parents called him a “perv” and a “creeper.” He quit his job and sued three girls and their four parents for defamation.

This week, a civil jury awarded $362,653 in compensatory damages to the former teacher, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The jury also found that one of the girls — then 11 and now 14 — acted with malice and is liable for punitive damages. The trial’s second phase starts tomorrow.

The lawsuit charged that “classic parent bullies” and their daughters, including a popular girl described as having a “gang-leader-like personality,” conspired to get Fischler fired.

The jury found the former teacher, who’s now 49, was only 10 percent responsible for the harm he endured.

They came down hardest on the “ringleader” student and the mother of the other two girls.

The demeanor of the “ringleader,” now 14, appeared to have alienated the jury. She giggled often while testifying, and twice got off the witness stand, stood in front of the jury box and demonstrated a dance move and chant a school cheer. The jurors sat grim-faced without smiling.

An earlier story makes it clear why the jury found defamation.

In fall 2009, one of the girls said Fischler touched her buttocks while teaching the class to do squats. However, the other children did not corroborate the girl’s account.

. . . In December 2010, Fischler knocked on the door of the girls’ bathroom, which served as a quasi-locker-room. He was drawn to the sound of shrieking inside because the noise was disrupting a nearby class. Some of the girls were changing clothes, and a few of them claimed Fischler poked his head in and stared at them.

The school reported the incident to police, and Fischler was put on paid leave for alleged sexual misconduct. An independent investigator cleared Fischler after finding the ringleader of the accusers acted out of an “angry, childish grievance” and persuaded other girls to go along with the restroom accusations.

One girl testified the ringleader had pressured her into backing the false accusation.

There’s a risk the verdict will have a chilling effect on students who really do have an abusive teacher. But I can’t help cheering that Fischler fought back against the “mean girl” and won.

Basketball-spinning physics teacher

To demonstrate angular momentum, AP physics teacher Dave Hovan showed students how to spin a basketball on the end of a pen while writing with the pen. A student’s video went viral.

Hovan, 31, teaches physics and astronomy at St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.) High School. He learned the trick from his high school English teacher, a former Harvard basketball player named Patrick Smith.

Harlem Globetrotters star Handles Franklin will visit Hovan’s AP physics class on Thursday. The teacher has been invited to demonstrate his spinning skills at a Globetrotters’ game on March 15.

Teacher dies protecting students

A Marine veteran, Michael Landsberry survived two tours in Afghanistan with the Nevada Air National Guard. The Sparks (Nevada) middle school math teacher died trying to disarm a student yesterday. The 12-year-old shooter also wounded two boys, who are in stable condition, before killing himself.

“Mr. Landsberry’s heroic actions, by stepping toward the shooter, allowed time for other students in the playground area to flee,” said Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras.

Before opening fire, the boy said, “Why you people making fun of me, why you laughing at me?,” according to student Michelle Hernandez.

The boy used a Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic handgun that belonged to his parents, police said.

“The relentless, inflexible and unyielding focus on ‘test-taking’ and school rankings and scores” is to blame, writes Debra Feemster, a former Sparks principal, on Diane Ravitch’s blog. “If one teacher, counselor or administrator had had a few extra minutes to look into this student’s eyes and possibly connected with him in a meaningful way, maybe this catastrophe could have been averted.”

“Think of the children whose social and emotional needs are ignored in pursuit of test scores,” Ravitch writes.

Feemster and Ravitch are accusing Sparks Middle School staffers of ignoring students’ “social and emotional needs” and failing to prevent the shooting.

Let’s honor Mr. Landsberry’s courage and decency. Let’s not politicize a tragedy.