Teacher forced out for nude photo on stolen phone 

Leigh Anne Arthur, who teaches mechatronics at a South Carolina high school, was forced to resign because a student who’d stolen her phone found and broadcast a semi-nude photo of the teacher via text and social media.

Leigh Anne Arthur was forced to resign after a student stole her phone and circulated her semi-nude photo.

Leigh Anne Arthur was forced to resign after a student stole her phone and circulated her semi-nude photo.

David Eubanks, the interim superintendent, said it was the teacher’s fault because her phone was unlocked.

Students had access to very inappropriate pictures of a teacher,” he said.  “I think we have a right to privacy, but when we take inappropriate information or pictures, we had best make sure it remains private.”

Arthur said she took the picture for her husband as a Valentine’s gift.

“Eubanks said he was unsure whether the student who took Arthur’s phone would face any discipline,” reports The State.

I shouldn’t be surprised at the depths of administrative stupidity, but — really!

He, she or . . . ?

Siobhan Curious, who teaches at the Canadian equivalent of community college, is facing a Pronoun Problem. She doesn’t know the gender identity of a student.

“My first impression from the student’s online ID picture: woman,” she writes. “My (not immediately conscious) impression from our first classroom encounter: very pretty gay man. My impression after 10 minutes of 1-on-1 conversation in my office: no idea. Maybe a very boyish transgender woman?”

The student’s name doesn’t help matters. Curious foresees pronoun issues. “Do I ask? If so, how do I ask?”

When books ‘smell like old people’

In a digital age, turning teenagers on to reading literature is harder than ever, writes David Denby in Lit Up. The book chronicles his year observing 10th-grade English classes at a New York City magnet school, Beacon.

Sean Leon, who gets to select his own reading list, teaches Brave New World and 1984 to students who know little about totalitarianism. He includes Siddhartha, Sartre’s No Exit and Viktor Frankl’s Holocaust memoir, but no Shakespeare.

These are some of the books that change teenagers' lives, writes David Denby.

These are some of the books that change teenagers’ lives, writes David Denby.

A colleague at Beacon teaches the venerable Scarlet Letter by having students act out scenes. They spend a month on the novel.

Denby also made regular visits to a high-achieving school in the affluent suburbs where test scores are high, but few students enjoy reading. Teachers try to sell students on entry-level books, supervise their independent reading and encourage them to move up to more challenging literature.

He also visited a low-performing, all-minority school in New Haven, Hillhouse, where a boy said, “Books smell like old people.”

A Long Way Gone, the memoir of an African boy soldier, was a hit with black students in New Haven.

The memoir of an African boy soldier, was a hit with black students in New Haven.

Many of the students “lacked necessary information — facts, for want of a better word,” Denby writes. “When wars took place, how American politics worked, who were the country’s great men and women, how a bank did its business, what, exactly, they had to do to get into the professions or get any kind of good job — general information about how the world worked.”

The English teacher, who gets students for 80 minutes a day, five days a week, struggles to get them to read To Kill a Mockingbird and Shakespearean sonnets but finds they’re turned on by a Hemingway story about a man who loses his nerve, his wife and his life while big-game hunting.

“Fifteen-year-olds will read seriously when inspired by charismatic teachers alert to what moves adolescents,” Denby concludes.

In a discussion with On Point on how to get teens to read, he talks about books that engage young readers and potentially “change lives.” He includes Waiting for Godot and No Exit.  I read both when I was a teenager — not for school — because I read everything. I don’t think these are the books to turn non-readers into literature lovers.

Teachers are professionals — not missionaries

Teachers are skilled professionals — not missionaries, writes Amanda Ripley in The Washingtonian. Talking about teaching as a low-status career for the selfless drives away the smart, ambitious people the profession needs.

In Washington, D.C., public school teachers earn as much or more than other college-educated professionals, Ripley writes. Median pay was $75,000 last year and “teachers who work in low-income public schools and get strong performance reviews can earn more than $125,000 after fewer than ten years.”

In addition, teachers can “apply to become master educators, who formally evaluate teachers and provide targeted feedback.”

Yet, “many people still talk about teachers as if they volunteer in a soup kitchen—as if the hardest part is just showing up,” she writes.

Hope Harrod, DC’s 2012 Teacher of the Year, is tired of being told she’s doing “God’s work.” Teaching is not a sacrifice for her. It’s an “intellectual journey” she finds “deeply engaging.”

By “intellectual journey,” Harrod means the workplace questions that teachers grapple with daily: Why is Juan insisting that the answer is 15.5 and not 18? What’s happening in his head that isn’t happening in Scarlette’s head? How can she give him the tools to take apart his own process and rebuild it, piece by piece?

D.C. “now retains about 92 percent of its highest-ranked teachers,” writes Ripley. Boosting pay and status makes a difference.

That issue comes up in a Tampa Bay Tribune story about a veteran teacher who quit to become a librarian, complaining of mandatory lesson plans, endless meetings and micromanagement.

The profession of teaching comes in for a lot of “bashing,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “The unions and reformers and legislators, whoever, are telling you that teaching is a lousy job and nobody lets you do it the way you want to do it. It has a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Idea: Make it easy to try teaching, hard to stay

To get better teachers, should schools make it harder to qualify as a teacher? No, make it easier and cheaper to try teaching, argue Chad Aldeman and Ashley LiBetti Mitchel in a new Bellwether report. Let would-be teachers try tutoring or co-teaching with a mentor. Fire those who don’t work out.

It’s hard to predict who will be a good teacher, they write. Teacher training or earning a master’s degree makes little difference. There’s some evidence that new teachers with stronger academic credentials are more effective, but “the value of those credentials is relatively small, and they are not a guarantee for any individual.”

So why not open teaching to anyone with a bachelor’s degree, then focus “on measuring and acting on teacher effectiveness in a teacher’s first years on the job.”

Districts should have the authority to license teachers based on “observations of candidates’ performance in real-time classroom settings and demonstrated effectiveness in supporting students’ academic growth.”

It’s a “radically sensible proposal,” writes Matt Barnum on The Seventy Four.  “Give novices the opportunity to learn on the job and figure out whether teaching is right for them, without sinking thousands of dollars into teacher training programs.”

New teachers with low value-added scores usually remain below average, if they remain in the classroom, Allison Atteberry tells Aldeman. Some will improve significantly, but most do not.

District of Columbia Public Schools are replacing low-performing teachers with teachers who are increasing student achievement, according to a newly published working paper.

‘Teachers’ debuts on TV

TV Land’s new series, Teachers, is “really funny at times” and “a little bit raunchy,” writes Mark Walsh in Education Week.

The Katydids, an all-female improv group (all are named some version of Kate or Caitlin), based the show on a series of shorts called Teachers, a Web Series, set in a suburban elementary school.

Hollywood Reporter calls Teachers “wonderfully loose.”

However, the New York Times says the show “mistakes crass for cutting edge” and was better as a web series.

Le robot educateur est arrivant

European scientists are developing language-teaching machines to help five-year-olds learn a second language, reports Jacek Krywko in The Atlantic.

L2TOR (“El Tutor”) robots will use “microphones to listen, cameras to watch, and artificial neural networks that will analyze all the information that’s collected.” The project is funded by the European Union.

Designers believe the machines will be able to pick up nonverbal cues to monitor students’ boredom, confusion, happiness and sadness.

“The problem with previous generations of teaching machines was their complete lack of social intelligence,” says Stefan Kopp, a German L2TOR researcher. “Our robots will notice tears, smiles, frowns, yawns … and dynamically adjust to how a child feels.”

Designers will observe kindergarten teachers “and then program our robots to act like them,” Kopp says.

It sounds crazy to me. But a robot teacher that looks like a poodle and speaks French — well, who knows?

“New” and techy isn’t necessarily better, advises Andy Smarick on Star Wars and Education Reform. “Like the Empire and manymanymany other reform movements, today’s education reform also seems to place an outsized faith in technology.”

Social learning burns out introverted teachers

Teaching’s stress on social learning and collaboration is raising the burnout rate for introverts, writes teacher Michael Godsey in The Atlantic.

After 11 years of teaching English at a public high school, Ken Lovgren quit the profession.

Engaging in a classroom that was “so demanding in terms of social interaction” made it difficult for him to find quiet space to decompress and reflect. “The endless barrage of ‘professional learning community’ meetings left me little energy for meaningful interaction with my kids,” he told me.

Jessica Honard, author of Introversion in the Classroom: How to Avoid Burnout and Encourage Success, left classroom teaching to escape the “constant bombardment of social stimulation.”

“Collaborative overload” is a problem in the workplace, warns Harvard Business Review. “Over the past two decades, the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more,” leaving little time to get things done.

It’s even harder for teachers, writes Godsey. After meeting with adults, they “go straight to the classroom, where they feel increasing pressure to facilitate social learning activities and promote the current trend of collaborative education.”

There’s no time to think.

Losing ‘The Battle for Room 314’

After 20 years working for non-profits, including a foundation that puts smart, motivated, low-income students on the Ivy track, Ed Boland earned a graduate education degree and became a high school history teacher on New York City’s Lower East Side. He lasted for one year, then quit to write The Battle for Room 314.

The book is “tragedy and farce,” writes Maureen Callahan in the New York Post.

Boland starts with a scene from ninth-grade history class. It’s his first week. “Chantay” is sitting on her desk gossiping. He tells her to sit down and get to work.

A calculator goes flying across the room, smashing into the blackboard. Two boys begin physically fighting over a computer. Two girls share an iPod, singing along. Another girl is immersed in a book called “Thug Life 2.”

. . . “Chantay,” he says, louder, “sit down immediately, or there will be serious consequences.”

The classroom freezes. Then, as Boland writes, “she laughed and cocked her head up at the ceiling. Then she slid her hand down the outside of her jeans to her upper thigh, formed a long cylinder between her thumb and forefinger, and shook it .?.?. She looked me right in the eye and screamed, ‘SUCK MY F–KIN’ D–K, MISTER.’?”

The principal has announced he won’t expel any student for any reason. Kameron is suspended for throwing a heavy sharpener at a teacher and again for threatening to blow up the school. Then he’s caught with a hammer and switchblade. Finally, he’s expelled

“Oh, they getting real tough around here now,” a student says. “Three hundred strikes, you out.”

Boland admits he came to hate most of his students. Colleagues urged him to put their behavior in the context of their poverty, their dysfunctional families. He couldn’t.

The problem is the teacher, not the students, responds Thomas Martone, who teaches history at a Brooklyn school for students who’ve been kicked out of their previous high schools.

My classroom is filled with students who are parents, students without parents, students who receive free lunch, students who don’t speak English, students who are in gangs, students who are in legal trouble, students with mental disabilities, students with physical disabilities, students who are overaged, students who are under credited, students who are unable to identify the seven continents . . .

Martone hands out candy to “help explain the wide gap between the Estates during the French Revolution” and plays Tupac when teaching that Machiavelli’s The Prince is “about how to get power and keep power.”

One student did nothing but tear up paper. Martone “gave the student activities where he would rip out vocabulary, geographic features and social classes from one piece of paper and label them appropriately on the wall next to him.”

Will Martone’s students do any better in life than Chantay or Kameron?

Teller talks about teaching as performance art

Penn & Teller’s Teller, who normally doesn’t talk, discusses teaching as performance art with Jessica Lahey. He was a high school Latin teacher for six years before joining the magic act.

It’s a teacher’s job “to make the student fall in love with the subject,” he says. “That doesn’t have to be done by waving your arms and prancing around the classroom; there’s all sorts of ways to go at it, but no matter what, you are a symbol of the subject in the students’ minds.”

A small man, Teller’s secret in the classroom was “delight,” he tells Lahey. “I get excited about things.”

He created his own Latin primers, paired with supplemental readings.

He chose Book Two of The Aeneid, because it contained the Trojan Horse, and not-too-pornographic selections from the poetry of Catullus. “Everything had either humor or sex or blood or romance in it, because that’s what you’re thinking about when you’re in middle and high school,” he says.