Anonymous Letter Campaign

Letter from Teacher

Dear JCPS,

This is my 7th year teaching, and it might be my last.

I have taught at both an alternative school and at one of the top-performing schools in the state.  I always work with the most challenging kids, and I love them.  I love their spirited energy, their directness, their good days and their bad days.  I feel called to them, and I care about them.

In spite of my best efforts, there are always a handful of students I cannot reach.  After trying every technique in my tool box, they remain unmotivated and disruptive.  Some of them are outright hostile.

With the district’s new approach to student misbehavior, I find myself teaching in an increasingly unproductive environment where a small number of students routinely disobey rules, are openly disrespectful to staff, and continue to disrupt class on a daily basis.  There are virtually no consequences for their behavior.   

Recently, I had a student tell me to get the fuck out of his face.  According to the district’s new behavior policy (Positive Behavioral Intervention & Support), I should have had a positive conversation with this student about WHY he wants me to get the fuck out of his face.  This way I can understand the motivation behind his behavior and better address his needs.  Because I had a class to teach and couldn’t take time out to host a therapy session, I called security.  He was removed for the remainder of the class period, but there was no other consequence.

On a daily basis, I am verbally assaulted for one reason or another.  Asking a student to put a cell phone away, move seats, or stop talking often results in backlash.  I do my best to handle the situation in a non-emotional, business-like manner.  I try to keep the atmosphere focused on learning but most days it feels impossible.

Every single day in my building, there are egregious acts of student misconduct going unchecked.  Teachers are losing hope that things will ever get better, and we are tired.  We are expected to be therapists, social workers, substitute parents, punching bags, and outlets for student rage and verbal abuse.  Teaching is only a small percentage of what we do anymore.

In an effort to reach the bottom 5% of students, we are sacrificing the education of an entire generation of students.  There needs to be a place for students to go who can’t (or won’t) exist in a traditional classroom without ruining the learning environment.  Not only are we allowing them to continue a path of self-destruction, but we are robbing other students of their right to a proper education.

Parents need to talk to their children, spend time in school buildings, and realize what is really going on.  Those in positions of power need to stop imposing social experiments on schools, teachers and students.  Teachers need to speak publicly about what is happening.  If something doesn’t change soon, there won’t be anybody left who wants to teach our youth.  Nobody can endure what we are being asked to endure indefinitely.  

Thank you


35 thoughts on “Letter from Teacher”

  1. This is it in concise and easily grasped language. In my fifteen years transporting these same kids, things are getting worse. The kinder, gentler methods do not work.

    1. Actually, they DO work if done early, consistently and correctly with the proper support (for both the student and staff). This includes providing an alternate classroom environment in the early stages. What has changed in the past 15 years is the zero tolerance policies that are doing nothing more than feeding a school to prison pipeline. Doing more of the same would meet the common definition of insanity “doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result”.

      If a child is told over an over again that they are “bad”, they will eventually come to believe it and act the part. This starts in kindergarten. The “bad” kids are shunned by their “good” peers. As they move through the system they find other “bad” kids who then feed off each other.

      On top of this, several disabilities have related behavior components – ASD, ADD, ADHD for example, all of which have increased in the last 10 years. These kids have to be taught acceptable behavior – detention, ISS, Suspension, Expulsion likely won’t teach them anything and may provide a welcome escape from the hectic social environment of school. It takes years in some cases to teach the behavior component, but it’s worth it because many of these kids can go on to do great things. To the teachers struggling in the early years of this process, THANK YOU! Keep tabs on those kids that threw a chair at you in kindergarten – they just might surprise you – if they get the right support.

      1. I respectfully disagree. My 21 yr old has ADHD(who now has a full time job,no babies and never been arrested). behavior modification starts at home from the time they begin to walk and talk. My child had their share of difficulty in school,but disrupting class was not tolerated in my home. There are consequences to your actions. Parents need to stop making excuses for their childs behavior. Stop taking it personally that the child is misbehaving in class and be a willing participant in both good and bad behavior. When they do well lots and lots of praise. When bad,as a parent when should stress the disappointment and give serious consequences for such behavior. Work WITH teachers and staff of the childs school,not against them. Parents may not like what the teachers and staff say about the child. PARENTS ITS NOT ABOUT YOU,its about the future of your child and society. You can be part of the problem or part of the solution.

        1. YES!!! Stepparent of a 14 year old with ADHD…honor roll, never had detention, and the only time she’s ever late to school is when the other parents don’t scrape themselves out of bed to take her.

  2. Thank you for writing this…it couldn’t be more true! The number of students that flip their desks over and throw/kick their chair at others, only to be removed from class for 5 minutes until they “calm down”, is alarming. As teachers we have to spend so much time addressing the major behavior problems, the students that really want to learn are being overlooked. We can report the behavior and fill out the “behavior intervention logs (BIL)” but nothing changes. There is one teacher at my school (elementary) that has filled out more than 90 for this school year, yet nothing happens. More and more teachers are leaving the profession because of the behavior and I don’t see that trend changing any time soon.

      1. I have advised several people who would have made great teachers against going into the educational field for these reasons. If it’s not the behavior of the students working against us, it’s the administration wondering why WE didn’t do more to prevent the behavior from escalating. I am so glad that I got out when I did.

        1. Stop. Stop telling good people not to go into Education because the highest levels are imposing rules based on litigation.

          We need good, energetic, problem solving people, to go to college and become educators.

          This is my 5th year working at an Alternative School in JCPS. Nothing that matters is easy. Louisville has extreme poverty, extreme violence, serious gang problems. The issues that plague any major American City in 2015.

          We need more boots on the ground, stepping into the hall after that kid who flips the desk and walks out.

          No action is without purpose. No child is not worth time and effort from adults to show them care and love.

          Alternative Schools are that place for those high-incidence students, but they need support to match their needs as well. It’s not the same job on the wall. But for those who join the JCPS Watch, it is a life with purpose.

          For, “ignorance gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my retirement (if KTRS still exists). I shall take no planning period, eat no lunch, coach no sports team. I shall see no high achievement on standardized testing, and will never be a blue ribbon school. I shall teach and be evaluated by my students’ behaviors at my post. I am the red pen in the darkness. I am the monitor in the halls. I am the unpaid counselor that guards the hearts of children. I pledge my life and effort to the JCPS Watch, for this semester, and all the semesters to come.”

          1. I felt like that too. Then I had a nervous breakdown in year 13. I wish you all the luck and strength to do this.

  3. I think this was right on the money. I am a middle school teacher. Every day, I am spending as much time correcting and redirecting students as helping them. We have teachers being verbally abused by students as well as administration when they don’t follow PBIS.

    We are responsible for every issue the students have inside and outside of school. Being their friend is not the answer. They need to be taught respect and responsibility if they are expected to hold jobs. All this time be wasted on behavior could be spent getting the students ready for real life. We are not able to move the students forward at a rigorous enough pace because we have so many behavior issues. It has become exhausting.

    With everyone blaming the teachers, I can’t blame anyone for retiring. All we want to do is educate our students and prepare them for a future full of opportunities.

  4. I totally agree with the above comments. It was bad enough 6 years ago when I retired; now it appears to be much worse. JCPS is making the teachers accountable for this type of behavior. When my students exhibited such, the only person who got in trouble was me. I was seen as a deficient teacher. This is BS. The principals and administrators do not stand behind the teacher. In most cases they side with the parents. If there are no consequences at school or at home, the “students” figure that they can do as they please, and they DO.
    Even in the case of assault on teachers, nothing is done. Now the public schools are faced with the prospect of Charter schools, promoted by our new Governor Bevin. Normally I would be against them, but at this point, if the public schools cannot or will not do the job, perhaps Charter schools are the only recourse, that plus private schools and homeschooling.

  5. Administration isn’t helpful. Our principal wants the children that get in trouble to be put on the computer…I can’t do this because I feel it isn’t right to reward bad behavior with computer time. When I voiced this opinion I was told that I, along with many others in the building, need to change my mind set about this and think of it as an alternative way of learning. If my students see bad behavior rewarded with computers they will all start acting out. I already can’t send them to the office because they just get rewarded with candy and computers. One of the other teachers in the building caught a student on a computer game called “whack your boss” (a killing game with everyday stuff in the room) and nothing was done to the child (they talked to him) and he was even allowed on the computers the next day! There really are no consequences…it’s scary!

    1. Hahaha. We played games like that all the time when we were kids. The only one of my friends from my public school days I know who played those that ended up doing anything violent was joining the army. The rest of us are college grads and tech workers.

      That’s what’s honestly worrying you in your public school? Not the relentless bullying? The mind numbing lessons? Teaching to the tests? You’re just worried kids aren’t being disciplined enough? Maybe you shouldn’t be teaching.

        1. *Their child.

          Dudeman5 has a point (and a super generic handle!)

          Most behavioral problems stem from disinterest in the student body. JCPS’ Innovative Schools initiative and focus on “Whole Learner” educational techniques that aren’t rote memorization or worksheets will solve a substantial portion of our classroom management woes.

          The rest of the problems are a question of school climate and proper use of Suspensions (in school and out).

          When suspensions are handled properly, they are rare and effective. When a kid with no parental support is suspended for the 10th time in a year, they are just looking forward to their next three school days of Call of Duty and are asking to get suspended when at school, rather than re-engage in a class they have missed for weeks.

        2. *their child

          Dudeman5 has a point (and a super generic handle!)

          Most behavioral problems stem from disinterest in the student body. JCPS’ Innovative Schools initiative and focus on “Whole Learner” educational techniques that aren’t rote memorization or worksheets will solve a substantial portion of our classroom management woes.

          The rest of the problems are a question of school climate and proper use of Suspensions (in school and out).

          When suspensions are handled properly, they are rare and effective. When a kid with no parental support is suspended for the 10th time in a year, they are just looking forward to their next three school days of Call of Duty and are asking to get suspended when at school, rather than re-engage in a class they have missed for weeks.

  6. I am thoroughly annoyed at
    people looking around today and trying to figure out why this type of behavior
    is without consequence. I see this as the “Lewinsky Effect” a
    moment in history when the line between right and wrong – honesty and dishonesty
    was erased. When the leaders of a
    government of the people are not held accountable to the consequences of their
    behavior with excuses made discounting the importance of telling the truth and
    anyone that questions the ethicality of immoral actions is vilified and their
    character destroyed the message becomes one can do anything without
    consequence. One of the most vocal
    groups in support of excusing marital infidelity, abuse of power, and perjury was
    the Teacher Unions, stating that these actions were private in nature and
    therefore acceptable of carrying no consequence. Now a teacher is upset because they are now
    forced to reap the seeds sewn some 20 years ago. As much as I abhor what is happening its
    coming was foretold.

  7. You’re controlling a human, confining them to a seat and then forcing them to do what you want and they’re not okay with it. Wow, blows my mind people act like that. Whatever are we going to do with this world it’s going right down the gutter.

  8. I am a recent retiree after 31 years. For a long time, I was proud of the school system and the job we were doing. But the past 7 years have heralded a rapid decline. The people we have in many cases as principals are totally ill-equipped for the job. We had a special summer school program principal who showed up twice. They are frequently at all day meeting, inaccessible to their schools. Teacher are pulled out for day long “seminars” about raising test scores while inept or untrained subs struggle through the day with a strange class of needy children. Resource teachers called “Gheens queens” were so ineffective and rarely present that they had to make a rule that these teachers had to call from an on site phone at each school instead of a cell phone to prove they were there. NEPOTISM is alive and thriving. So I am no longer a proud former JCPS teacher…but I do get a lot of credit for being one tough veteran.

  9. The JCPS Board Members are elected with the support of liberal labor union money. Of course the board members will have liberal views as well as they are beholden to their puppeteers. Nothing is going to improve until you change the influence of the board.

  10. It is very real for many teachers. We had a 1st year h/s math teacher quit suddenly just a few weeks ago because of much of what this letter is about. Fortunately, in my 11 yrs here, I have never had a student curse at me, touch me in anger or refuse to obey a request. We do have pretty good admin support and, being in an elective class, I’m fortunate to have students who want to be there rather than required to be. Maybe the teens here are pretty good. Perhaps I’ve done a decent job of earning respect. I do feel for these teachers because I know those situations do exist – yes, even in my school.

  11. I have the luxury of viewing the occurrences from many angles. A former administrative roll, a parent (special needs to boot), a former private school parent, and an emoloyee. My passion for children is immense. My gratitude for those educators who have helped my own children succeed is even greater.
    There is a lot going wrong and I think we are in crisis. I also believe it needs to change from the bottom up – and by that, I mean Elementary schools. Consequences are necessary. We are a system of enablers and it’s time to throw responsibility back into our society’s equation . Requiring parental meetings and involvement before reentry is the only way to force some parents to become involved. Trust me, they will become involved. The parents in question do not want their children at home during the days. We need to require involvement and make it absolutely possible for everyone – evening meetings for parents that work, site meetings for easier access. Stop punishing schools for suspensions and discipline – it’s counter productive.

    There are a few schools within our district with good old fashioned consequences.You follow the rules or you are removed. The process works. Why else do you see these schools as top performers? It didn’t happen overnight. But it did happen.
    If we never raise the bar for our parents and students, we enable our own society to profit from doing and saying nothing. Our system makes excuses for those never taught discipline, manners, self control – I constantly hear the phrase “he/she doesn’t know that’s not how to talk to others”. Most of the time, that statement is in reference to the PARENT. If you receive a public education, you owe it to that public to be accountable for what services/funds you utilize. It’s not an entity.

    No bullying, no prejudice. We should all be held accountable for our own actions.
    We are sacrificing actual learning, overlooking children from all lifestyles that are there to learn and need us. We are ignoring that duty so that we can enable a select group to feel comfortable and accepted. Why? These behaviors will lead to prison in adulthood.
    It seems tolerating such things in our schools is simply setting us all up for failure.

    Administrators – back your teachers. They are your customer. Express their value, thank them, and acknowledge their gifts. We all know that we will continue learning as we grow – but your customer is weary. They don’t see you believe in them. They don’t feel appreciated. They work one on one with others who have an even lower morale and pay scale (bus drivers, classified staff, nutrition services). For the teacher, each limb of their tree is a factor of negativity. Do you not see that carries over into your classrooms? The teacher has a customer and that is our student. Let them into their shops with the best tools you can provide, but more importantly the desire and hope that is a vital part of teaching. That piece is missing and it shows in every school. A school should be a unit, a team, and a place of perseverance. Your teachers don’t trust you and that’s a problem. You’re customer is unsettled and that carries into the classroom. Think back on your own past and your own favorite teacher…..what made that person stand out? What draws you to learn, grow, and excel? What type of person inspires you and do you feel changes the light of a room? Turn your focus back to giving your teachers that joy. We can all deliver curriculum. Teaching is about spirit, passion, and human contact.

  12. This letter and some of these comments are misleading. PBIS doesn’t work the way you are describing. There is no portion of the framework that says students do not receive consequences. Before making statements about something that you don’t understand, it would make better sense to do professional research.

    1. Agreement. People think that PBIS and Restorative are antithetical to Punishment. That is not true. Sadly, a lot of the nuances of Restorative get lost in translation and old fashioned “Hard Line” people feel like they are under attack.

      Restorative practices like PBIS are meant to lower the likelihood of behavioral incidents that lead to suspensions. They are more about prevention than response. PBIS should lower the number of suspensions by improving student knowledge of the rules, not by making the rules less stringent or meaningful.

  13. I appreciate every thing the teachers try to do. By supporting Democrats and their liberal agendas…well the teachers unwittingly brought a lot of this on themselves. That said The JCPS needs a flushing. Danna Hargens and her outrageous $276,000.00 need to go. Every single board member who voted to the allow the continuation of forced busing needs to go. Every principal that doesn’t stand behind his/her teachers needs to go. Until that happens they system will continue hemmoraging good teachers and their spots will be filled with people there for the check.

  14. OK, let us be clear!!! There is a way and each student is similar but different.
    Investigation of their home environment, their present actions (DO they lay on their back, like break dance moves while you are looking at them in wonder?).
    1. Some kids live in a one parent environment (a mom) where the parent is mostly in bed with cancer, molestation, or zero positive discipline.
    2. Some would like a role model like Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky), “Captain Windy”(Wanda Lewis), Gayle King (Oprah Winfrey’s best friend) or me (a spoiled rotten devilish reckless kid) with eight brothers, six sisters and parents who didn’t over do!!! But, also didn’t spare the rod. My parents started the first “special Ed classes in the earl sixties in public school system. They personally screened the first “TEACHERS,” and the ones selected had to have made the statement, “THESE CHILDREN CAN BE TAUGHT,” in order to be hired.”

  15. My mother was a teaching assistant for JCPS for 28 years. While working at a middle school she was physically assaulted (shoved down, no serious injury) by a student she had corrected in the classroom. That evening while wondering if she should go to the media or an attorney she was called by the teacher she worked with & the principal and told under no circumstances to seek out the media or legal advice or they would find a way to terminate her. Since she wasn’t injured she did not look to make this public, but did request and receive a transfer the next school year. This was a common occurrence at that school and this was about 20 years ago, I can only wonder what the schools are like now. I admire those who still have hope for JCPS, I can only see an abyss that makes me grateful I do not have children. For the record my mother retired about 15 years ago and is now deceased, I have family members still teaching for JCPS & in other systems and I support them fully.

  16. I think these kids should just stay home, stop forcing them to go. They obviously don’t want to learn, why go and waste their time and waste other people’s time? They clearly don’t give a shit. Let them wind up in the streets or at a dead end job, because that’s what’s gonna happen when they turn 18 anyway. School up until that point is just a baby sitting service for them. I say it’s their choice. You either choose to better your life with an education or you don’t. They’re old enough to know what choices are.

  17. Lol . Seriously. You all let in common core in to your school. you get what all you teachers deserve . THIS IS FOOD FOR THE course. I mean what did you expect when you give a kid a reward and a trophy just for showing up… cause and effect. You have raised and brainwash children into thinking that they can get anything they want without any recourse of action and they will be rewarded for everything they do and things that they don’t do. This is your own fault as teachers did you not see the writing on the wall could you not foresee the future on this one most of us Americans could and do… but hey you liberals will never figure it out so just quit and walk away from the disgusting crap that you have helped accomplish

  18. Oh my my my. . . all these people supporting RP . . . I can see why. . . but they refuse to listen to the teachers on the ground. JCPS REFUSES to implement, fund and support this correctly. And blaming the teachers for being hard core against it is due to this fact. Because they are the people being abused by students and our district admin. But yeah, keep putting those teachers down. . . keep putting it all on them for not seeing the big picture. . . Let’s see how many are left if this keeps on it’s current course.

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