Jim McMahon taught English at a small, suburban high school in upstate New York where I was assistant principal. He was a rookie so he taught a “school group,” a label for students with weak academic skills and a proclivity for social and school discipline problems.
Due to the teacher “seniority pecking order,” rookies like Jim McMahon were usually saddled with the most challenging students and expected to keep them from breaking the furniture while hopefully getting them to read a few books slightly more challenging than the easiest comic book.
As assistant principal I saw more than one student from Jim’s school group class for typical behavioral issues: smoking in school, skipping class or ditching the entire day, fighting in the cafeteria, cursing out a teacher, etc.
After a year or two of teaching, Jim decided to buck the trend of weekly spelling tests, diagramming sentences and rewriting “essays” and have this “school group” perform a play, a move that was immediately viewed as heresy among the faculty room glitterati. Didn’t he know that these students had to take and pass a required Basic Competency Test? What was he thinking?!
Click here to read more of this excerpt from the solutions-based book "Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform" by Lonnie Palmer.
Gary was a “low rider,” sitting slumped down low in his seat, leaning on the heater. Every day he wore the same dark blue parka with a fur-fringe hood that made him appear bigger and more ominous than he was. A mix of smells – pot and body odor – emanated from the jacket. I don’t know whether it was because of his odor or his surly demeanor, but his classmates kept their distance.Read more.