Master Teachers as Bad Day Makers
I had a good day of teaching. I also had a bad half-hour right in the middle, due to a fracas with my master teacher. She ripped into me during lunch today in part because the students didn’t remember the difference between civil liberties and civil rights after 10 days of vacation.
On the last day of government instruction before break, I mentioned it. The class talked on it for 15 minutes. Needless to say, I didn’t want to cover it. I didn’t, and I still don’t, think that it was important. Neither, by the way, does the People’s Republic of California. I only covered it to begin with because she insisted that it was important.
It’s hard having a master teacher who demands that you kowtow to her old habits and prejudices. If you’re ever a master teacher, keep that in mind.
She continued to rip into me because I haven’t yet hit hard the history of the civil rights struggles during court cases.
I pointed out that there’s a whole 11th grade standard (11.10, as I looked it up later) on civil rights. I told her that they should have had that last year and that I’m not responsible to taking time out of my existing curriculum to reteach last year’s material. In particular, when I asked her if she had read the 11th-grade standards in a perhaps insulting tone of voice, she responded sharply and just as insultingly.
Have you read the 12th grade standards?
I told her that there’s barely a 12th-grade substrand (turns out it’s 12.5.4) on civil rights. Without saying it aloud, I began to think about how even then that standard requires a knowledge of precedents and the Bill of Rights — our current unit. Because I didn’t say that last part, she replied triumphantly.
But it is in there.
I reminded her of the planned student presentations on these court cases. Why change my existing planned curriculum to hit multiple times the smallest part of the course possible? Even so, she went on to opine in something that sounded a lot like this.
There’s so much transiency and moving around between schools that most 11th grade history teachers are happy if they get through World War II. The happiest ones might make it to Vietnam. These kids don’t know about the civil rights struggle.
How am I supposed to work with that?
This exchange begs a more general question: To what extent should we be determined to cleaning up the messes of our predecessors by teaching what they didn’t?
Moral of the story? If ever a master teacher ye be, be never this.