If you haven’t seen the video of the Duncanville High School student telling off his teacher, you should spend more time on the Internet.
The student, Jeff Bliss, has been an Internet and news media star this past week for his rant against a teacher who gave the class two days to complete a work packet that other classes had three days to complete. I graduated from Duncanville High School a long time ago, and for the record, most of my teachers were very good. Some were not.
Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow writes in Sunday’s paper that Bliss is the undue recipient of “hero worship,” and that even though Bliss may have a point, he’s still in the wrong for treating a teacher disrespectfully.
For the record, my mom agrees. We were taught that teachers are like customers, always right.
But one thing Blow’s predictably prudish column doesn’t mention is that the teacher spoke disrespectfully to the student before the video starts. News outlets have reported that the teacher told Bliss to “stop bitching,” which is what set him off and prompted his classmate to hit record.
As a teacher, I know that students can be pushy. Some of them want to test you, try to show they know more about everything than you. They can’t sit still; they can’t stop talking. Some of them will try to get away with any little misdeed possible. They lie. They can be downright aggravating at times. But “stop bitching”?
Try, “Let’s have a talk in the hallway,” or perhaps, “Work as hard as you can, and if you need more time we can reassess.” I will even accept, “Complain one more time, and I will write you up.”
“Stop bitching” doesn’t cut it.
This teacher handed out packets instead of teaching; in the video, she sits at her desk instead of teaching. Every educator I’ve asked about this video, even those who think Bliss totally in the wrong, has agreed that this teacher appears, in the video, to be lazy.
Teachers know that it is all too easy, in certain schools, to get away with being asleep on the job. “I could hand out a worksheet every day and sit at my desk,” says a seventh-grade reading teacher pal. “But I would have to kill myself because I’d be bored to death.”
The same friend, who asked not to be named, called her district’s administration building three times last week to protest required STAAR test prep. The test, she told me, cuts into her time for actual curriculum. You know, teaching kids to read? She knows her calls won’t change anything, but she says it makes her feel better to stand up against what she sees as an injustice.
Our education system’s culture of standardized testing sucks the life out of classrooms. It leads to worksheets and packets, and worst of all, apathy on the part of teachers and students alike.
Maybe no one in this video should be punished. Maybe we should just accept it for what it is: A captured moment of frustration with an education system that treats students like parts on an assembly line rather than human beings.
Jeff Bliss is not a “hero,” of course not. But he is an example of a young person who cares, and that’s nice to see. I hope some of that rubs off on his teacher.