Right-Wing Nutjobs, Liberal Wieners and Kids Know Best

Against my better judgement, I recently waded into a Facebook debate on education.

Three seconds and twenty obnoxious Facebook notification dings later, I came to my senses, quickly clicked “stop notifications,” then ran directly to the kitchen where I did three straight shots of tequila and banned myself to my home office to write “I will never attempt an intelligent debate on Facebook” five-hundred times as a punishment.

An Abbreviated Version of Every Hot Topic Conversation on Facebook Ever

“I think ABC.”

“Well, really, it’s DEF.”

“DEFs are liberal wieners!”

“ABCs are right-wing nutjobs!

“My right-wing logic is infalliable due to WXZ”

“YOU FORGOT THE Y!!  You’re a Y-forgetting logically incompetent right-wing nutjob!”

And so forth.

In this case, I was the liberal wiener.  Not shocking to those of you who know me and most of you who read the blog could probably guess as much.  However, I would like to point out that I am not a rabid wiener.  I’m actually a pretty good listener and even, on occasion, have been known to have friendly conversations with conservatives.

Shocking, right?  But in the end, I appreciate a good argument, even if I disagree with it.

Claiming the Common Core is a socialist experiment designed to brainwash American students into thinking like Nazis is not a good argument.  Sorry, folks, it simply isn’t.  And I would be just as quick to point the same thing out to a group of rabid wieners if they tried to claim that prayer in schools is facist plan to brainwash students into joining an evangelical theocracy with designs on the White House.

Do I agree with prayer in schools?  No.  Do I think those who do are Jim Jones/David Koresh freakballs?  No.

Does the Common Core have flaws?  Yes.  Does that mean it must have been written by Nazis?

For the love of all-thing-holy-in-a-non-specific-non-religious-idiom-only-type-of-usage, I can’t even believe we’re having this conversation.

But that’s what happens when people like to run their pieholes according to the political talking heads‘ agenda rather than an actual knowledge base.   Makes intelligent people on both sides of the aisle slap their forehead in disgust, then shoot tequila in their kitchen to try and forget the insanity. Does it matter that I’ve got thirteen years in the field and experience working in both Common Core  and non-Common Core schools?  Nope.  I’m not a conservative nutjob, therefore I am wrong.  Experience, research, references be damned.  As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that those Facebook folks weren’t even really listening to my argument which wasn’t, as they seemed to think, a defense of the Common Core, but rather a suggestion that maybe (just maybe) equating it with the Third Reich might be a bit of a stretch.

I got steamrolled by shit that didn’t even make sense. So, like any normal human being in a similar situation, I threw my hands up, deemed my counterparts morons, and quit.

But it did make me wonder…

How many of us teachers are provoking the same reaction from our students?

I’m not talking about the hot-button political issues covered in social studies or the evolution debates of science. I’m asking how many of you out there, on a daily basis, are making your students throw up their hands in frustration, deem you a moron, and quit.

No matter the topic you’re teaching.

Here’s a quick way to check.  Do you think you know better than your kids?  If you do,  you’re the right-wing nutjob/liberal wiener.

Kids have spent a long time in their bodies.  They’ve spent a long time in their heads.  I don’t care how much you know about education or your content area, kids are the experts on themselves.

And yet so many teachers overlook this simple fact and steamroll their students with opinions, instructions, mandates, and advice, half of which may not even apply to the student in question.

You don’t know what it’s like to go to their homes after school.

You don’t know what runs through their brains when they get a poor grade on a test.

You don’t know what happened to them that morning, last week, or when they were five.

You don’t know.

You are not the expert.  You may have valid tools, useful insights, great strategies, or pertinent information or even a pretty darn good guess, but you don’t know.   And if you don’t know the problem, you can’t select the correct action step.

The problem isn’t that the Common Core is a socialist experiment bent on brainwashing.  The problem is it has some flaws that could use reworking.

The problem isn’t that the kid doesn’t want to learn.  The problem is…

Oh, wait.  You don’t know.  You haven’t asked.

Q.  What would it help me, as your teacher, to know about you in math class?


Oh.  No wonder you’re a huge behavior problem in my class.  You’re bored out of your mind.  It’s like making me sit through the same staff meeting three years in a row.

Dear God in heaven.  That would be miserable.  Let’s see if we can either get you bumped up a level or speed up the curriculum for you.

IMAG1965Sweet!  You’ve got the motivation, so if you get a lousy test score I know it’s not because you don’t care.  We’re gonna do good things with you this year!

IMAG1971Sounds good.  Will get a homework plan in place.  I’m also going to keep an eye out for you on word problems because your odd spacing and spelling errors are letting me know there might be literacy issues.

IMAG1973You…you’re going to be one of my soft spots this year because you just laid it all on the line.  You can attitude-it-up all you want, Ms. Sassy Pants, but we’re going to build some confidence in you this year, like it or not.  You can do math.  And this will be a safe space to try.

As a teacher, these check-ins aren’t more work for me.  They’re less.  One check-in and I know exactly where each student is.  I’m not wasting half a year throwing every tool in the toolbox at my kids haphazardly hoping they get hit by a monkey wrench, drill bit, or whatever the heck it is they need to understand the material.

I’m not trolling for Nazis. I’m not making accusations about why my kids fail.  I’m calmly adjusting for what works, tossing that which doesn’t.  And as a bonus, I’m getting the kids on my side because they know I care enough to ask.  And listen.

I’d like to say that us liberal wieners are just good at these things.  We are blessed with inherent communication abilities severely lacking in the right-wing nutjobs.  But I know a solid group of conservative teachers, so I’d be lying.

But maybe it does have a little to do with listening to the experts no matter what side they’re on and trusting they do know something about the topic.  Be it a kindergartener who claims that reading is hard or a teacher who’s actually taught the Common Core.

Or, if all that’s too much hippy-dippy wiener talk, just click here to steal easy ideas for student check-ins (or see the previous post).  It’ll make your life easier.  You’ll thank me later.

Even if I am a liberal wiener.

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