The Teacher Who Wishes She Were a Detective

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Teacher Who Wishes She Were a Detective

Valerie Schultz is a substitute teacher living in Tehachapi, Calif. And the only good news here is that she's a substitute. Schultz penned an essay in the most recent issue of the Los Angeles Times magazine apparently to let parents know how perceptive (and nosy and presumptuous) she is.

In her essay, Schultz tells parents:

You don't know me, but I know a lot about you from your child .... I know the value you place on a good education if your teenager remembers to bring a pencil to school.

... I know your income bracket by the brand names on your child's back .... by the casual way your child wastes food.

I know the shaky state of your finances when your child does not have $20 to go on the field trip to the Museum of Tolerance, does not have lunch money, does not have lunch.

I know if you are religious by some of the questions I am asked, even though we are not supposed to discuss it in public school ...

Everyday, we all make assumptions, and some of these assumptions are of the sort that Schultz has made. But the whole tone of Schultz' essay basically creeped me out. It's as if she taught school for the sole purpose of getting the low-down on her students' parents.

Schultz seems a little too proud of the conclusions she draws and a little too sure that her conclusions are dead-on accurate. Is it really fair to assume that every student who arrives at school without a pencil has parents who don't place much value "on a good education"? Even good parents have kids who might lose a pencil or forget to bring one to school.

And this line really annoyed me:
I can guess the state of your marriage by the way your child treats classmates (or teachers) of the opposite sex.
Well, "guess" is the appropriate word. But why can't a substitute teacher resist the temptation to engage in self-indulgent guessing games about parents?

Instead of playing amateur sleuth, Schultz might do better to take students and their questions at face value and stop drawing conclusions that may or may not be true.

Just focus on teaching the kids, and stop wondering what income bracket their parents happen to fall into.

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