Friday, February 20, 2015

Teachers Anonymous: A Twelve Step Program for Frontline Educators

This student thinks you're a good teacher. 
But school reformers will insist you're not.

LAST WEEK, I SEARCHED my soul and faced a harsh truth. I was a bad teacher. That realization was hard to accept.

True, listening for years while Secretary of Education Arne Duncan bashed our entire profession helped pave the way to the truth. Reading articles and books by leading school reformers also helped me plumb my pedagogical depths. 

Those reformers pretty much believe all teachers are stupid, lazy or do a terrible job

When I posted my full confession a few days ago (now: three years ago, as I update my post), I was heartened to learn I was not alone. Thousands of bad teachers felt a need to confess their own classroom crimes and sins. Many have spent years in education working with all types of kids. Like me, they loved teaching (I am retired) or do.

Like me, they thought they were good.

All that delusion—it hit me like a punch in the nether region. Suddenly, I knew teachers needed a Twelve Step Program, like AA. If I could come up with proper language, perhaps I could help others face their demons too.

Here, then, are the Twelve Steps of Teachers Anonymous. If you would like to offer suggestions feel free to comment on this blog. From what I can see from the safety of retirement, the job of teachers is only getting more difficult.

Still, together, I know we can recover.

NOTE: Participants in AA place their faith and fates in the hands of God. For our purposes (below) the higher powers—capitalized accordingly—will be School Reformers, Authors of Books about Teaching, Who Never Taught, etc.. 

In updating this, I have added Betsy DeVos, the Grizzly Killer, to the recovery mix. 


STEP ONE: Admit that you are powerless in the face of Testing Companies. Your life has become an unmanageable mess due to paperwork.

This isn’t AA, so if at any time you feel the need, pour yourself a stiff drink. You may need to make it a double these days.

STEP TWO: Admit that only a Greater Power can restore you to sanity and health. Such as: the Grizzly Killer or a U.S. Department of Education Bureaucrat.

STEP THREE: Make the decision to turn your life and your will over to the care of the Testing Companies because tests rule over you and your students. Not to mention: Testing Companies donate millions to Politicians.

STEP FOUR. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of your faults. Feel free to use extra paper; according to the School Reformers you really do a terrible, terrible job.

This is a tough one. If you claim poverty harms kids, making it harder to learn, go back to Step One. 

If you dare hint that terrible parents are sometimes the biggest problem in kids’ lives, go back to Step One.

If you think any of the problems children face today cannot be solved by requiring them to take more standardized guessed it...back to Step One. 

STEP FIVE: Admit to all Politicians and School Reformers, and Authors of Books, Who Don’t Teach, and most of all to yourself, the exact nature of your wrongs.

You think you’re really helping kids in your class succeed? Come on! You’re terrible. Members of Congress and Lobbyists and Highly Paid Executives heading for-profit charter schools, those are the people who care about kids!  

STEP SIX: You must put your fate in the hands of Authors of Books. They know how to fix education. They will show you the defects in your character and your classroom techniques.

Suggested readings include:

Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools by Joel I. Klein: who basically says, yes, we can fix the schools by firing most of the teachers.

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools by Steven Brill. He offers the same message as Klein.

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They got that Way by Amanda Ripley: the story of how kids in Finland kick ass in school because teachers in Finland aren’t dumb, whereas teachers in America are.

(Total teaching experience of the authors above: 0 years, 0 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes, 0 seconds.)

STEP SEVEN: Humbly support all current and future Secretaries of Education no matter what policy they choose to implement. Ask only that they help you overcome your professional shortcomings.

And yes, you must listen to the Grizzly Killer even though she never taught, never attended public schools and never sent her children to public schools.  

It doesnt matter; you must admit the Grizzly Killer knows more than you! Cant do it you say? Pack to Step One and try it again.

STEP EIGHT: Make a list of all the persons you have harmed and be willing to make amends.

Stand on your school lawn. Shout: “If any child has not succeeded in school it has to be entirely my fault. I am sorry the promise of No Child Left Behind was not fulfilled. I am sorry for pretty much anything that goes wrong with the U.S. economy, because I have failed to prepare kids to compete in a global economy. I admit fault in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, in the spread of Ebola and for the inability of the Cubs to even make the World Series.

(Note: that last issue has been resolved.)

STEP NINE: Make direct amends to all those you harmed wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Tell your former principal you are sorry he or she got fired when test scores didnt rise fast enough, even if the tests were later replaced by other tests, because the School Reformers, Testing Companies and Politicians had better ideas about how to fix the schools.

STEP TEN: Continue to take personal inventory and when you are wrong (which is always, according to the School Reformers), promptly admit it.

Say it now: I was wrong! I thought I could teach. I was wrong! So wrong! I was wronger than wrong! I was the wrongest person in the entire field of education!

STEP ELEVEN: Seek through prayer or meditation to improve your conscious contact with Secretary Duncan (now: the Grizzly Killer) and all School Reformers, praying for knowledge of their will and the power to carry it out.

If they say we must have tests tied to No Child Left Behind then you must love those tests! If they say we must have new tests tied to Common Core, you must love those tests instead. If various states revoke their decision to participate in Common Core and go back to state standardized tests—yes, love those tests too! Love any and all standardized tests.

STEP TWELVE: Having experienced a spiritual awakening, carry this message to other teachers, all who think they are doing good work in the schools. Practice these twelve principles in all your affairs.

And remember. This isn’t AA. So feel free at any point to have another drink. 

Keep giving those standardized tests, too, even if you dont think theyre doing any good, and even if you fell they are doing actual harm to real kids.

                                                                                                Yours truly,
                                                                                                A Bad Teacher


  1. I don't think there are that many bad teachers, but there are a lot of teachers and children suffering from BADPTSD better known as the Bill And Duncan Post Test Stress Disorder.

    In place of a 12 step program, we must convince the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that accepts all teachers and children suffering from BADPTSD making them eligible to join the VA where they can get counseling support to help them manage the test stress caused by Bill Gates and Arne Duncan.

    The VA is the only place to get the needed therapy for teachers and children to deal with this stress caused by excessive testing, because the VA has leaned a lot since the 1980s in how to deal with PTSD from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghan combat vets.

  2. Ah...I might agree: PTSD for educators and children. More and more true.

  3. There was a small study in Texas that revealed a large number of middle school teachers suffered from PTSD. But the BADPTSD from the corporate war on the public schools might be worse.

    Teresa McIntyre, a psychology research professor at the University of Houston says, “Teachers don’t have one or two traumatic events; it’s a chronic daily stress that accumulates over days and months and years. It’s pretty equivalent in other high-risk occupations.”

    In a pilot study conducted of 50 teachers in four Houston-area middle schools, Ms. McIntyre found as many as one in three teachers in the Houston district were “significantly stressed,” with symptoms ranging from concentration problems, fatigue and sleep problems.

  4. I love this. A much needed reminder that we are under stress and under supported. Remember to take care of yourself. Whatever that looks like to you.