Friday, February 20, 2015

Teachers Anonymous: A Twelve Step Program for Frontline Educators

This student thinks you're a good teacher. But Arne Duncan and his crew
know you're not.
The new 12 Step Program for teachers may help.

LAST WEEK, I SEARCHED my soul and finally faced a harsh truth. I was a bad teacher. I admit: that was hard to accept.

True, listening to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan bash our profession for years made it easier. Reading articles and books by leading school reformers also helped. They pretty much believe all teachers are stupid, lazy or do a terrible job

In fact when their plans to fix the schools don’t work they blame us for that too.

(A neat trick, don’t you think!)

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

Like me, they thought they were good.

All that delusion—it hit me like a punch in the nose. 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 or modifications send me an email or comment on this blog. Together we can recover.

(NOTE: Participants in AA place their faith and fates in the hands of God. For our purposes the higher powers—capitalized accordingly—are School Reformers, Authors of Books, and so forth.)


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 even need to make it a double.

STEP TWO: Admit that only a Greater Power can restore you to sanity and health.

Place your fate and the fate of your students, in the hands of Politicians and Bureaucrats in state capitals and Washington, D. C.

(What could possibly go wrong?)

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.

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 the problem in many kids’ lives, go back to Step One. 

If you believe a child who misses fifty-two days of class in a single year may be damaging his or her own education, and still refuse to accept blame, write a one page essay about what a bad teacher you are. Then mail it to Time magazine

(The editors at Time love stories that focuses on bad teachers.)

STEP FIVE: Admit to all Politicians and School Reformers 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, now those people care about kids!  

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

Suggested readings include:

1.    The Bee Eater by Richard Whitmire: a biography of Michelle Rhee, who taught for three years and then made a career bashing teachers.

2.    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.

3.  Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools by Steven Brill. Same message as #2 (above).

4.   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.

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.

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 my fault. I am sorry that 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. Plus, it’s my fault giant corporations are shifting production to places like China and Bangladesh. I also admit fault in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, in the spread of Ebola and for the inability of the Cubs to even make it to the World Series.

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

Buy a former student who ended up working at Walmart for crappy pay a new car, or maybe a pony.

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

STEP ELEVEN: Seek through prayer or meditation to improve your conscious contact with Secretary Duncan 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!

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.

                                                                                                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.