Good morning. Welcome to our first back-to-school faculty meeting. We have several important items on the agenda today, then we’re going to fill the afternoon with pointless activities we found online because the district says we have to professionally develop until at least 3:00 whether we need it or not.
As some of you know, we had a bit of unpleasantness last spring which we’d like to avoid happening again this coming year. A teacher who is no longer with us crossed a few boundaries and before you knew it, we were leading off the local evening news – and unfortunately it wasn’t for our horrible test scores this time.
With that in mind, I’d like to draw your attention to the pink handout in front of you. These are some of this year’s revised guidelines for teacher-student interactions. I won’t read it all to you (it’s not PowerPoint), but I would like to point out a few highlights.
First and foremost, no touching. If you need to get a student’s attention, use your words. If you wish to encourage them... well, it’s best if you avoid that altogether. Some of you have fallen into a very bad habit of putting a hand on a shoulder or patting a student on the back as you walk by. You may intend this as an innocent gesture or believe that young people need some sort of positive physical contact in their lives, but the risk is simply too great.
This also applies to handshakes as they walk in the door, whether you’re in clear view of dozens of other faculty members or not. Also, several of you have asked about student-initiated contact. Sometimes when a student sees a favorite teacher from last year, particularly if they were an important presence in their world and they haven’t always had that sort of attention or concern from the adults who should be paying attention to them, that student will come up and try to side-hug or even fully embrace that teacher.
After the situation with Mr. Barnaby last year, I’m afraid this is absolutely unacceptable and may lead to dismissal. What’s that? Oh, the “alleged” situation. I don’t know why we have to call it that. Parents were angry on social media – what more proof of actual wrongdoing do we need?
Anyway, back to the pink handout, just below the cute cartoon with the teacher in the dungeon. What should you do if you recognize that a student is approaching you for a possible handshake or hug? Well, you have several options. One is to make eye contact, extend your palm forward, and firmly pronounce, “No! No No No!” If this doesn’t work, we recommend moving away at whatever pace necessary to avoid physical contact.
Question? Yes – breaking into a full run at the approach of any affectionate student is not only permitted, but ideal as long as you avoid contacting others in your effort to flee.
Don’t forget to keep shouting “No!” We’re teachers; we want them to learn from every situation. With that in mind we’ve also placed small, conveniently-sized mace sprayer-thingies in your mailboxes, although these should only be used if other efforts to avoid human connection are unsuccessful. They are NOT to be used as a "team-building" activity during your monthly PLC meetings, as occurred in one department last year. I'm pretty sure Mr. Barnaby was involved in that episode as well, come to think of it.
The second thing I’d like to point out are the communication guidelines we’ve instituted. Teachers should absolutely avoid connecting with students on social media in any form. We’d prefer you not communicate with the world around you at all – at least not about anything of substance. You may post recipes or pictures of student activities with all names and faces blurred out, but nothing personal, political, social, or humorous. No matter how benign, there’s a chance someone in the community will find it and erupt in faux outrage, convinced that if you’re sharing it on Facebook with a small group of select friends, you’re probably brainwashing minors with it all day, every day, because that’s what liberals do.
If you wish to have political opinions, prefer one sports team over another, promote American values, or like your grandbaby more than someone else’s grandbaby, maybe you should have thought of that before you became an educator. We’re not here to connect what we teach with real life or present ourselves as involved citizens. This is school.
New this year are the guidelines governing interactions within the school day. It’s come to our attention that a number of students have been approaching their teachers with issues not directly related to the curriculum. Sometimes these conversations seem benign enough – “Have you seen this movie?” or “Did you hear what happened to that celebrity, so-and-so?” Other times, though, they involve their personal lives, their hopes, fears, families, friends, relationships, goals, strengths, weaknesses, or other completely inappropriate topics for school.
If a firm stare and verbal warning doesn’t dissuade these inappropriate interpersonal interactions, you should immediately refer them to their school counselor, who will give them a career survey to complete until they forget what they were wanting to talk about. As with the “touching” issue above, feel free to run away screaming “No! No! No!” until the student is sufficiently re-engaged with that day’s assignment.
I suggest explaining to them how that day’s lesson correlates to state standards and maybe remind of them of how much better their life could potentially be in 10 – 20 years if they succeed in your class today. Whatever their personal issues, that should pretty much address them. Who doesn’t want to be successful a decade or two from now?
For anything more serious than movies, books, or music, call the 800-number we had carved into each of your desks over the summer. This will connect you with an overworked federal agency tasked with getting you out of these conversations. While technically this number is intended to be used for reporting suspicions of abuse or concerns about violence or suicidal behavior, we recommend using it every time a teenager brings up a recent breakup with their boyfriend, sounds worried about their ability to do well in school, expresses sadness or confusion related to difficult circumstances at home, or exhibits any other emotion not directly related to that day’s assignment.
State law mandates the agency investigate, which in turn automatically alerts local police, the fire department, child services, local media, the PTSA’s Facebook Group, the federal housing authority, and at least one associate producer working for Maury. Until they arrive, it is essential that you refuse to respond to or otherwise discuss with this student anything on their mind or hampering their ability to focus on school. You are NOT a trained counselor. It’s not as if simply listening and showing you care is going to do anything. I’m sure you mean well, but the risk is simply too great. (Remember Mr. Barnaby.)
The final section I’d like to discuss on your pink handout involves lesson planning. We’re going to start asking you to submit written lesson plans for approval at least one week in advance each week. It’s come to our attention that some of you – and I’ll confess that the English and Social Studies departments are particularly culpable here – have been making explicit or implied connections between subjects you cover in class and events going on in the community, the U.S., or the world today. This is simply unacceptable.
We are not here to manipulate students into thinking or feeling the same way we do about current events, and the only way to safely circumvent any gray area on this is to avoid doing anything intended to make them think or feel at all. Our legal counsel has suggested we leave thinking and feeling up to their parents, clergy, or therapists in order to shield the district from potential culpability. It’s best they not connect with you, that you don’t connect with them, and that nothing you say or do in class – however well-intentioned – connect with anything happening in their lives outside of school or the real world around them.
It’s simply not our place.
Alright, that’s it for the pink handout. Any questions?
Good. Let’s take a short break and when we come back, we’ll be looking at the green handout – “The Importance of Relationship in Learning.” They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, amiright?
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