Showing posts with label students. Show all posts
Showing posts with label students. Show all posts

28 May 2018

School's Out...A Belated Thank You

by Steve Liskow

Many of my Sleuthsayers colleagues are or were also teachers, and as the school year winds down with proms, exams and commencements, it seems like a good time to remember those people who got me to where I am.

 We hear about test scores and teacher evaluation and lots of other concepts, so it's easy to forget that the basic goal is to help students learn more and better so they can become responsible adults. Teachers don't make a lot of money and their popularity is always fickle (especially in America, where they've been political whipping posts for as long as I can remember), but they wield enormous impact. I retired fifteen years ago next month, and about seventy former students are now Facebook friends (We get along better now that they don't have to laugh at my jokes). A few even read my books.

For years, I claimed that the teacher mattered less than the student's drive to learn, maybe even aided and abetted by his or her parents. I still think that test scores are a bogus way to measure a teacher's worth. My belief stems from having several mediocre teachers along the way but two well-read and decisive parents whose DNA included a strong work ethic.

But now I remember the handful of excellent teachers vividly and the others are a generic blur, and it's changed my opinion.

My first really good teacher, June Roethke, was the sister of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Theodore Roethke, and she taught ninth-grade English at South Intermediate School. Miss Roethke ("RETT-key") cared nothing about self-esteem or understanding her students, and most of us had nightmares when we learned that we would be in her class. She made us keep a loose-leaf notebook exclusively for her class, divided into homework, vocabulary, reading, grammar, spelling, and several other sections I no longer remember. She mandated that we open the rings at the beginning of class and leave them that way because she didn't want to hear that infernal clacking for the next hour.

She read us poetry and made us memorize poems to recite to the class (I learned "The Glove and the Lions" by Leigh Hunt). She would berate us for a wrong answer in discussion. She divided the room into teams and asked arcane grammar questions (I didn't know an appositive is always in the same case as the word with it is in apposition until I guessed wrong in front of my henchmen) to earn extra credit on a quiz. She demanded that we all be better than we dared to dream we could ever be. After surviving her class, I have yet to learn anything new about American grammar. Because I got a "B" (Her last reported "A" was reportedly when MacArthur  signed the treaty with Japan), I was placed in honors English in high school even though I didn't sign up for it.

Sophomore year gave me three great teachers. Edith Jensen retired after teaching me biology, and she was even tougher than Miss Roethke. The week before exams, she told me in front of the class that I had a solid "B" average, which would excuse me from taking the exam (Most teachers liked the chance to grade fewer papers), but she told me I had to take it anyway. Old mimeographed handouts and charts and worksheets lay all around the room, and I took them all to complete again. When the diagrams of crayfish, frogs, and the heart turned out to be the bulk of the exam, I finished fifteen minutes before anyone else. I put the paper on her desk and walked back to my seat, turning back just in time to see her wink at me. I never told anyone because I knew they wouldn't believe me.

Sharon Hunter, a history major and English minor, became my honors English teacher in 1962, and made us use writing prompts and what is now called "free-writing" and peer editing a decade before anyone else even mentioned it. Miss Roethke taught me correctness, but Ms (Actually, she was still "Mrs.") Hunter helped me find my own writing voice. She called me "Step-on" just to bust my chops--which she did to everyone else, too, because she had no favorites. I think we all suspected that we were her favorite, though, and we all loved her back...or at least, didn't give her too much grief.

Rose Marie (Mudd) Nickodemus was a direct descendant of the Doctor Mudd who set John Wilkes Booth's broken leg. She and Mrs. Hunter were young and attractive in a school with an average faculty age of somewhere around the half-life of U235. I had a terrible time in algebra, repeating the class in summer school, but Mrs. Nickodemus, who taught plane geometry, knew that some of us could visualize better than others and urged us to use colored pencils or soda straws to construct the figures in our proofs and move them around to test our ideas. Without knowing it (Maybe...), she also gave me the basis for the five-paragraph essay form nobody would talk about until years later, too.

Marjory Jacobson, who had a PhD in math from the Sorbonne, taught me first-year French in eleventh grade. she insisted you don't know a language until you think in it, and made us define the vocabulary words in French even though we were starting from scratch. A Saginaw Michigan native like me, she'd lived in France long enough to teach us idioms the textbook omitted. For example, always refer to a girls as a "JEUNE fille" (YOUNG girl) because a "fille" was a streetwalker. Imagine a group of sixteen-year-olds reacting when she dropped that one on us. Fifteen years after taking her class, I could read the French portions of Mann's The Magic Mountain well enough to get the substance if not the nuance.

Senior year, I had Don McPhee for trig and solid geometry, not long before he left to become the math chair at a nearby community college. Brilliant, patient, and hilarious, he wrote a foot-tall "E" on the wall to the left of the chalkboard to remind us that "left" was "east" when we plotted coordinates on graphs. Round;faced and balding with Clark Kent glasses, he divided the class into groups of five for the second semester and made us teach each other solid geometry. He visited each group every day or two to monitor us and clear up confusion, but he showed us that we understood the material well enough to stand on our own. Without his help, I doubt that I could have passed physics, presented by a teacher who should have retired before I was born.

I left high school planning to be a dentist, but hated my first year. Half-way through my sophomore year, I considered switching to English because Miss Roethke and Mrs. Hunter showed me I could handle it. Later on, I stole the peer teaching and writing prompts from them. I borrowed the three-dimensional (now called "learning modalities") from Mrs. Nickodemus and Mr. McPhee, and the high standards from Mrs. Jacobsen and Miss Jensen. What was left, I worked out myself. There wasn't much.
Arthur Hill High School, my alma mater

I graduated in 1965 and left Michigan for Connecticut two years later. Two of those teachers retired by the time I moved, and I know four had passed away when I returned for my reunion in 2000. If the other two are still alive, they're nearly 80.

But they aren't really dead as long as I remember what they gave me.

I wish I could tell them that I hope some of my students think of me the way I've come to think of them.

29 June 2015

Dear Dad

by Melissa Yi

Dear Dad,

As you may know, last time I wrote about how Mom reads my books now. It only seems fair to talk to you this week, even though we haven’t spoken since 2008. So, how’s it going?

I’ve been concentrating on mysteries lately. I find them satisfying because you can describe the ugliness in the world and bring a bad guy to justice. Since I work in an emergency room, I see a lot of illness, and not a lot of justice. Nice people get cancer. Sometimes nice people die. Meanwhile, a patient punched one of our nurses in the face and another patient attacked a different nurse with a high-heeled shoe. I’m having trouble finding the links, though, because there was an even more dramatic story about a patient hit a third nurse with a metal bar while uttering death threats.
Don’t worry, though. I feel pretty safe. We do have security guards, and I see at least one concrete change: we now have posters on the wall saying that we have a zero tolerance attitude toward violence. I hope the criminals can read.
It’s funny. I know you and mom always approved of me going into medicine because it’s considered a safe career. Much safer than writing, which is considered pretty much equivalent to committing hara-kiri. But now that I think about it, medicine is far more dangerous. You spend years abusing your brain and body, inhaling as much information and working as many hours as possible, exposing yourself to flesh-eating disease and felons, whereas a writer…sits in a room and makes stuff up.
True, writers earn less money on average, and poor people tend to get sick. This article even mentions that almost half of poor children have witnessed a killing.
Still, I remember reading articles saying that most doctors discouraged their children from becoming physicians. The articles slid right off of me as a medical student. I was young. I was excited. I was going to be a doctor!
But now, when my four-year-old daughter says, “I want to be a doctor,” I’m thinking of the deregulated medical school tuition and fees alone that cost up to $24,000 per year. I’m thinking of how much she loves babies (already, she walked around Sears, choosing which carriage and crib her baby should have), and how hard it is to balance children and medicine. And I understand why this survey showed that nine out of ten physicians discourage anyone from entering medicine.
I guess that’s why my other moniker is The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World.
Anyway, I’m not sure what you think of my writing. The most reaction I got out of you was when I brought you and mom to the joint book launch for Island Dreams: Montreal Writers of the Fantastic and Open Space: New Canadian Fantastic Fiction, and you were astonished by the free food and drinks. “Who’s paying for this?” you asked afterward.
I wasn’t sure myself. That’s a mystery, too.
But not as much of a mystery as what you’re up to now, after fighting a high-grade glioma for 18 months before succumbing in May 2008. I’m agnostic, but part of me wants to believe that somehow, you know you now have four adorable grandchildren and that I still love you.


22 December 2013

When Good Teachers Go Bad

by Leigh Lundin

Last week, I wrote about the attorney who argued his client was too rich for prison, and this week’s article began with a similar theme until it morphed into something else.

Kristin L.S. Beck is an athletics trainer who had sex with at least one minor. Although a juvenile, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not consider an adult engaging in sex with a child 15 years or older a felony. The 30-year-old was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor, and is not required to register as a sexual offender.

Beck’s lawyer argued for no sentence at all, claiming his client was the victim and added she voluntarily forfeited her license as an athletic trainer working with students.

“I'm not sure jail time would achieve anything,” he said.

The judge compromised, giving her six months behind bars, but he chastised her for betraying the public trust.

What we think we know

As I mulled over the article, it seemed to me I’d been reading a lot about women teachers having sex with minors. Curious, I googled.

teachers apple
One of the first sites I turned up listed thirty-some teachers. Naturally, Florida is one of the worst offenders. Only three were male, one out of eleven. I googled again, recognizing such names as too-pretty-for-prison Debra LaFave who prosecutors and judges in two Florida counties let walk. And Mary Kay Letourneau, the teacher who bedded one of her sixth-grade students and, after being given a pass by the judge couldn’t stay away from him, and following re-arrest and time  in the clink, eventually married him. And Pamela Smart who persuaded her 15-year-old paramour to murder her husband.

Wait. I know teachers. For some reason, I’ve dated an inordinate number of educators and many more are friends, including my writing buddies. Every one I know is dedicated, hard-working, and concerned about their students. It has to be every vulnerable teacher’s nightmare to be falsely accused. But, as every teacher knows, there are always a few bad apples.

What’s going on here?

Something else is happening. One writer bemoans that dozens of women teachers are being accused of sexual acts. As it turns out, the writer was wrong: not dozens, but hundreds. Names poured out of my screen. Hardly digging at all, in less than an hour I turned up more than 400 cases:

Kelly A•••Christina G••••••••Alexa N••••••
Tabitha A••••Donna Carr G•••••••Amie Lou N••••
Susan Christina A•••••••Kelly Ann G•••••Linda N••
Shelley A••••Jennalin G•••••-C••••Cheryl N•••••
Toni A•••••Lindsay G•••••-Y••••Angela Sue N••
Brianne A•••••Ellen G•••••••Kristine N•••
Tina Marie A••••Jacquelyn Faith G•••••••Rebecca N••••••
Barbara A•••••••Sandra ‘Beth’ G•••••Christine N••••
Ethel A•••••••Rachelle G••••••Amy N••••
Melissa A•••••••Robin G•••••••••Amy N••••••••
Melissa Ann A•••••••Stephanie G••••••••••Carrie O’C•••••
Bethany A•••••••Jennifer M. G•••Kristi Dance O••••
Jamie A••••••••Lisa G••••Christina O•••••
Melissa A•••••Helen G••••••Jody O••••••
Amanda A••••Brandy Lynn G•••••••Brenda O••••••
Kari Jo A•••••••Christel C. G••••••Laura P•••
Sherri Lynn B••••Marla G••••••-H••••••Angela P•••••
Brenda B••••••••••Lisa G•••••••Janet P•••••
Leslie B••••Jamie Nicole H•••Cameo P••••
Erica B••••Summer Michelle H•••••Karen P•••••
Pamela B•••••Emily Suzanne H•••••••April P•••••••••
Melissa B•••Katherine J. H•••••Alison P•••
Nicole Andrea B•••••••Emma Jean H••••Naomi P••••
Bella B••••••Dr. Allison H•••••••Carrie P••••••
Janelle B••••••Georgianne H••••••Kelsey P•••••••
Ashley Jo B••••Stephanie Diane H•••••Candace R. P•••••
Amy B•••Holly H••••••Linda P••••••
Kristin L. S. B•••Cathy H•••••••••Kaci P••••••••
Rebecca B•••••Kristal Renee H••••Nicole P••••••••
Allanah B•••••-W••••Maria Guzman H••••••••Nicola P•••••••
Shannon B•••Shannon H••••••Michelle P••••••
Anna B••••••••••Wendy L. H••••••Julie P••••••••
Sandra L. B••••••Katherine H••••Stephanie R•••••
Janelle Marie B•••Rachel Ann H••••Shebana R•••••
Joy B•••••••••Symantha H••••Beth R••••••
Michelle B••••••Deanna H••••••Makayla Dawn R••••••
Deanna B•••Becci H•••Lauren R••••••
Rebecca B•••••Crissy H••••Danielle R•••
Rebecca B•••••••Adrianne H••••••Deborah R•••••
Sandra B••••••Meredith H•••••Courtney Sue R••••••
Loni B•••••••Abigail H•••••••Jennifer R•••
Valynne B•••••Sarah H•••••Claire R•••••••
Courtney B•••••Rachel L. H•••Kristy C. R•••••
Rebecca Ann B•••••••Diana H•••Karen R••••••
Kristyn B•••••Kanesa H••••••Liza-Anne R••••••
Keri Ann B•••••Stacy H••••••Rebecca R••••••••-S••••••
Cheryl B••••••Cynthia H••••••Trina R•••••
Mariella B••••••Emily Elizabeth H••••••Valerie R••••••
Sherry B•••••Amy Lynn H•••••Pamela R••••• T•••••
Sarah B••••••Christine H••••Marcie L. R•••••••
Alini B••••Janet H•••••Sharon R•••••••••
Christy Anne B••••Ellen H•••Erica R••••••
Rosanna Encinas B••••Heather I•••••Kellie R•••
Laura-Anne B•••••••Amy Bass J••••••Tamara R••••
Rita B•••Hope J•••••Amira S•’D•
Sheree B•••••••Nicole J••••••Maria S•••
Whitney Dow B•••Urszula J••••••••Megan S••••••••
Ashley B••••••Courtney J••••••Kristy S••••••-T•••••••
Rachel B•••••••Amber S. J•••••••Donna Lou S••••••
Stephanie B•••••••Sarah J•••Lynn S•••••••
Kimberly B••••Christine Marie J•••••••Christine S•••••••
Lucinda Rodriguez C•••••••Kasey J•••••Stacy S••••••
Christine C••••Hope J••••Jennifer S••••••
Wendy C•••••Marie J••••••Dawn Marie S•••••••••••••••
Diana C•••••Danielle J••••Wendie A. S•••••••••
Christina C••••••Sarah J••••April S••••••
Gwen C••••••Christine J•••••Heather S••••••
Katheryn L. C••••••Meredith K•••Beth S•••••••
Harriett Louise C•••••Elisa K•••••••Bethany S•••••••
Amy Kathleen C•••••Denise K•••••Leah S••••••
Katie C••••••••Rebecca Lee K•••••Michelle S•••••••
Melissa C••••Jodi A. K••••••Natasha S••••
Beth Ann C••••••Heather K••••••Joan Marie S•••••
Heather C•••••••Tammy K••Pamela S••••
Whitney C•••••Irene K•••Christy Lee S••••
Michelle Rose C••••Mariane K••••••Sheral Lee S••••
Jodi C•••••Kirsten K•••••Melissa S•••
Jennifer C••••Haven K••••••••••Samantha S••••••
Lisa Lynette C••••Jodi K••••••••••Amanda S•••••
Susan C•••••••Anne K••••Mary Jo S••••
Tammy C••••••Melissa Diana K•••Christine S•••••
Stephanie C•••Abby K•••••Ashley S••••••
Angela Christine C•••••Kym K•••••Yvette S••••••
Brittni C••••••Nicole K•••••••Stephanie Ann S••••
Angela Renee C••••Michelle K•••Angela S•••••••
Andrea C••••••Debra Beasley L•F•••JoAnn S•••••••
Amanda Leigh C•••••Adrienne L•••••••Erin Baynard S••••••
Kellie Ann C•••••••Margaret L•••••••Meghan Allison S••••••
Julie Gay C•••••Shanice L••••••Jenifer S••••••
Lauren C•••••••Melissa L•••••••Elizabeth S•••
Megan C••••••Lisa L•••••Sara S•••••
Kimberly C••••Christina L•••••Lakina S•••••
Tara Lynn C••••Heather L•• B••••••••Kristen S•••••••
Elyse C•••••••Autumn L•••••••Beulah Nicole G••••••• S•••••
Kahtanna C•••Mary Kay L•••••••••Abbie Jane S••••••
Kelly Lynn D••••••Vicky Lynn L•••••••Traci T•••
Heather D•••••••••Jill L••••Jennifer T••••••••
Gay D•••••••-S••••••Amy Gail L•••••Michele T•••••
Kathia Maria D••••Angela Simmons L•••••Katherine T••
Margaret •• B••••••••Jennifer Dawn L•••••Tanya T•••••••••
Teri K. D••••Elizabeth Claire L••••••Erin T•••••
Melissa Michelle D•••Nicole L•••Heather T••••••
Melinda D•••••Chantella L•••••Lauren T•••
Diane D•M••••••-S•••••Julia L•••Deborah Lee T•••••
Jennifer D••••••Kimberly L••••Rebekah T•••
Megan D•••••Jennifer M••••••Sarah L. T••••••
Melinda D••••••Jennifer M••••Gay Lyn T•••••
Julie A. D••••Kesha D. M•••••Pamela Joan Rogers T•••••
Erica D•P•••Kristen M••••••Jennifer T••••
Nadia D•••Lisa Robyn M••••••••Erica U•••••••
Cara D•••••Amber M•••••••Michelle V••M••••
Stefanie D••••••••Christy M•••••Rachelle V•••••••
Pamela D••••-M••••Katryna M•••••Sheila V••••••
Dorothy Elizabeth D••••Elisa M•••••••••Jamie W••••
Jennifer D••••••Andrea M•••••••Jaymee W••••••
Stephanie D•••••Tina M••••Danielle W••••
Tara D•••••••Lindsay M••••••Stephanie Jo W••••••
Christine D•••Cindy M••••Allenna W•••
Andrea E••••Melissa Kellie M•B••Donna W••••••••
Susan E•••Christine M•C•••••Amanda W••••••
Amy E••••Carrie M•C•••••••Gina Marie W••••••
Christine E•••••Cristina M•C•••April W•••••
Rhianna E••••Melissa Dawn M•C•••Kelly McKenzy W•••••
Amy Rita E••••••••Michelle M•C••••••Melissa W••••
Celeste E••••••Amy M•E••••••Crystal W••••
Teresa E••••••••Lynnette M•I•••••Dawn W•••••
Jennifer E•••••••Regina M•K••Kathy W••••
Darcie E••••Alexandra Elizabeth M•L•••Shelley W••••
Michelle F•••••Erin M•L•••Jennifer W••••••
Diana Leigh F••••••Amberlee Evonne M•••••Heather W••••••
Rachel L. F••••••Elizabeth M•••••••••Amber Renea W•••••••••
Laura Lynn F••••••Amy N. M•••••Christy A. W•••••
Marcy R. F•••••Kelly K. M•••••Kacy W•••••
Carol F••••••••Julie Ann M••••Tawni W••••••••
Stephanie F•••••••Michelle M•••••Robin W•••••
Ashley F•••••Cris M•••••Emma W•••
Lisa F•••••Emily M•••••Jessica Bailey W•••••••
Ronda F•••Alison M••••••Toni Lynn W••••
Andrea F••Melissa M•••Kimme A. W••••
Chandra F•••••Elizabeth M•••Amy Y••••••••
Natalie F•••••••Antonia M••••-J•••••Shannon Y••••
Lynne F••••••Franca M••••-J•••••Melanie K. Y••••
Kenzi F•••••Allison M••••••••Heather Lynne Z••
Gail E. G••••Karolyn N••••Michelle Z••••••••
Zenna G••••••Sheryl A. N•••••••Maria Z•••••
Some of the above cases have yet to go to trial while charges in others have been dropped. A person is not judged guilty until determined by a court of law.

This is a sizable sampling, not a comprehensive list, but I'm making a point. Columnists casually speak of 'dozens', but there appear to be hundreds, perhaps thousands plus many unreported.

I could be wrong, but I don’t for a moment believe predation by female teachers (and aides, coaches, PTA members, etc.) outnumbers male’s by eleven to one. Slate writer William Saletan attempts to extrapolate from general rape statistics. Contrary to an US Department of Education survey that says in 2004 that 43% of complaints were against women, he claims assaults by male teachers outnumber female by 25-to-1 and echoes popular opinion that female aggressors are “less vile.” He intimates that male ‘victims’ are almost grown up and can better tolerate harassment.

He appears to miss the point that many Americans don’t regard sex with a female teacher a crime. Thanks to reluctance of victims and their families, fewer female teachers are accused, fewer yet are charged, fewer are prosecuted, and still fewer are given jail or prison sentences and required to register as sexual offenders. It’s a bit like that tree falling in the forest: If the teacher is let off, is it a crime?

As a 2007 NPR segment pointed out, fewer women teachers face criminal penalties. The day after Debra LaFave was allowed to walk, a male teacher was given twenty years for the equivalent crime. Elsewhere, a former Miss Texas contestant had her case dismissed without trial. The grand jury found the relationship ‘endearing and flirtatious.’

What’s a crime in one state may not be a crime in another. If the age of consent is 15 or 16, then a felony may not have been committed. Worsening the problem, laws that acknowledge women can be capable of sexual assault have been slow to catch up. One teacher said an internet search she conducted suggested she wasn’t engaging in a crime. Often, boys and even their families refuse to cooperate with authorities. The British National Association of Women Teachers has said that teachers who have sex with pupils over the age of consent should not be placed on sex offender registers.

The Association went on to say statutory rape laws were out of date. They weren’t alone. In the comments following some of the articles I researched, many readers suggested the age of consent should be lowered to 14. Fourteen! This age was the one that cropped up most often in the case searches (varying from ages 9 to 17).

Former US Secretary of Education and former Houston School Superintendent Roderick Paige taught us thousands of ways to manipulate school statistics. We don’t know how many teachers are simply dismissed rather than prosecuted, which makes a shambles of statistics maintained by Departments of Education. We don’t know how often a woman is allowed to plead to a misdemeanor or non-sex crime, whereas her male counterpart may be charged with statutory rape, sexual assault, or creative charges like false imprisonment.

The adage ‘Women get months, men get years’ isn’t quite accurate, but New Jersey courts convict a majority of men but less than half of women, and they sentence men to terms 50% longer than that of women. Nancy Grace says, “Why is it when a man rapes a little girl, he goes to jail, but when a woman rapes a boy, she had a breakdown?

While I’m surprised by the mounting evidence, I am willing to adjust my stereotype. I once consulted for Sinai Hospital outside Baltimore where they gathered reams of statistics. According to one curious number, domestic battery by women outnumbered assaults by men. (While more wives assaulted husbands, men tended to inflict more harm because of the sheer physical strength.)

I mentioned this to a psychiatrist friend in New York and later to another in Virginia. Both confirmed that finding. The Virginia doctor said she believed the reason was that women didn’t feel constraints, whereas sensible males have been taught to never hit a woman. The reverse isn’t taught.

With that little bit of knowledge, I could understand more or less equal numbers, but without hard statistics it’s difficult to judge. As mentioned the other day in the comments of a SleuthSayers article, our society doesn’t trust men. At the same time, we take greater steps to protect our daughters than our sons. Because women teachers are trusted, is it possible some see an opportunity? Or, more kindly, does emotion and sensation slip under their guard?

This phenomenon isn't a fluke and we can’t blame incidents on ‘trashy women’. These are women with bachelors degrees, sometimes masters and doctorates, as in the case of Dr. Allison Hargrave, seducer of a troubled 13-year-old girl. These women are articulate, smart, poised community figures. Many have won awards. They held such promise.

And now?

Like many men, it’s much easier for me to sympathize with women, but can’t we find a better way to deal with this situation?

Why does one teacher receive a 25- or 30-year sentence while branded a pedophile and another's given no sentence at all? I’ve suggested before in a different context, we need to balance sentencing. First, we must decide whether an act constitutes a crime and at what level: Misdemeanor? Felony? Or simply bad judgment? And once that's determined, we need to be fair, sensible, and consistent.

The too-pretty-for-prison defense has to vanish as do overly harsh sentences. Educator-of-the-Year Ethel Anderson wasn’t pretty and she wasn’t white. She received 38 years for her relationship with a 12-year-old. Hundreds of others received a virtual slap on the wrist if they were reprimanded at all.

Society clearly has both a problem and a vested interest. We entrust our children to our teachers, people we want to care about and train our children. How do we solve this problem?