MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Our next story on today's wild cards show is about something that these days most of us could barely imagine living without, the internet. By the end of 2011, surveys showed the internet boasted 181 million blogs around the world. That's up from just 36 million five years earlier in 2006. Anyway, those 181 million blogs include one by a teacher in D.C. named Peter Gwynn. So what sets Gwynn's blog apart from all the others? Well, it's called, "Mr. TeachBad's Blog of Teacher Disgruntlement." And it reveals all of Gwynn's frustrations teaching in the D.C. public schools.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Gwynn says when school officials found out he was virtually airing so much dirty laundry he was eventually fired. Fast forward a year and Gwynn is now a mortgage lender, but he's still running "Mr. TeachBad," which he describes as a space where teachers can talk honestly, laugh and complain. Gwynn spoke with education reporter Kavitha Cardoza this week about why he's continuing his scorcher of a blog.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
You've got some really tongue-in-cheek blog posts. So under the top 10 posts of all time, you have one which reads, "Maybe You're Not Just High School Material." And another is, "Principal Seeks to Replace Student Body and Improve Test Scores." And then there are many others where you come across as really angry. I have to say if I had children, I don't know whether I'd want you teaching them.
MR. PETE GWYNN
That's a fair comment and I've heard that before. And I think what that expresses is, you know, partly my personality and my sense of humor. I think every teacher at some time, at some points, feels these senses of frustration and anger and hopelessness and I've just chosen to express it. And I think that I'm definitely, definitely not alone. Many people write into me all the time and they say, you know, thank you for saying this. I feel the same way. The blog gives them that sense of underground community.
Teachers and teaching have been discussed and debated so much in the past few years. Tell me from the point of view of a teacher who's pretty disillusioned and has left the profession, what's missing from the conversation?
I think in a place like DCPS you have lots and lots and lots of kids who come in and they're far behind where they should be academically. And they are either, you know, incapable or largely disinterested in helping you as a teacher to correct this. They don't work. We're putting all of the onus on teachers to fix these problems. And if children aren't learning it has to be the fault of teachers. It can't be that this kid isn't doing any work. It's my fault, right, that he's not doing any work. And if I say he's failing because he's not doing any work, then it's my fault for not doing more to make him work. And that trap is kind of frustrating.
You also spend a lot of space on your blog for things like data.
Data, collecting data, data-driven decision making, data-driven teaching has become kind of an obsession in education, I would say. So there are literally tens of thousands of data points that a teacher might be required to collect. And having come from a research background before I started teaching, the way we collect data, the way we construct questions and what is expected of teachers in terms of their proficiency in being able to analyze it and to make instructional decisions based on it is beyond what most teachers are really qualified and capable and should be expected to do.
So I think we spend a lot of time running around collecting, you know, the data point of the week which changes pretty frequently. And then teachers don't really know what to do with it.
I've read several of your blog posts and in between, you know, your kind of rants about administrative idiocies and "Good News, My Most Obnoxious Student Is Moving," I sometimes see glimpses of why you became a teacher.
It's a cliche, but it's a really, really important job. I have really, really fond memories of many, many individual students. I'll remember them forever. Some of the students that I think about a lot also are students in the middle, students at the top. And I feel like they are often done a disservice because we don't have time to give them the enrichment that they deserve because we have to spent all of our time trying to bring up the bottom 10 or 25 percent or whatever it is.
To me it doesn't make any sense to have an English class, for instance, where you have 30 kids in there and you might have eight different reading levels and then pretend that we're really teaching a rigorous course to all these kids at the same time. That really doesn't happen. I think what happens is everybody kinda gets messed up in a system like that.
That was Peter Gywnn talking with WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza. We have a link to "Mr. TeachBad," and all its full-on disgruntlement on our website metroconnection.org.
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