There Vill Be NO Teacher-Student Conversation!

Hi Readers! Here’s a new development on the what-can-we-worry-about-next front. It’s from Kelso, Washington, a town of about 12,000:

A proposal by the Kelso School Board aims to create a more professional relationship between teachers and their students.

The proposal makes it a fireable offense to show students pornography, harass or touch students inappropriately, or to smoke or drink alcohol with students. Along with those common sense rules, teachers will not be able to talk about their family or personal lives in the classroom. [ITALS MINE]

That’s right — lumped right in their with porn and pawing is the offense of teachers being open with their students. I think of how gleeful my high school son was talking about his history teacher’s passion for her hometown Pittsburgh Steelers,  and how my younger son loved hearing stories about his teacher’s kids. In Kelso those conversations would be verboten: They reveal personal details!

Mustn’t have teachers and kids connecting like human beings! It could be (somehow, in some strange dark fantasy world of fear) dangerous! — L.

105 Responses

  1. hahaha. My third grade son’s teacher is hugely pregnant and you expect her to not explain what is happening to her ballooning belly?

  2. Maybe we should just replace all the teachers with robots? Or just broadcast video lessons to schools? Then, we wouldn’t have to worry about a teacher touching a student, or saying something inappropriate.

    yeah. that sounds awesome. Awesome in a futuristic horror flick sorta way.

    The idea that teachers can’t be people in classrooms and be entertaining and compassionate as well as professional and informative makes me very sad.

  3. My first thought is that the bigots don’t want gay teachers talking about their families — a male teacher talking about his husband, for example — but they know that if they target GLBT folks, they’re more likely to draw bad publicity than if they spread the crazy “fairly” across all teachers.


  4. @ Elissa: You know? One of the main things learned in school is the social interactivity between students, and between teachers. Now they are saying they want to remove that? Ridiculous! Now they will be “breeding” people that have no social skills. Only professionalism, and book smarts. Which in the real world will not get you far, and can make you into one of those people that no one talks to, and no one invites out after work.

    For educators, their pretty stupid and ignorant.

  5. I strongly suspect this is aimed at gay and lesbian teachers, as a way of getting around anti-discrimination protection. If it’s ever enforced, you can bet it will be about somebody talking about a normal thing at home involving their same-sex partner and/or children of said union.

  6. Showing students pornography or touching them inappropriately is already forbidden by law, so it is pointless to waste time developing another rule. Not smoking and drinking in front of students is common sense.

    I remember stories about my math teacher’s love for trampolining. Math lessons would’ve been a lot more boring if he hadn’t shared that tidbit about himself.

    I do wonder what the Kelso schoolboard would’ve done about my history teacher. He caught a couple of students drinking apple cider and confiscated the bottle, the students thought they could steal it back from the teachers’ lounge, but when they tried to drink it again, it tasted a lot weirder than before.
    “Someone” pied into the bottle and last time I heard, those kids didn’t drink on school property again…

  7. I think schools should only hire teachers who are passionate about the subjects they teach. Then we wouldn’t have to hear about their private lives so much unless it related to the subject.

  8. my kids relate personal stories about teachers all the time! They love it, it humanizes the teachers. My daughter’s Band teacher even brought her toddler to school so the kids could meet him…I like this about the school.

  9. It is in fact aimed at GLBT teachers. In Oregon, just a few miles south of Kelso, a gay teacher was fired for sharing too much with a student. Basically, the student asked if he was married, and instead of simply saying no, he launched into how bigots wouldn’t let him get married. That’s not a specific quote, but that’s the basic gist of how he explained it.

    This creates an interesting dilemma because while students and teachers should absolutely have positive conversations, teachers also need to respect those who have different views, especially on such a hot button topic. Regardless of if you agree or disagree with gay marriage and think teachers SHOULD be able to express opinions about moral issues as fact, it might come back around against you on an issue you disagree with. Like, say, a teacher who believes in abstinence-only education expressing a view that there’s something morally wrong with student who choose to have sex before marriage.

    I’m not saying teachers can’t have opinions or share opinions, but you have to be very careful as what you present as one-sided facts. So, really, what choice does the school district have? It has to protect itself. This way, if no one is talking about personal things, than at least it’s not singling out one population.

  10. I’d love to see them enforce that. Anytime you mention a family member, you’d be breaking that rule. Heck, mention what you had for dinner and you would be breaking that rule. may be the case that caused Kelso to propose this new rule. They don’t want to be sued and settle for thousands of dollars.

  11. Isn’t school supposed to TEACH basic social skills? Talking and just interacting would seem to be within the realm of what should be expected of a school.
    If the school board in this specific case wants to make changes due to a single case(s), it might be wise to consider its broader implications.

  12. @dailygazing–wait– being passionate means you don’t have human qualities, like sharing funny tidbits about yourself?

    My students love when I tell them about how much of a Star Wars geek I am (I can tie it into History, too, since Star Wars was the first blockbuster film, etc.) My students applauded when I told them second semester that I was expecting a baby (this was last year– now they ask how the baby is doing.) Every second of every class doesn’t have to be about course content, IMHO, part of what they learn in school is socialization between people of different ages and backgrounds. That can and should also come from teachers beyond just the professional aspects, but also how to have polite, respectable interpersonal communication in any environment.

    I’m guessing Kelso, Wash. would have a coronary if they knew I have added former students on Facebook! (Only after graduation, but still– they might think of me as a real person, and be scarred for life by it!)

    And so, the idea of community is further destroyed. Imagine, about 150 years ago, it was actually quite common for the teacher to live with the students! Now we’re not even supposed to acknowledge that we have houses and lives outside of school…

  13. Well then they better make sure the teachers wear uniforms too. Their clothing might reveal too much about hem. STUPID!!!!

  14. Well… the first part was good. :/

  15. We were just in Kelso the other day having lunch (just out for a drive and that’s where we were when we got hungry).

    As for the story…WTF?

    My most favorite teachers growing up were the ones that let us in on their personal lives…the ones that seemed human. They were the ones that told us about their lives as kids/students or about what they did Saturday night (usually lounging around watching the same shows that we were entertained by). Those were the teachers that got the most respect from the kids because you felt they really understood you.

    Geesh, wouldn’t want kids knowing their teachers are real people. Glad we didn’t move to Kelso (it was one of the areas my husband was looking at when we were moving to Washington).

  16. The Kelso, WA school board would fire all of the teachers at my son’s school. Last year when his biology class had a unit on reproduction, the biology teacher announced that she was pregnant. She showed the class pictures in the biology book of what her baby looked like at that point of his/her fetal development. My son’s current math teacher and geography teacher from last year liked to talk about how they went to the same Gymnasium (German school for high achievers) and were one year apart. They also talked about how they learned to ski as kids in their town. The math teacher also talked about his initial struggle with Latin (a lot of the kids in my son’s class, including my son, are taking first-year Latin) and how he overcame it. Little things like that help to make teachers more “human” and accessible. If I was a student and had a problem in class, I’d be more comfortable talking to a teacher who seemed more human than one who was very distant.

    From talking to my son and his friends, I’ve noticed that their favorite teachers are the ones who talk about themselves in class.

  17. I am a teacher, and one of my co-workers has her three children attending the same school where we teach. In fact, unless they change her to a different grade, her youngest child will be one of her students next year. If I ever become a mother, I will most likely enroll my children in the same school where I teach. Because I am a specials teacher, my own children will have me as one of their teachers from the time they are in preschool until they go off to high school. I wonder what Kelso, Washington would make of that.

  18. Ha ha ha! I can just see it now: “Sorry I was late, kids, but I can’t tell you why. I’m going to be out tomorrow, but I can’t tell you why.” Ugh.

    But my siblings and I do laugh about one teacher who really did share more than she needed to. One day she was on her way to a potty break (from our 11th grade co-ed English class) and she said, “I hate when I have to take my purse to the bathroom – the everyone knows what I’m going there for.” All the boys wanted to die right there. (As did the girls – ugh.)

    So are they also going to stop letting teachers talk about their views on abortion, sexual mores, religion, politics, etc.? Will they cancel sex ed (which seems a lot more dangerous than “I’m going to a funeral tomorrow”)? Why, pretty soon half of the social studies curriculum will be out the window.

  19. This seems like another one of those simplistic solutions. Yes, teachers can (and probably should) be allowed to share information about their personal lives. However, there should still be a boundary between student and teacher; not everything is to be shared. And teachers, being only human, sometimes don’t know where the line is. Instead of trying to create a nuanced policy about what is appropriate to discuss in class, the school district is taking the easy way out and banning it entirely.

  20. That’s just weird.

  21. Wow! Just wow! It makes me very sad. For instance my 10th grader’s World History teacher has great conversations w/his class about her travels around the world. It gets related back to the class work, keeps the kids interested and opens their eyes to a much bigger world.

    Oh yes, and then there is his biology teacher. She just had a baby. She is now taking time off from teaching to be w/her baby. Don’tcha think it was best for the kids to know this than to create some other reasons for her no longer being their teacher?

    Hmmm….lets talk about the algebra teacher. In another life, before he was a teacher he was a contractor. He speaks with authority about how math skills are needed in every day life and tries to teach the kids work habits that will translate to life outside of school. Could he do that w/creditability if the students didn’t know that he had walked the talk?

  22. Reminds me of government legislation! You know, passing a law that makes sense, and then burying all sorts of other stupid things within the bill.

    When will life stop being regulated??

  23. @Karli — This creates an interesting dilemma because while students and teachers should absolutely have positive conversations, teachers also need to respect those who have different views, especially on such a hot button topic. Regardless of if you agree or disagree with gay marriage and think teachers SHOULD be able to express opinions about moral issues as fact, it might come back around against you on an issue you disagree with. Like, say, a teacher who believes in abstinence-only education expressing a view that there’s something morally wrong with student who choose to have sex before marriage.

    I’m not saying teachers can’t have opinions or share opinions, but you have to be very careful as what you present as one-sided facts. So, really, what choice does the school district have? It has to protect itself. This way, if no one is talking about personal things, than at least it’s not singling out one population.

    You’re still throwing out a whole nursery full of babies with your bathwater.

    Yes, of course it has to work both ways. Yes, of course students will end up hearing things in school their parents disapprove of. The world is full of things any given set of parents disapprove of; dealing with that is part of being a parent. Teaching your kids to evaluate and handle opposing opinions and arguments is also part of being a parent. Or at least, learning to do that is (or should be [sigh]) part of growing up, and one would hope parents would want to teach that skill to their kids.

    The idea that all teachers should be gagged just because one might some day say something I disapprove of to my kid is ridiculous.


  24. Guarantee this was the result of ONE parent having ONE complaint with ONE comment from ONE teacher, therefore ALL must pay the price. Good luck enforcing the new rule. Will classrooms be recorded or videotaped to ensure compliance? Or will the school personally place an informant in each class? How very Soviet.

  25. Well I won’t be teaching there. The other day it was cold enough that ice formed in the “Stream” in the playground. There was a spirited debate if animals could survive under the ice.

    During my lunch I googled ice fishing and harvesting mussels ice. The pics that came up for the mussels were from an article written about my Uncle. I did a whole life science lesson around his business.

    Another time the kids were swearing that snow always melted in the day time. I grabbed pictures off of facebook of the hockey rink a cousin builds in his back yard each year to show them.

    They know the names of the my parents’ hometowns. They recognize pictures of my nieces and nephew. They know about the time my cousin and switched ice cream bars behind our Nanna’s back and I had to be rushed to the hospital. My Great-Grand Uncle saved my life, gave cousin and I a lecture about asking if food had peanuts and then took the lot of us around to show off.

    They know I’ve eaten at the same tables where my Great-Grand Uncle performed emergency surgery to save someone’s life at the turn of the last century. (Same man he was my great-grandfather’s youngest 1/2 brother)

  26. They’ll also have to train the kids not to ask any personal questions – because they are relentlessly curious about the lives of teachers!

    I’m a substitute, and whenever I’m in a new classroom the VERY FIRST question I’m asked is whether or not I have kids. Then, I’m asked how old I am. Then, maybe, they’ll ask me what my name is. I have quite a few rooms that I go back to again and again, and they always ask how the kids are doing and want to know what other schools are like. Talking about my life outside of school breaks the ice and makes the job of teaching so much easier. I’d hate to have to leave 90% of who I am out the door when I go to work.

  27. Well, teachers who are Steelers fans should be fired on general principle.

  28. Interesting that the idiotic sentence begins with ‘Along with these common sense rules …’, as if the person drafting it recognised, consciously or unconsciously, that the next rule was going to defy common sense.

  29. So what about when a teacher dies? “Teacher won’t be here anymore. Ask no questions”? …. I love my town. My high school had two gay teachers and it was fine. No one freaked out that they were gay and that we knew. The teachers whom I remember fondly were the ones who told us about themselves, the ones who seemed like humans rather than rigid instructors who have no lives. A couple of my teachers even attended my wedding! The horror! Human relationships! Ah! ugh.

  30. Aren’t kids supposed to develop relationships with their teachers, so that if a parent or family member is molesting them, they have a trusted adult they can talk to? If 90%+ of child molesters are someone the kid knows, then they need to be able to trust as many adults as possible, so SOMEONE can help them if there’s a problem at home.

    And just like everyone else is saying, my favorite teachers were the ones who seemed human. Like my English teacher who talked about how his weight loss was going. Or the teacher who talked about her days on her high school and college volleyball teams. Or the math teacher who was related to Travis Tritt. And as for the GLB (I don’t know the right order…), that’s really too bad. In Utah (where I’m sure you’re all expecting extreme bigotry on the subject) the high schools all have Gay Straight Alliances, mostly headed by homosexual teachers, with pictures of there significant others on their desk.

  31. I was contemplating suicide when I was in high school. My history teacher noticed that I was showing signs of clinical depression, and opened up to me about his lifelong struggle with severe OCD–he even recommended his psychologist.

    If a teacher in Kelso comes across a similar situation, he or she wouldn’t be able to do anything. Which kinda seems like the opposite of helping kids.

  32. Dailygazing- most schools do try to hire teachers who are passionate about their subject. I love reading and English. That’s why I changed careers. So I could talk about what I love. I also am passionate about helping my students get through high school. Sometimes that means I tell personal anecdotes that they might be able to relate to and be encouraged by. My students also respect me more and feel more comfortable talking to me because they know me- not just as their teacher, but also someone who has experienced life and is willing to be honest about it if they ask. Does that mean I tell stories that are not appropriate or preach my religious beliefs? Of course not- I am a professional. I know when to share and when not to share. It is called common sense.

  33. Yeh, just can’t see how an educator can create learning environment without relating personal experiences to students. I grew up in an era where teacher’s and adults personal lives are isolated from the students and my memory of this is a memory about confusion of all things adult. And then the only information was through community gossip which managed to distort everything. How do school boards get to this impasse? On top of all, if there is no distinction made between reprehensible act and ordinary act, then the child will not know the difference, and that may cut both ways.

  34. I went to a Biblical Christian school, we were taught the Bible, including the parts that said homosexuality is a sin, but we also had a lesbian who lived with her partner as a teacher (why she would choose there of all places to work I have no idea). It wasn’t a secret, we all knew her ‘friend’ was really her ‘partner’ and we were all darn well polite enough not to ask her questions that would lead to uncomfortable answers. We coexisted quite peaceably. Trying to dictate silence just so kids don’t hear about something against their families beliefs is stupid, and further treats kids like idiots who can’t be taught to have polite discourse with someone they disagree with.

  35. I still have fond memories of the teacher who played music in the classroom, and the Michael Bolton song “I Said I Loved You but I Lied” came on, and she cackled, “HA! That’s what my ex-husband said!!”

    This same teacher, and her (new) husband, accompanied me on a week-long trip to Washington D.C. for the national level of an essay contest, that I’d won at the local and state level. I suppose we shouldn’t have any conversations over the course of seven days.

    Stoopid proposal.

  36. As a history teacher I couldn’t tell about: my stepfather’s time in Viet Nam, various uncles in WWII, mother’s experiences at Berkley during the “riots”, her experience about JFK being shot, my own experiences of watching the moon landings, grandparent’s struggles during the Depression, that I had a relative that was President….

    One of my favorite teachers was Wayne Gilchrest, who taught US History and Civics before he went on to be a Congressman for 18 years. He didn’t talk a whole lot about Viet Nam, but what he did was very powerful. Yes, we would sidetrack him at times, but it was great listening to him talk about living for a summer in Idaho off the grid, much like the early pioneers. He was open to kids directing the direction of some of the learning too – if we wanted to learn about Communism, then he taught about it. Same with Islam. I am not sure that the district would have approved of those, but in reality, they helped me understand current events more than any other teaching I had up until I started home shcooling my kids and looking into the history of the Mideast.

    And then there was the time when I was substituting after college in the “in school suspension room.” There was a 17 year old drug dealer (kingpin, they said at the time) who had been in jail, but then was released to go to the school. He thought I was cute, and was playing at asking me to be his girlfriend (he could “give me things!”) Had I not been able to talk about my boyfriend (bigger and tougher than him, with a Harley, LOL) he might have gotten the wrong idea about my availability. (This was a topic that HE brought up – I wanted nothing of the topic.) That, actually was the last time I subbed in the “rubber room!”

  37. One of my favorite teachers–in retrospect–was Mr. Woodcock. (And yes, we did have some ruder nicknames for him.) He actually worked around this rather well. He was a devout Catholic. There were large number of things he said in class that–again, in retrospect–I’m fairly sure he didn’t believe. But he said those things because he thought that, as a teacher, it was his job to get you to THINK. It didn’t matter to him if you agreed with him or not, he just wanted you to THINK about your beliefs. He managed to do this without bringing his personal beliefs into it.

    …and yet, by prohibiting teachers from discussing their personal beliefs at all, I think education is lessened. Note that I said “discussing”. Teachers shouldn’t be allowed to *impose* their beliefs on their students, but not allowed to *discuss* them? That’s just plain ridiculous. The teachers’ beliefs AND the students’ beliefs should always be open for discussion–if they’re not, the students aren’t learning as much as they should. And neither are the teachers.

  38. Lenore you are so wrong on this one! Yeah in 99 out of 100 times it might be OK for his third grade students to engage the teacher in discussing personal or human thoughts, but how do we know for sure that the student isn’t grooming the teacher? If the teacher lets his guard down, ANYTHING could happen!!!!

  39. Not only do I remember my teachers’ personal stories, but my dad, who graduated from high school almost 50 years ago, still remembers and retells those details about *his* teachers, most of whom are probably long dead. Talk about a legacy!

  40. What a load of phooey.

    I am a teacher at a Secondary School in New Zealand. A professional development programme I am taking part in called Te Kotahitanga is about raising the achievement of Maori students (they lag behind in nearly every measure). The foundation of the programme is building relationships with the students and learning about them. I can’t do that if I don’t reciprocate.

    I teach Science (13-15 year olds) and Chemistry (16-18 year olds) My very first lesson for the year with 13 year olds, I was telling the kids how one of my jobs before teaching was studying Poo. It gripped them and they were equal parts disgusted and fascinated them.

    One of my senior students is struggling so I told her how in my final year of school I cried over my Calculus homework, tso I started putting in 20-30 minutes every night and it ended up being my second best subject (after Chem, which I now teach). She’s since started to put in 20-30mins a night and is feelign better about the subject. My story is much more meaningful than saying ‘ just put in a little time every night’. It’s real and when a teacher who by virtue of their job title know ‘everyhing’ had trouble, it shows it’s ok to have trouble yourself.

    Yesterday my lessons were in disarray, as instead of planning I had been on the phone and facebook tracking down family members who live in Christchurch; then passing on news to other family members that they were OK after the Quake. Telling the students that that was why I was disorganised didn’t just have them cut me some slack. A number of them also have relatives in Christchurch and shared their stories. Sharing is important for emotional healing and they wouldn’t do that if I hadn’t first.

    So yeah. This law is Phooey

  41. Man, if this rule was enacted my school would soon be empty of teachers!

  42. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Harrison and Steve Jones, Stephanie. Stephanie said: There Vill Be NO Teacher-Student Conversation!: Hi Readers! Here’s a new development on the what-can-we-worry-ab… […]

  43. In a town of 12,000, I assume at least some of the teachers have kids that attend the school. What do they do, then? Deny that the student is their son/daughter? What happens if the teacher is “caught” driving the student (their own child) home?

    Yeah…I think someone wasn’t thinking when they came up with that gem.

  44. When I was in school, back in the days before political correctness, I don’t remember ANY teachers sharing much about their lives. This was true for grade school, junior high, and high school.

    I taught school for a while, and I don’t remember having time to mention anything personal.

    Okay, I do remember my high school chemistry teacher saying, “The storm last night blew our barn down.” I’ll also admit that that statement, and one other from a classmate are the only things I remember from chemistry.

  45. […] Adres URL: There Vill Be NO Teacher-Student Conversation! « FreeRangeKids […]

  46. Well, View Point, mileage may vary. Don’t know when you went to school, but when I was in junior high in the late 70’s, we had a teacher who was famous for a certain story about a water buffalo he met in Viet Nam. (I never actually heard the story, but it was evident that the guy told stories about personal experiences regularly. That’s not a shining example, but it does show that teachers did talk about “personal things” back in the day, at least in some places.)

    I can’t imagine how much poorer my kids’ high school world history class would have been had the teacher who’s been on diplomatic missions in the Navy Reserves and otherwise had an amazing wealth of firsthand knowledge of events and cultures in other parts of the world, had never been allowed to talk about anything “personal.”

    My daughter’s Spanish teacher loves to use examples of his experiences in pre-teaching life in industry, to emphasize the necessity of a “professional” attitude toward one’s responsibilities, whether it be an office job, a stint in a factory, or school assignments. He doesn’t spend inordinate amounts of time on it, so I hear, but he is able to point to his own personal example as a way of exhorting the kids to a healthy approach to life, when it’s needed. And I could go on with many examples of how talking about one’s “personal life” is not necessarily a distraction from the subject matter or the task of teaching.

  47. Wow. What a great combination of sensible with “say what?” rules. Teachers are people. Personal topics will come up. Taken to what I hope is absurdity, does this mean a teacher saying they can’t talk much because they have a sore throat be too personal?

  48. Arguably, the most important thing a teacher can do is create a personal bond with the students. Educationally, everything follows from there. This is just ridiculous.

  49. my daughter was attending a music school and the instructors were prohibited from being facebook friends with students.

    it all seems a little over the top.

  50. Well with this one I can sort of see their point…I had a teacher in high school tell us about her divorce and she broke down in tears in front of us. I think that was a bit of an over share. On the other hand another high school teacher made the holocaust seem more real and more recent for us when he told us that his wife’s family had all died.

  51. I only remember the teachers that I felt a connection with on some level.

    I went to Bowling Green State University in part because of the stories my 9th grade science teach told about his time there.

    If I hadn’t talked to my SADD advisor on a personal level, I would not have met his son…and we wouldn’t be married right now.

    I remember getting hugs from my 6th grade teachers when I broke my leg and couldn’t participate in the class activities like recess, amusement park trips, etc.

    John Wooden said, “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Is that not true anymore? Students haven’t changed.

  52. Just more barriers to keep the peons at each others’ throats while the people in power grind us into dust.

  53. I have long forgotten how to do calculus or diagram a sentence, but I know how to save a dog that is going into a diabetic coma thanks to my history teacher sharing her personal stories in class. I learned more valuable life lessons from short stories told by teachers than I ever learned from a book. Something tells me I’m far more likely to come across a dog in a diabetic coma than I will a need to diagram a sentence or to derive anything. And, for heaven’s sake, please don’t ask me anything about logarithms.

    I also had a teacher break down in class one day because of a breakup with her boyfriend. That was an uncomfortable situation and too personal. But, I also had a teacher that was diabetic and informed us the first day of school what an attack looked like and what to do if one happened. He actually had one in class one day, and we all knew to send one person to the office and one to get the coach. He was fine.

    The teachers that shared stories were my favorite. It was more like going to a family reunion and hearing stories about the “good old days” than going to class. That’s how my history teacher taught. I loved every minute of her classes and we learned a ton. She never had a problem with kids skipping her class, either. We couldn’t wait to get to class to hear the next part of the story. She spent about 5 minutes per day telling us stories about being a kid or that dang diabetic dog. But, we rushed to get to her class. I had one English teacher that was a prude and was not personable at all. We all skipped her class as often as possible. Which class do you think we learned the most in?

  54. I posted too fast. Of course I think teachers should be able to talk about their personal story. It can’t be stopped. Such a silly idea. I just wanted to say that it is more interesting when the extra effort is in the form of passionate teaching about the actual subject.

  55. Oh, and BTW, I graduated 20+ years ago. That history teacher and I are facebook friends. Those are the teachers you remember and that make a difference in your life.

  56. I can’t even tell you how many times I saw my teachers drinking and smoking. My father worked at the school and my parents sometimes had parties and these teachers were friends of theirs. The only way it affected me was making me really embarrassed for them. You’ve never known true horror until you see your teachers get drunk and then DANCE.

    Fine, I see that it might not be that great of an idea, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as everyone would assume. What do you think the real danger would be to students to see their teachers imbibing? There is really nothing less cool then your teachers, and it’s highly unlikely to make you want to drink any more than you would be inclined to in the first place.

    On the latter argument, am I the only one who remembers trying to side track teachers with their personal life? I had one teacher in particular who would get into rants about what we students should be doing with our lives. Instead of being offended, we took it as an opportunity to see if she could be distracted enough to not hand out homework.

    (it rarely worked)

  57. I teach first grade and I have a daughter in first grade. My first graders love hearing about my daughter, and I’m sure it makes me a bit more human to them–instead of just being the mean teacher who tortures them all day long by making them work so hard.

  58. Here’s something to fear: Kids utterly losing the ability to be engaged in school because of the bloodless shells teaching the classes. I sure hope this proposal doesn’t catch on. Getting teachers to babble certainly was one of the high points of high school.

  59. More evidence of society at large giving teachers far too little respect, and lawyers far to much.

  60. Damn!
    My posts would likely earn more respect if I spelled them correctly. I blame the fidgety 8-month-old in my lap.

  61. How sad. If this would have happened at my school, I’d have never known that the tall and slightly (okay…very) intimidating chemistry teacher, who seemed ancient and so uncool, was actually one of the most highly decorated fighter pilots of WWII. Or that my kooky, but inspiring English teacher was the first African American woman to earn a PhD in English at a Mississippi university. I learned more about life by listening to the stories of their life, than I ever did out of a textbook. It also taught me that extraordinary people can be found living the most ordinary of lives.

  62. Kate, I had a history teacher who was a staffer for the Clinton administration before she became a teacher. We could ALWAYS get her off track by saying something along the lines of “Clinton is corrupt.” It was AWESOME!

  63. I recall when I was in Jr High and found out my English teacher was into photography as a hobby and would meet her after class for a minute or two every now & then to “talk shop” about it.

    She wasn’t an ugly woman as I remember, but I certainly didn’t take any sort of sexual or other type of inappropriate liking to her, nor her to me.

    Now, people like the ones in Kelso would be telling me that I better be careful else she might try to rape me, and peers would be reprimanding her for “throwing yourself at a vulnerable teenager.”


  64. Reminds me of the Algebra teacher I had in high school back in the 50’s. He really put energy into what could be a dry subject; I especially remember his advice in writing down math statements so as to be unambiguous: “Use parentheses! Use lots of them! They’re CHEAP!” Another time he came in with a bandage on his nose. He owned an apartment house and was doing some repairs when a ladder slipped. Ouch! But the most memorable day was toward the end of the semester, when he brought in his tenor saxophone. We music fans were quite impressed that he had worked his way through college playing in a dance band.

  65. I guess teacher-student relations must be formal. No more than it’s needed for the education process.

  66. I recall the English teacher, whom had divorced the previous year in a very messy public fashion (he, his art teacher wife, and his history teacher girl-on-the-side worked at the same school!), describing to one of his classes how “sex with my wife was like sticking it in a wet sock.” That might be fitting for this new rule up north in Kelso, but the honest answer to “how are you doing?” should not be.

  67. ‘Kids-for-cash’ trial opens in Pennsylvania

    By Betsey Piette
    Published Feb 21, 2011 6:28 PM

    In a “kids-for-cash” scandal that’s being called the most serious cases of judicial wrongdoing in recent decades, two judges in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County allegedly accepted nearly $2.9 million for locking up juvenile defenders in privately run detention facilities.

    According to federal charges against ex-Judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., while presiding over juvenile court the pair took kickbacks from the owner and builder of two private detention centers. In exchange, the judges closed a county-run detention facility in 2002. To keep the private centers busy, for over five years they handed down harsh sentences to nearly 4,000 children as young as 10, largely for minor offences.

    The state investigation that eventually led to federal charges against the two found that in 2007 one out of four juveniles ruled delinquent in Luzerne County was incarcerated. That is nearly double the rate elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

    In 2009 Conahan pled guilty to a single corruption count. He is awaiting sentencing of up to seven years in prison. Initially offered the same option, Ciavarella also pled guilty. He later changed his plea after federal Judge Edwin M. Kosik killed the deal as too lenient. On Feb. 7 Ciavarella’s federal corruption trial got under way in a Scranton, Pa., courthouse.

    Charges have been filed against nearly 30 officials, including another judge, a state senator, school board members and county officials. The private detention facility builder, Robert Mericle, and owner Robert J. Powell also pled guilty.

    Full details of the kickback scheme, however, have not yet been made public because Ciavarella’s case is the first to come to trial. Testifying as a lead prosecution witness, Powell claimed the judges extorted millions from him in exchange for their services. Powell received more than $30 million in county funds to house children and teen-agers whom Ciavarella sent to his facilities.

    11-year-old taken away in shackles

    Ciavarella has had nearly two years to prepare his defense. The young people he sent to detention were denied their most basic rights to due process and fair trials. Frequently the teenagers and their families were talked into waiving their right to counsel, a major factor contributing to the convictions.

    Over half of the youths involved appeared before the judges without attorneys. This is the highest rate of nonrepresentat ion in any juvenile court in the country, according to Marsha Levick, chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia (Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 6). Pennsylvania has yet to require that all juvenile defendants be represented by a lawyer.

    Ciavarella sent an 11-year-old boy away in leg shackles when his parents could not afford to pay a $488 fine. The judge imposed a six-month sentence on a teenager who was seen giving the finger to a police officer. A 15-year-old girl was jailed for creating a parody MySpace page that poked fun at an assistant principal.

    Frequently trials were over in minutes, leaving stunned parents watching their kids being taken away in handcuffs and shackles after being sentenced to months and even years in detention.

    The kids-for-cash scandal was fueled by the growing practice of school officials calling police for minor offenses. Numerous incidents have surfaced across the U.S. of children as young as 6 being arrested simply for bringing a pair of scissors — now considered a “weapon” — to school.

    Rather than question the high incarceration rate, local newspapers including the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader saluted Ciavarella, who was named “man of the year” in 2006 by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Greater Wilkes-Barre.

    Ciavarella has publicly acknowledged taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from both the owner and the builder of the detention centers and failing to pay taxes on this income. He insists the money was a “finder’s fee” for putting the owner in contact with the builder. The alleged bribes supported a lavish lifestyle for the two former judges, including the joint purchase of an $800,000 condo in Florida.

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2009 more than 7.2 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole in the U.S. — one in every 32 adults. More than 92,854 youth are incarcerated in juvenile facilities. From 1992 to 1997, laws passed in 44 states and the District of Columbia made it easier to try juveniles as adults, a policy that disproportiona tely affects African-American youth and other youth of color.

    Given the thriving prison-industrial complex industry, Luzerne County’s prisoners-for-profit arrangement is far from the only one.

  68. Dear Lenore and readers of this blog. I’ve just read Tim Gill’s excellent book ‘No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society’, and you can too. The pdf version can be downloaded FREE on:

  69. But who can even define what counts as ‘talking about your personal life’ – it’s not really an easy thing to separate out from one’s public life, especially if one is a teacher.

    One thing the Coalition government has done that is popular with teachers (and not many things it’s done have been!) is to abolish the General Teaching Council and with it, if I understand correctly, it’s ‘code of conduct’ which teachers were required to sign up to. One condition appeared to expect teachers to be paragons of virtue in their privates lives and led to the possibility of teacher’s being disciplined or losing their jobs if they did ‘the wrong sorts of things’. Luckily I think this is now out of the window.

  70. “Professionalizing the student-teacher relationship”? Aren’t they confusing it with “de-personalizing it”?
    So what happende to “A supportive learning climate is facilitated by good personal relationships”.

    Thinking of my own brief career in teaching, I ask myself how it’s even possible to separate my personal life from my public life. Every example I use, will undoubtedly be taken from the experience I have, and even without giving private details, those examples will convey a lot about what kind of a person I am and how i live.

  71. Well, that would have made my education … different.

    And deprived me of one if my all-time favourite anecdotes. My Grade 12 history teacher was a tiny French woman who had been a university student in Paris in 1968, and she told us several stories about the demonstrations she’d witnessed or participated in. One day, à propos of I forget what, a guy in the class started a question he was asking with the words “Madame, lorsque vous étiez communiste–” T
    The teacher came back with “Je n’étais pas communiste! J’étais anarchiste! Ce n’est pas la même chose!!” it was hilarious 😀

  72. I have no problems with teachers telling their kids something about themselves. But we’ve all had the co-worker who can’t leave their personal life at home to the annoyance of the rest of the office.

    While this rule might be worded badly, I understand the intent. We really don’t need our kids to know about your sex life or your recent surgery. One 2nd grade teacher who was having a difficult pregnancy would talk to her doctor during class on her cell phone. Some of those kids would get very upset if she took a sick day, worried that something happened to the baby.

    There is a time when it becomes too much information.

  73. I teach soldiers and we are constantly told that we should not share personal info with students because (1) it gives the appearance of favoratism and (2) some of these students will distort what they hear and use it against you. Unfortunately, this has happened quite a few times, so at least in my work environment, the rule is a good idea.

  74. When I was planning my wedding, my students (well, mostly my girls) were constantly asking me how things were going and were genuinely interested in hearing about trying on dresses and such.

    Also, sharing truths from my life (that I had to take out massive loans to pay for college) were inspiring for students who wanted to succeed but felt the odds were stacked against them.

    Teachers are actually smart enough to know the difference between appropriate (I tried on a beautiful dress with embroidery and I think it might be the one) and innappropriate (my god the undergarments you have to wear under a wedding dress are painful and plentiful!).

  75. My dad was a teacher at the middle school that I went to, and everyone (teachers and students alike) knew he was my dad. Then he was one of my teachers in 8th grade! How the heck would Kelso, WA, deal with situations like that??

  76. My daughter’s favorite 5th grade teacher is the one who gives the most homework and works the kids really hard, but they all love him because of the stories he tells, and personal opinions he shares. His political views don’t coincide with my own, but I love hearing about the latest thing he’s said in class, because that usually sparks a family discussion too. He teaches math by the way, which could be very dry without his personal input.

  77. Well, I’m sorry I need to side with Paul and Ericka and Robin… The rule should be replaced with TRAINING the teaching staff on appropriate boundaries. Talking about your love of Star Trek? Great! Telling stories about your kids and your dog? Precious! Talking about how you were born-again when you found your religion…? Maaaaybe not. One of the most favorite teachers at my high school had no boundaries with students. As a matter of fact, I was good friends with her, like most students who took her class were. We were such good friends that she confided in me that her youngest child was the result of birth-control failure and that she struggled with suidcidal thoughts and suicide attempts. I was sixteen years old. I am forever glad that I had that relationship with my teacher because it taught me a LOT about boundaries and professionalism.

  78. So, really, what choice does the school district have?

    It has the choice to use common sense and take things on a case-by-case basis. Are the teacher’s words disruptive to the educational environment? Is there inadequate time to learn the subject they’re supposed to be teaching? Is it reasonable to expect that many students will be uncomfortable with what the teacher is saying?

  79. Oh sweet Moses, what next?

    One of my favorite teachers was my 9th grade history teacher, I remember him coming back to class after his wife giving birth to their first child and passing around pictures of the new baby. We all loved it.

  80. The other thing about it is the mistrust of teachers inherent in the ‘ban’. There’s the tacit assumption that teachers won’t be able to judge ‘suitable’ information from ‘unsuitable’ and therefore ought to just be gagged.

    In fact, I wonder if we’re seeing an example of ass-covering here – eg, if a teacher were to disclose something that kids use against them (and knowing kids, it could be something quite innocuous), then be victimised by pupils and feel forced out, the school can just say ‘Not our problem, we told teachers not to say that kind of thing’

  81. Hmmm….
    I’m almost tempted to ponder at what grade levels this silly rule applies to…
    but what the heck: if a teacher is actually a professional person, then I suppose common respect is due the position, um?

    Further meltdowns appear imminent…
    – was a time in post-revolutionary China when no self-respecting professional would have dreamed of divulging personal information about anything
    (the ah, Cultural Revolution was yet to come)
    wherein the kiddies were given the keys to the societal funkenwagon, and all hell broke loose.
    Talk about yer multi-car pileups on the free way…

    -my point being, at which end of the loop does a society begin to implode upon itself, curl into a foetal postion and deny any and all employment of common sense?
    I mean, the actual reasons for which some poor slob would dream up this tripe …boggle an inquiring mind (for a few seconds, anyway.)

    A teacher can actually be a pretty important person in the life of a child. With a little imagination, smudged boundaries create enough of a personal connection as to inspire lifelong love of learning.
    Personally, I don’t recall loving anything any teacher ever taught me…that’s not what I remember…except for one thing – the love of learning, itself – which was reinforced powerfully by what teachers did to reveal themselves as three-dimensional human beings.
    (as in, wow – you can be a real person, and smart too? radical.)

  82. Let’s just sit kids in front of a computor screen and remove the teacher from the room completely. Better yet put each kid in a seperate space so the can not only avoid talking with the teacher but also with each other. They could learn bad habits from interacting socially with their peers. Our only hope is total social isolation. LOL

  83. Time to make a few comments on the originial article! I can’t believe that many of the commenters there are actually OK with this. If I lived in Kelso, I would be out in the street, protesting this ludicrous proposal.

  84. Bingo, Uly. I get frustrated by comments to the effect of “Well, we all know of people who would have egregiously violated this rule in an inappropriate way, so I guess I can see the value of the rule.”

    No, what you should be able to see is the value of the administration dealing appropriately with teachers whose indiscretion is disruptive to the teaching process, and the value of training teachers in appropriate classroom behavior, not the value of a rule that, if followed, would actually have a damaging effect on teacher/student relationships, as well as the ability of really good teachers to relate their experiences to their teaching.

    Good thoughts Claudia, as well. You shouldn’t be hiring teachers and letting them loose on classrooms if you don’t think they can generally be trusted to know what’s appropriate to discuss in class. If they violate that trust, deal with it, but why on earth would you HIRE someone to teach whom you believed lacked that kind of common sense?

  85. I didn’t read the above comments (please, no offense meant) but wonder at the last 18 months of following these posts of Lenore and guest bloggers – at how many have themes of social fear, with the result being a restriction of freedoms and a curtailing of the values we hold dear! Community, cooperation, caring, responsibility, trust, open communication, strength, protection, freedom, fairness – these are values I hear being expressed here, and I embrace, and think reflect the best that is American.

    Then I look at the media content, realize that most of it is consolidated and so is probably pushing a pro-business (Conservative in politics) agenda. And then I see the last election cycle turn again toward fear as a tactic to win conservative office majorities. Isn’t this fear that seems is being everywhere peddled a means to get conservative politicians elected? (Run to the Strict Father – type of family during “danger”?) At least that is what it seems to me.

    Some of this is spelled out explicitly in the writings of George Lakoff. Reading his views about the different sort of family models being actively, deliberately, and craftily pushed into law by conservative politics may be a help to the relentless sense of frustration I read on this blog (and I remain devoted to it – good job, Lenore!). This blog’s readership has shown we’re ready to be force for change.

  86. @Sylvia_rachel, I think I love your former history teacher. No, it’s not the same thing at all!

  87. I’m a high school history teacher whose grandfather served in World War II. I use MANY of his stories to make teaching more interesting, personal, and meaningful for my students. I would quit before being told to stop. This proposal is SCARY!!

  88. Remember the Nazi’s? If not, might I suggest taking a look at how they systematically stripped people of their rights and their individuality in order to make them cogs in the system. Pre-Nazi Germany was much like we were at one time – women’s lib, gay movements… this was in the 30’s… and then the Nazi’s advocated themselves as the right alternative and duped the populace into voting them into power an the rest is history. It’s all I can see, all around me… and the majority of people in this country just don’t care and just don’t see it. I recommend “Nietzsche and the Nazi’s” as a documentary to watch… he doesn’t even mention the US – but the parallels are absolutely frightening… and this is just the beginning.

    Grab yer tin foil hats, ma!

  89. I’ve had teachers who have travelled to teach English is other countries, and another that had been on the Communist side of the Berlin Wall. They told us awesome stories. Can’t have kids missing out on that!

  90. We can tell “I loved my teacher” stories all day long (and I did, I had a high school teacher whose life story literally saved me) but it’s hard to ignore, for me, that this policy is so obviously aimed at LGBT teachers. The reason that student teacher was fired in Beaverton, OR was because he answered a question about his marital status. “Are you married?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because it’s not legal for me to be.” Valid answer, in my opinion. And so that all important relationship between human-not-robot teachers, their personal lives, and their students gets quashed?

  91. @Nerdnursepaul–

    Well, frankly, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree there. I will refrain from stating my opinion of the writings of Mr. Lakoff, but I will say that one of things that informs my free-range sensibilities is my libertarianism/conservatism. I want the government/nosy nellies to stay out of how I raise my kids, period. I assure you that, conspiracy theories aside, conservatives are NOT massing together to promote the kind of anti-free-range policies and procedures that we read about here, in order to bring about some kind of daddy-authority-figure based new social order.

  92. I teach pre-k in an urban district. I was told I was not to let the little girls “do” my hair as it was too personal. I’m also not supposed to tell the kids stories about my own children, and I’ve had issues about having pictures of my children up (they are white, children in class are black)

  93. Yes, that’s a great way to promote black kids’ self-image — promote an environment where it’s assumed they’re unbearably threatened by the mere *image* of a white child.

  94. You know, it *would* be good if the demographics of teachers more accurately mirrored the demographics of the population of this country. It’s probably *not* the best thing for kids (of any race) to go through their school careers with few, if any, non-white teachers.

    But once the teacher’s been picked, for them to show pictures of their families or not? That’s not going to make any difference.

    (And obviously a good teacher is better than a bad one, etc. etc. etc.)

  95. ] You know, it *would* be good if the demographics of teachers more accurately mirrored the demographics of the population of this country

    You mean, as a nation, we should have more white teachers? More like 75% of our teachers should be white instead of the current 59%, in order to better reflect the population of this country?

  96. Sky, where the heck did you get that statistic?

    Because everything I’m looking at – everything! says that 85% – 90% of teachers are white in the US, and that this number is highest in the lower grades.

    I’d give some links, but I don’t want my comment to need approval. However, let me say that I’m getting this statistic from a variety of sources – and not once have I seen a different one closer to your numbers.

  97. As a teacher, I shared lots of personal information with my students. I don’t think I was appropriate, but they sometimes asked questions and I answered them. Talking about life experiences HELPED with teachings. Heck, they even knew I had a boyfriend.

  98. Uly, that’s my point. A black teacher teaching black kids is certainly a good role model. But a white one isn’t a bad one, and depicting that kind of reality shouldn’t be threatening to anyone. I could agree if we were talking about school books that only showed white kids that had no basis in who the kids actually were, but an actual teacher’s actual kids? The only motivation to discourage that has to be rooted in some very pernicious, if unconsidered, ideas about how capable black children are of processing reality.

  99. Pentamom, I never said a white one is a bad role model, and certainly never intended to be understood that way. It’s kinda like picking out books – I make every effort to ensure our personal library has a wide diversity of characters, but if I make diversity my only criteria I’m going to miss out on a LOT of good books (and just about all of the classics).

    As a whole, the situation needs improvement. There should be more chapter books with non-white protagonists, and there should be more non-white teachers. Looking at everything individually, though, a good book (or teacher) is still a good ‘un.

    Also, if you re-read you’ll see I agreed that the teacher should be able to talk about her own actual kids to a reasonable degree. (And no, I won’t pin down “reasonable”, I think we can all figure that out, we’re grown-ups, right?)

  100. “Educational Decree #26: Teachers are hereby banned from giving students information that is not strictly related to the subject they are paid to teach.”

    Harry Potter readers will of course recognize the above as one of the new school rules created by the tyrannical Dolores Umbridge in the fifth book. I never thought I’d see the day when a modern democratic nation would be allowing a real-life equivalent of that to be put into effect.

  101. Uly, I wasn’t arguing, or suggesting you did say that, I was just playing off what you said, and expressing my own thoughts a bit further.

    The example of the book was just to make the point that there *are* situations where being lop-sided could and should be corrected, but descriptions of the simple realities of the teacher’s personal life aren’t among them. Which is pretty much what you were saying also.

  102. Jim — I can’t believe I didn’t think of that myself. Great reference!

  103. I will never forget when I was doing a long term substituting in a 9th grade civics class in MD.

    The books we had were from the 70’s, and this was 1991. Some of the African American boys were making fun of the Afros that the African American males in the photos had. I told them to stop making fun of them – that my brother had had an Afro at the time. Jaws dropped across the room.

    These kids, in an area that was still very segregated at first thought that my brother was black. (He isn’t.) Then came the realization that the style that Black MEN originated was copied by white boys! It was a wonderful moment for them – empowering. It may very well (given the county and the systematic under expectations of all but a special few) been the first time that they had been exposed to the idea that as African Americans they had worth and contributed to society, beyond Martin Luther King. I hope that all of the students went on to find many other ways that their ancestors, living and dead, had contributed to society. A hair do is not much, but it meant a lot to them (including the white kids who probably never thought of copying a style of someone who was not white.)

  104. This is a real shame! My high-school physiology teacher, during the sex-ed part of the curriculum, educated us about the fact that sexual interactions are more than physical, and that relationships matter to healthy adulthood. He did this, in part, by sharing about the commitment and work required to make a marriage (his marriage) last and why it was worth the effort. He even shared about using all available resources to achieve this, specifically marriage counseling- when he and his wife both tried to give up smoking simultaneously! He was such a matter-of-fact teacher, and passionate about his subject, that this sharing on his part was very meaningful.

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