Friday, October 24, 2008

Meg's First & Last Serious Post (Maybe)

In the world of a typical high school student beastie means sweeeeet or cooool. Trippin' means acting crazy or losing your anger. Real talk is when someone is speaking from the heart.

Educators, as well, have their terminology: literacy initiative, scaffolding, differentiated instruction.

April of It's All About Balance is hosting a Blog Blast for Education.  

Having spent the last four years writing about teachers undergoing small school reform what I can tell you is that the best ones speak both languages.

Eric Pilcher, now in his fifth year of teaching at Libbey High School, is one of them.

One cold January morning a student who has been expelled due to poor attendance appears and asks Pilcher for a job reference.

“Are you dropping clean?” Pilcher says quickly, catching the kid off guard. 

The student assures Pilcher he would pass a drug test.

“You know what I’m going to tell them. I’m going to say that you’re a bright kid who can do whatever you set you mind to. But if you don’t set your mind to doing it, it’s all over.”

They continue to talk about the kid’s options. The young man is not sure he wants to return to school.  “Go talk to the counselor about that,” Pilcher advises. “But only if your head is in it. Otherwise, you might consider the Phoenix (an on-line academy).”

He hands the kid his address and phone number and wishes him luck.

Giving a kid a phone number is not unusual for Pilcher. 

Part of the small school reformation sponsored by KnowledgeWorks Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pilcher and the other teachers on campus have adopted the small school philosophy of building relationships between teachers and students.

For Pilcher this comes naturally.

Yet while some teachers will take a student under the wings, Pilcher feels his role is to tell them the right thing to do.

In spite of what may appear to be a casual attitude--Pilcher's street talk, his propensity to recite rap lyrics in the classroom, the samurai knot in the back of his head--this teacher demands strict adherence to the rules and regulations of the school. He takes tardy and dress code violations seriously, and he’s a stickler on cursing.

But being a role model can demand a lot. One day it can mean talking straight about a kids’ choices. Another it can mean letting a smart alec save face.

In Sophomore English, Pilcher’s recites a poem in a Scottish accent. A student fusses at his desk.

Do you need anything? Pilcher asks calmly.

I need money, the student replies.

I can give you an education, which will lead to so much money you won’t know what to do with it.

I don’t need no f…ing education, the student says casually. He leans back at his desk, his long legs outstretched.

That’s 25 cents. Pilcher indicates the can where he collects fines for cursing.

Twenty-five cents! Oh s..t! The kid takes out a dollar.

That’s .50.

OK. M…fer, he taunts.

The game is on.

That’s .75, retorts Pilcher.

Son of a b…ch.

That’s $1.00.

Smirking, the student gets up and saunters to the front desk to stuff a crumpled dollar in the tin can. Pilcher smirks as well.

I’m a notorious curser at home playing the Play Station, he tells the students, circulating the room. But not at school. And not on the job. I’m trying to “train” us to respond appropriately to situations.

Later Pilcher says, “I try to be a role model. I think many students are missing structure and discipline at home. If I let the little things go, then the rules that do matter lose their emphasis.”

So far it seems to cement his relationship with his students. The kids take him seriously, and few dare to curse. Pilcher is careful that his hard-line approach doesn't set off students with anger issues.

“I’m kind of grimy,” admits Pilcher. “I would never seriously attempt to resolve a conflict in the classroom. The student would be showing off for his friends: it would reflect him trying to save face and he might make a bad decision. I’ll allow them to appear to have won. When the bell rings, I’ll make sure they spend the next class in the BIC (in-school suspension). I point out at the next day’s class that there’s an empty seat. I let them know that I’m the Grime King—I don’t have to play fair.”

The cursing game ends and the class turns to the Langston Hughes.

This time, as is appropriate to the theme of the poem, Pilcher reads in the voice of a rambling drunk.


STAY TUNED: The Couch Surfer I Said Yes To

If you enjoyed this post or if you think this teacher is hot, why not vote for it at Humor-Blogs?


Chat Blanc said...

What an inspiration! Wonderful teacher. Thank you for sharing this story.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I was so hoping you'd do a blog blast post. This is a great program. I wrote about a very different program, but one that is trying to work with a similar population.

Thanks for the profile of this wonderful teacher. We need more awareness of teachers like this one.

Matt-Man said...

That Meg, is a great story to tell. And you told it well. I love hearing about people, no matter what profession, give it their all. This guy is a class act. Happy Friday, and Cheers!!

Heinous said...

Serious stuff is good sometimes. Great piece!

Tara R. said...

Pilcher sounds like a teacher more schools need. Good for him and great for his students.

Chris Wood said...

Good stuff! Teaching well is INCREDIBLY hard. Send this man beer, lots of.

Vodka Mom said...

I absolutely LOVED that post. I'm going to send a link to it to some of my teacher friends. Is that okay? That was seriously some great stuff.

April said...

Definitely great stuff! Pilcher is HAWT - in more ways than one.
I'm so glad you participated!

Suzie said...

Sounds like a great teacher. I hope my kids get ones like him

jenn3 said...

Great post. It's so discouraging to see how many teachers just don't care anymore. I love to hear about teachers that really try to make a difference.

JT said...

Very, very cool. I wish we had more teachers that were like that, and were capable of putting themselves on the level that teenagers can relate to and listen to.
Beautifully done.

Matt said...

Many of my family and friends are teachers. Their job is much harder than mine. Kudos to them.

for a different kind of girl said...

That man is a class act, no pun intended. Every school needs a crew like him.

My sister and brother-in-law are both special education teachers. They truly have one of the hardest jobs I've ever heard of. For them, and for all the teachers who've impacted my childrens' lives to date, I've got nothing but respect.

Fantastic post. Thank you. said...

What a seriously AWESOME awesome teacher!!! Thanks for the encouraging post profiling an obviously amazing teacher in times when the the educational standards and system seem to be at an all time low. It's a relief to know that there are incredible teachers out there.

p.s., I commented on your bar fight post and can't find the comment I posted? just wanted you to know...

Gorilla Bananas said...

Semolina Pilcher, climbing up the Eiffel Tower.

sage said...

Thanks for introducing us to Pilcher--sounds like he's a wonderful teacher

JD at I Do Things said...

God bless the teachers.

JD at I Do Things

Ms Picket To You said...

awesome. 'nuff said.

Bill said...

I did enjoy this post, yes! What an inspiration this guy is!

Also interesting to hear there's a Libbey High School. Don't suppose you know what Libbey it was named for?