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Last Halloween, I dressed up like a teacher — not exactly an alter ego; I have a certificate — went to the local high school, and substituted in Family & Consumer Science.

There was a small ruction in third period; the principal and I discussed it amicably, and I barely gave it second thought. However, a couple weeks later, I received a letter informing me he was removing me from the sub list! Explanation (from said letter):  he “visited with the class,” and the “interactions between yourself and the students were not such as meet our expectations for substitutes.”

A parent reported that a student had videotaped me on his cell phone. So, no doubt if there were a hint of unethical practice — singling a child out for ridicule, touching anyone, or making unreasonable demands — either on the video or in student testimony, my infraction would have been fully detailed.


What students apparently objected to was me handing back their papers, hectoring them about language errors. I told them unapologetically, “This is your native language, people! Second grade mistakes — not distinguishing between ‘your’ and ‘you’re,’ misspelling ex(c)ercise, leaving off caps and periods — from freshmen and sophomores are unacceptable … “

So I wouldn’t be accused of making unreasonable demands, I wrote corrections on the board. All they had to do was copy them.

Most of the older students in school know I don’t accept “textlish,” and  they know why — I am panic-stricken for American kids. So, if I made a mistake that day, it was not giving students I’d never taught before a thumbnail bio they could act on.

Man in Black and White Polo Shirt Beside Writing Board

Are American kids prepared to compete globally?

In the early 90s, I taught English-as-a-Second-Language in Masan, South Korea. Koreans amazed me, especially their boundless vocabularies. Over the millennium (1999-2003), I taught ESL in Berlin, Germany, to an international assortment of Germans, Turks, Kurds, Russians, etc. My very first class was Realschuler, non-college-bound German kids in an evening English class. Among others, I tutored an Iranian boy who spoke Persian at home, German in school, and English in his literature class (studying “The Great Gatsby”).

I am not just whistling in the wind about the globalized world — I have taught in it. Ask yourself how prepared our kids are to compete in that world.

I went to the next school board meeting and requested reinstatement. The board members sat there like five frogs on a log, nary a croak! Then, I met with the superintendent of the district, an affable guy who convinced me he was deeply concerned.

And did nothing.

After a little research, I located another teacher bounced off the sub list under similar circumstances and filed a complaint with the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners. In mid-April, executive director Ann Lebo wrote, refusing to investigate or hear our case because, among other things: “The magnitude of the alleged violation must be sufficient to warrant a hearing by the board.”


It’s not sufficiently serious that there are principals, superintendents and board members in this state who will not defend the most basic currency of a school: correct expression?

Frankly, I suspect the Lori Loughlin phenomenon here. It’s not just wealthy, West Coast parents trying to give their kids an advantage and/or a positive experience in school. Teachers, principals, superintendents and boards feel forced to accommodate this. It has inadvertently undermined the whole system, destroying the standards that make education, education. 

Without standards, the whole system is a sham — a very expensive waste of money, cheating both kids and taxpayers.

Two Girls Doing School Works

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