Teacher Incompetence!!! What should I do?

<p>I also have this thread on the high school forum, but I wanted to hear the opinion of parents on this issue. I'd be grateful for any insights or opinions. </p>

<p>This is not my real CC username. I have a more prolific, active one for general use but I think anonymity would work well for everyone in this case. </p>

<p>I usually never make threads but I want to hear the general CC opinion on this one. </p>

<p>As a long story short, my Pre-Calculus teacher is the most incompetent teacher I have ever suffered through in my life. </p>

<p>She is probably teaching over thirty years or so, and is probably the oldest teacher in the math department. She is most likely retiring after this year and right now, could not care less about what goes on in the class. Our school math educational system is a series of pass/fail tests which tests key concepts and this counts for about 40% of our grade. These tests require a 85% or better for a pass and by this time, we have taken about 40 of these tests. </p>

<p>The rest of our grade comes from a 35% chapter tests category, 10% Homework category, and a 15% finals category. </p>

<p>The problem is that we have about five days left in the semester(ends on Thursday) and she has graded only about half of these pass/fail tests. The concept of this system is that, should we fail to pass with a 85% or higher, we are to retake the test three more times until mastery is achieved. Right now however, we cannot retake the tests since she has not graded half of the these tests in the first place. </p>

<p>So today, on a Saturday, there was an option to come to school to retake the remaining makeup tests... without even knowing what we got on the first version of the test. She showed up to school about an hour late without any of the make ups, and for three or so hours today, she created on the spot only about four or five of these tests for us to take. Then she announced that she was only staying for about thirty minutes after twelve and we were more or less forced out. </p>

<p>Most of the time in class, she makes us do a few problems she had written up on the board and perhaps spends half the class time playing solitaire or freecell on her computer. Then we may go over a few problems or ask a few problems about the homework for the remainder of the period. We get a lecture on the course material once or twice a week if lucky, and seldom past that. </p>

<p>We have only had two chapter tests because, we could only advanced two chapters in the course of an entire semester. Though 35% of our grade, she had put wrong answers on our first test and lowered everyone's test score by about 10%. This was only corrected when a student was able to challenge the results.</p>

<p>Now the semester grades are due, we don't even know if we failed or passed the tests we took, and are denied the right to retake these tests as mandated by our curriculum...</p>

<p>I really don't know what to do at this point. I don't want to have anyone fired but I or most of my classmates won't take this lying down. I am considering sending a much formal version of this post up to the administration. </p>

<p>If the teacher is incompetent and failed to provide the basic education mandated by the curriculum, can we have whatever grade we get in the class invalidated? </p>

<p>I want to hear the CC's take on this situation.</p>

<p>My D's English teacher performed at a subpar level her last year of teaching, also. Deliberately set fire to a trashcan to make some point, whatever. My D got A's the first semester, then the teacher became aware that she was doing her math homework during class, and from that point on, she got B's. I was going to complain, but D told me she did deserve the Bs as she wasn't doing the work, although she was a top student in the class. Also, the teacher had no idea that a couple of the boys routinely got excused to go to the bathroom and never returned to class.<br>
What do your parents want to do?</p>

<p>Yes I agree you are the victim of incompetence. [inappropriate comment removed - Mod JEM]</p>

<p>Document, document, document.</p>

<p>Teachers have tremendous leeway in their own classrooms UP TO THE POINT THAT THEY VIOLATE DISTRICT POLICY.</p>

<p>If your teacher has violated district policy (and the retake delay seems to point that way) the administration may try to mitigate the effects on the students.</p>

<p>Write down the issues. Stick to the facts that pertain to your grades and grading (leave out the statements about playing solitaire, etc.) Take it immediately to your administrator. Go with a parent. Remain calm. The administrator will NOT do anything immediately beyond offering to look into the situation. Ask for a time-line for action to take place, especially given the end of term situation. Ask that grade be held until the administrator has figured out what is going on.</p>

<p>Know your district policy for your subject before you go in. Print out a copy and bring it with you, highlighting areas where you believe that the teacher has not followed the policy. This actually helps the administrator, since they can't be experts on every policy in the system. </p>

<p>If you know what you think would remedy this situation (an incomplete with an opportunity to retake all the tests in a reasonable amount of time, for example) offer that suggestion. Better yet, offer two or three options that you feel would remedy the situation. You probably won't be given EXACTLY what you asked for, but you may be given an option that looks a LOT like what you suggested.</p>

<p>Follow up. If you really think your issue is not being addressed, take all the same information and send it to the superintendent's office and the district math chair. But I would not do this until the administrator has had a shot. One way to let the administrator know that this is your plan, without making threats, is to say something like, "I understand that this may not be in your area of responsibility. Other than Mr. XXXXXX, (name of the superintendent) who would you recommend I take this to, if it's not a school based decision to make?" Or something like that.</p>

<p>Good luck.</p>

<p>P.S. Please just ignore TheresaCPA's comment.</p>

<p>I think everyone who isn't home schooled has had at least one similar experience. And it is horrible, since it is very hard for public school districts (which I assume yours is) to fire tenured teachers. The best thing to do is to get all the kids in the class and all the parents in the class to communicate with each other, have a group go meet with the teacher's immediate supervisor (principal?) then if that isn't satisfactory, up the line to the superintendent and then school board. Administrators do not like having fifty agitated parents in their faces. I agree that sometimes students can accomplish positive results without parental intervention, but this sounds like a situation where the administration needs to immediately be aware that the taxpayers are concerned. I would agree with mom2three's advice above if it was an issue that did not require immediate action- it sounds like the teacher needs to be monitored and coaxed into retiring this year.</p>

<p>This is quite disturbing. </p>

<p>In the case of incompetent (gee I hope I spelled is correctly? - TheresaCPA's comment was most unhelpful) teachers, especially in math where future subject matter builds on current subject matter, I think it's important to remember that you need to find a way to learn the material anyway. </p>

<p>So there are two problems
1) dealing with the injustice and
2) learning the material</p>

<p>There is a really good series of video lectures by Thinkwell (<a href="http://www.thinkwell.com)%5B/url%5D"&gt;www.thinkwell.com)&lt;/a>. This is the vendor that Johns Hopkins uses for the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) online classes. Buying directly from Thinkwell is reasonably inexpensive. </p>

<p>As far as the injustice, it is awful that you are subjected to this stuff, and I agree with Muffy333's approach to get parents involved.</p>

<p>I agree it's a bad situation and muffy333 has offered good advice. If it's any consolation, my son had the same barely comprehensible teacher for pre-calc and AP calc, worked with a friend to learn the material in spite of her and got a 5 on the AP exam.</p>

<p>I guess I'd take a combination approach, since the semester is ending and time is of the essence.</p>

<p>I think the student (or students) should help the parents to compose a letter to the principal expressing dissatisfaction with: untimely return of the tests (which drives the violation of district policy) and the resultant absence of feedback; the inadequacy of the students' education in the subject matter and the ramifications that will have for future classes (physics and calc); and the teacher's time spent playing games on the internet.</p>

<p>The student should request a meeting with the principal (with letter at the ready, in case the meeting takes place forthwith) during which the student airs the grievances and delivers the letter.</p>

<p>My experience in our district is that the administration wants to know these things, wants to remedy them and needs multiple written complaints to support the action they take.</p>

<p>My suggestions/comments may seem insensitive and cold, but they aren't meant to be. Read into the meaning of what I am about to say and not the emotion. My comments are to help you here as well as in life. 1st of all; "Welcome to the Real World". You're entering the adult world. Students are always saying how they want to be treated like mature adults; well here's your chance to learn. Life isn't always fair or understandable. And it's NOT SUPPOSE TO BE.</p>

<p>1st; Little late based on your descriptions. but WHAT did the teacher say to you when you brought this up to her a couple of weeks ago stating that you haven't seen the results of your completed tests thus far?</p>

<p>2nd; If you hadn't talked to her, then the question is "WHY"? When an employee comes to me with a complaint about another employee; or one of my kids is whining about something the other kid has done; that is the first thing I ask them. If the employee tells me they haven't spoken to the other employee, then I tell them to get the hell out of my office until they have. Proper communications can fix just about any problem.</p>

<p>3rd; Getting beyond if you have or haven't spoken with the teacher, it's time to talk to that teacher's boss/supervisor/department head/etc... There's someone who is the math department head that is over her. If not, there's a principle or superintendent. Either way, you need to talk to them. And obviously very quickly. But here's the key!!!!! VERY IMPORTANT!!!! You leave ALL of your opinions and feelings about this teacher at the front door before you walk in. At your age and level of experience, you have absolutely no idea of the big picture, or even the WHOLE picture. You have not earned the right to your opinion of a teacher. If you walk in with personal opinions and attitudes of this teacher, the principle or whomever will see right through this and see you as just a whining kid. Trust me; don't go there.</p>

<p>Anyway, you tell this principle, department head, etc... that you are a concerned about what your final grade is going to be. Explain what the teacher said the process is. Explain that you have no idea what your original test scores are/were because you haven't seen them. Explain that you went in on a Saturday to take impromptu tests written by the teacher on the spot, to supposedly help boost the grade of the original tests, but you don't know what the original test scores are. Therefor you have no idea if you in fact did better or worse.</p>

<p>Of course; the very first question out of this person's mouth, is going to be; "What did the math teacher tell you when you brought all this up to her"? So, if you haven't spoken with the math teacher, you better have one hell of an answer. Again, you better leave your opinions, feelings, and emotions out of it. If not, they will see right through it and see you as a complaining and whining teenager.</p>

<p>Remember, the principle, teachers, department head, even the janitor has seen literally thousands and thousands of students before you. Also, every teacher on the planet has at one time or another been a very motivated teacher with dreams of changing the world. Or at least the world of one student. Each teacher has their own way that they believe is effective. With a teacher who has been there that long, the school is more apt to take their side. They have a long track record helping them. Especially if the vast majority of their students; 97%; haven't had problems, have passed with good grades, and haven't complained.</p>

<p>So, there is my suggestion. Talk to the teacher and then if necessary, their boss. Express your concerns. Keep you opinions OUT OF IT. They aren't important. This is your first chance to take care of an adult issue as an adult. You don't need your parent involved; unless you get to the principle after the teacher and department head, etc... and still don't have a satisfactory explanation. Then you can get your parents involved. But for what it's worth, you are going to have co-workers, bosses, supervisors, managers, customers, etc.... that are going to present you with these types of challenges every day. Some you aren't going to like or agree with the outcome. Some you will. The point is; communications is the answer to everything. It may not always go your way, but you have no chance at all if you don't communicate properly. PROPERLY!!!!!!! </p>

<p>Welcome to the world of being a grown up. It's not always fair. It's not suppose to always be fair. It's filled with challenges. These challenges make you a better person. You can't appreciate the good things in your life if you never have had bad things happen to you. You won't appreciate love until you've lost it. This is the real world. It's suppose to seem challenging and unfair at times. It's one hell of a journey. But in life, the destination isn't important. It's the day to day journey getting there that's important. How you handle it and the attitude you do it with, is what's important. That's what will make you the person you are. After all, the final destination is death from this life. Either totally or into another life depending on your beliefs. Everything else is just the journey. Have fun. Enjoy the ride.</p>

<p>My attempt to post last night was eaten by computer problems. There is not only a problem of teacher incompetence here, a subject about which there is a vast research literature, </p>

<p>Amazon.com:</a> The Incompetent Teacher: Managerial Responses, Revised 2nd Edition (Stanford Series on Education and Public Policy): Books: Edwin M Bridges </p>

<p>but also a problem of students losing sight of the prize. The goal is to get a good education, as ClassicRockerDad beat me in saying. Learn your math well, and find out ways to demonstrate your learning, and any grade recorded on your high school report card won't matter much. I recommend ALEKS </p>

<p>ALEKS</a> -- Assessment and Learning, K-12, Higher Education, Automated Tutor, Math </p>

<p>as something to try out for learning high school math, as the company allows an unlimited number of free trials before you commit yourself to paying for the program. There are many other approaches to self-study of math and many testing programs for demonstrating your competence in math. Take care of your learning, and keep your focus there rather than on grades or silly classroom rules.</p>

<p>You will not get the teacher fired if you go to the administration. Worst case, immediate retirement with full pension will be negotiated. More likely, she'll have a new teacher who's eager and excited assigned "to work with her." If they can find one. It is math, after all.</p>

<p>In the meantime, form a study group and learn the stuff cold in your study group.</p>

<p>Thank you everyone, for your helpful insights. Your opinions have given me valuable direction for this situation.</p>

<p>Just adding: in your communication, stick very closely to your own lived experience. For example, you know that your tests weren't returned and you know that you came in on a Saturday..</p>

<p>The reason to leave off mention of a teacher playing freecell is you don't KNOW how she spends "most of her time." To an administrator, tossing in the freecell makes you sound nasty. It is possible (in an administrator's mind) that the student is looking for tripwires to state against the teacher. A fairminded administrator would think, "the teacher was playing freecell for l0 minutes while the class did assigned seatwork, and the student is seizing on that to embarrass the teacher."</p>

<p>As an elementary school teacher, I'd walk into my principal's office to find her playing freecell. She was one of the hardest working people ever in that district. Same with the next principal...freecell to sit and think, process an idea, chill out from some negativity. </p>

<p>Please understand: I'm absolutely no fan of teachers spending copious amounts of time on freecell. But whenever I hear someone say that about another person ("he spends all his time on freecell...") I think it diminishes the person speaking as petty.</p>

<p>You have plenty of REAL complaints here, so drop the freecell issue from your list. Focus on what affects you.</p>

<p>If, however, your school has a stated policy that teachers may never play freecell during class-time, that's quite different.</p>

<p>Long ago, teachers would also be caught reading a book at their desk, while students worked on Math problems at their desks, too. They'd say (then and now) they are instilling some independence in the students. Some of that is bunk, it all depends on the dosages.</p>

<p>But...stick to what you personally have observed and experienced. You could say, "When on freecelll, the teacher mentioned..." but you don't know, personally and directly, how she spends "most of her time." Never exaggerate.</p>

<p>Good luck. I think you have very legitimate gripes about this situation, BTW. At the same time you consider what you'll say about the teacher and to whom, get busy with a self-study approach to your classroom material. If anything big changes on your faculty, it will probably be visible next year, not this. Sad but true.</p>

<p>You definitely have a legitimate cause for complain here. This teacher is clearly not doing her job and not following policy. I echo the others. Get together with some other students (and possibly parents) and start your way up the ladder, STICKING TO THE FACTS. The testing situation is the most egregious problem, in my book, and the Saturday story is beyond awful. Start with the head of the math dept. Then the Principal, then the Superintendent, lastly the school board. Hopefully the dept head can solve the problem before you have to go any further.</p>

<p>You might find that the administration already knows the teacher is coasting thru her final year. I work in a high school, and the administrators are not as blind as people think, but sometimes their hands are tied. Union contracts and the difficulty of finding qualified math teachers are problems that immediately come to mind. However, if a group comes and complains they may be forced into action.</p>

<p>Good luck.</p>

<p>Having dealt with a similarly incompetent teacher and having actually gotten my principal to deal with the problem, I feel I could give you a few suggestions. First of all you must document single malfeasance this teacher has perpetrated against you or your classmates. Specificity rules: if she gave you a test on December 11th and you haven't gotten back results, say that, not the in descript "early December." Second, find classmates who will be willing to vouch for her incompetence as well. Find two or three reputable students who will share similar stories (and it does help to go over your stories in advance so there are no holes or contradictions. Nothing ruins a good deposition faster than a Rashomon moment.). Third, write down all of your grievances on a piece of paper and reread them. Eliminate those that seem petty or are based on her personal teaching philosophy (unless, of course, these contradict school policy. Then, by all means, use it.) Finally, be prepared to fail. These sorts of things are really hard to evaluate on en masse and there is a good chance that nothing will come of it. You must recognize that, by not speaking to the teacher in question about your issues and by waiting until the end of the semester, you're chance of succeeding has diminished. (Oh, and on a side note, don't mention to the principal that her malfeasance is hurting your grades. S/he will ask you if it is necessary, but otherwise, make it an issue of competence and propriety, not grade grubbing.)</p>

<p>I too had a teacher whose incompetence made the classroom situation unbearable. She was my AP econ teacher and she hadn't taught the course ever. She didn't come prepared to class, she didn't plan out her lectures in advance, she gave us tests that didn't correspond to the material we were "working" on in class, and, to add insult to injury, she blathered on every day about totally irrelevant topics. She would go on twenty minute rants DAILY about how much money the war in Iraq is costing and how horrible a president W is. She made ad hominem attacks against all things Republican and publicly ridiculed those of us who disagreed with her. So, about a month into our quarter (in which NO ONE had higher than an 80% and she had the audacity to blame the class for not reading material she hadn't assigned and then failing the whole class based on that one test), I made an appointment with our principal. I drafted three of my friends in the class who also had similar gripes (although not political; it was a divergent bunch) and we marched down to the principal's office and issued an official complaint. (Note: I chose those 3 with a specific eye towards the principal's idea of achievement. Each of us has been admitted to an elite university (U of C, West Point, Stanford, and JHU) and were fairly well known as smart students with no (severe) disciplinary history) We brought itemized, well documented, complaints to the principal which and we came with a narrative already in place. And it worked; our principal changed our grades and threatened to reassign the teacher if she didn't change. And, four months later, things are going much better. Wow, this ended up being a lot longer than I expected. Oh well.</p>

<p>Good luck. Just remeber to have a back up plan in case this fails.</p>