This is the new book from Rabbi Nachum Shifren.
He has the website KillYourTeacher.com:
Rabbi Nachum Shifren is a veteran language teacher, starting with Los Angeles Unified School District in 1991. He received his B.A. degree from U.C. Santa Barbara in 1985 for German Literature and Spanish. Aside from his academic duties, he serves as swim coach and surfing instructor. A veteran L.A. County beach lifeguard, he has been a Malibu Beach surfer since the early sixties. He is the founder of the Surf and Soul Program, working with youth groups and schools, teaching discipline, physical fitness, positive attitude through the sport of surfing. His autobiography, “Surfing Rabbi,” documents his growth as a young man in the turbulent 60’s, and his passionate love for teaching and surfing. Shifren presently teaches at the Environmental Charter High School in Lawdale, California as a Spanish teacher. He coaches swimming and surfing as well.
To the Editor of the Los Angeles Times:
I have been a language teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District since 1991. Today I will sign a final agreement after an exhaustive grievance process, in which I will never be allowed to teach in the District again. For its part, the District will remove my negative teacher performance evaluation.
During my last two years at Dorsey High, I’ve had my classroom burnt to the ground, had a death threat, physical assaults, and constant accusations of racism. Community “activists” in our area have written woeful letters to the Superintendent, imploring her to remove me from my position as a Spanish teacher. Their accusation: Students are failing my class because they’re forced to learn Greek and Hebrew instead of Spanish.
I’ve endured countless demeaning “parent conferences” where lack of student comportment and academic achievement was inevitably spun into my “lack of classroom management and INSENSITIVITY TO THE NEEDS OF A DIVERSE STUDENT POPULATION.”
Students who did little or no homework, refusing to turn in term papers and not having passed a single exam, were able to manipulate conferences with allegations of racism or personal animosity.
When students were sent from my room to the Dean’s office for outrageous behavior, such as stabbing another student with a pencil, obnoxious epithets or racial slurs, and open defiance directed against the teacher, they would never arrive; instead, they were picked up by security (found walking around the campus) while our ever-resourceful administration documented a “clear lack of student-teacher rapport and managerial skills.”
The picture I’ve painted becomes clearer when one considers that the student who threatened to kill me was allowed to run for student body office! If I had any doubts about my stature on our campus, they were dispelled by such overt attitudes such as this.
Despite numerous excellent references and observations on the part of counselors, mentor teachers, and coaches about my dedication to upholding high academic standards and maintaining a high level of student responsibility and values, I spent two years in a hostile environment without respite from community or administration. Only two individuals came to my assistance during this nightmare: Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, community activist and director of BOND International, and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach. Congressman Rohrabacher was sufficiently convinced of egregious nature of campus relations that he contacted Superintendent Roy Romer for clarification. He was stonewalled again and again, with each inquiry going unanswered (the Superintendent was either on vacation or too busy to get back to the Congressman- this over a period of several months and many messages left by staff). Rev. Peterson was present at one of my grievance hearings and was moved to make the comment that I could never get a fair hearing from my administrator since in his words, “She is a blatant racist.”
Yet there is a deep sadness in me, a feeling of disconnectedness from the many students with whom I was fortunate enough to befriend, impacting their lives with a sense of a world built on achievement, maximum effort, and tireless academic rigor.
As I told the District Superintendent during my last stage of the grievance process, I forgive the death threats, the physical assaults, the demeaning and racial slurs hurled at me by my charges. If they didn’t have the support of “activists” and malevolent do-gooders intent on re-addressing perceived wrongs and power trips by “outsiders” toward their community, this despicable behavior and attitude never would have occurred. In several cases, stacks of letters of complaints were waved at me by my principal ( I was never allowed to see the letters or respond to them) as proof that I was not getting along with my students. She offered this as the justification for burning down my classroom.
It will be hard for me to reconcile with an administration bent on political correctness that serves to ramrod a concerned and caring teacher right out of the District.
My union rep told me frankly that I was “the wrong man in the wrong community.” This is what hurts me most of all. I gave it my best, taking students with severe emotional and family problems, tempering them with a sense of achievement for a job well done: “You missed the deadline for the term paper? It’s OK, your grade won’t be as high as it should, but just get it in to me as soon as you can-with spelling and grammar checked….”
Around campus, the many students who didn’t manage to pass my class would greet me each morning, ask how things are going-each of them knowing that ultimately, I was on their side. I will miss my students, and I know that they won’t forget me.