A few weeks after working at an Iowa high school one day last fall, substitute teacher S. Keyron McDermott said she got a letter from the principal saying she was out of a job.
The principal said he "visited with the class" and concluded that the "interactions between yourself and the students were not such as meet our expectations for substitutes," McDermott wrote in an op-ed for the Des Moines Register.
Seems a parent reported that a student had videotaped McDermott on his cellphone — which she said would quickly disclose any unethical actions on her part — such as "singling a child out for ridicule, touching anyone, or making unreasonable demands" — but alas, nothing like that came up.
So what was the problem?
'This is your native language, people!'
McDermott said students apparently got ticked off at her criticisms of their papers — particularly 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…'" she wrote.
More from McDermott's op-ed:
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.
What happened next?
McDermott said she went to the next school board meeting and requested reinstatement but got no response. Then she said she met with district superintendent who indicated he was concerned — and did nothing.
So McDermott said she paired up with another substitute teacher fired for similar reasons, and they filed a complaint with the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.
But alas, no dice there, either.
She said Executive Director Dr. Ann Lebo refused to investigate or hear the teachers' case because "the magnitude of the alleged violation must be sufficient to warrant a hearing by the board."
'I am not just whistling in the wind'
McDermott shared that she knows a thing or two about students in other parts of the word — and it gives credence to her previous statement that she was "panic-stricken" for American students.
More from her op-ed:
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. Is it any wonder American businesses beg for more H1B visas?
"Without standards, the whole system is a sham," McDermott concluded in her piece. "A very expensive waste of money, cheating both kids and taxpayers."
And she added in a Facebook post on the matter that "my generation and the generation behind us have destroyed an education system that was the envy of the world."