The weather in Southern California is mostly warm and mild, but even on the hottest day, the climate in the classroom can be mighty cold. Some days, the mean streets of L.A. seem to be right there in class with you. They tear at your heart and just when you wonder if it is possible to have your spirits sink any lower a miracle occurs. Suddenly your students don’t seem like the hateful, demon-spawn they were a minute ago and you are able to get through the day. I know. It happened to me.
The following is a response I wrote to an L. A. Times op. ed. piece. Whenever I write the words, ‘you’ or ‘your’ I am referring to the Times editorial board. I don’t know if they published my response or not.
I am not a fan of the current charter school movement but there are some aspects of it that may have merit. Your 1/7/15 opinion piece on charter schools ‘Charter schools’ volunteer demands may discourage needy students’ ignores a dangerous assumption while it fails to point out many important advantages of requiring parent involvement.
“Hey Mr. D.! You were a hippie in college. You did drugs didn’t you?” Or… “Hey Mr. D.! You’re a musician. I heard you playing that jazz music. Come on Man, you smoked weed didn’t you?”
Boy! Those are some tough questions. Why? Because parents and teachers know we have a responsibility to point our kids in the direction of the law abiding way to health and happiness but we also remember our own more foolish or dangerous life choices. Parents have come to me and (in many varied forms) asked, “How do I talk to my kid about drugs (or sex) and not sound like a hypocrite when I think about some of the crazy stuff I did in my years of experimentation? How do I warn them of potential dangers without sounding foolish or hysterical? What do I say that will help me to gain or retain some respect or credibility?”
The Tightrope of Candor
Usually I’d have to speak to my kids after some whole school assembly warning our students about the dangers of drugs. The older kids would be talking about what was wrong with what had been said in the assembly and then it would dawn on the kids to ask me about my past. So I walked the tightrope of candor: