May 27, 2004

News from the frontlines of "Poverty Rock"

This sounds like it would be a delicious and satisfying read for any overworked teacher:

One parent accused Joby McGowan of causing a tumor in her second-grader's brain by using a timer in class. Another told the newly arrived West Mercer (Island) Elementary school teacher that, at 6 feet 6 inches, he was "too tall" to teach little kids.

More ordinary e-mailed outrage rained, too, on the lofty head of the transplanted Iowan during his first year among the motivated moms and dads of "Poverty Rock." That's the nickname for "this sceptered isle, this other Eden" east of Seattle, supposedly long on folding green and high on aspirations for its heirs.

"Mr. McGowan" was unpatriotic because he forgot to say the Pledge of Allegiance the first week of school. He scheduled snacks too early or too late. He gave too little homework or the wrong kind. And, in the gold standard of all complaints by edu-consumers, he failed to challenge their children.

These are the sorts of parent snipes most teachers swap only in the sanctity of the faculty lounge. But McGowan put his in a book, "Teaching on Poverty Rock," his slim, sarcastic and self-critical saga of a first year in the district published in March by America House's PublishAmerica arm. This month the book surfaced on for $14.95 a pop.

"Hilarious!" one reader wrote in an online review. "One of the best real-life teacher tales ... of the hell survived from a handful of unrealistic parents."

"Often bitter and humorless," another disagreed, accusing the "rural Iowan" of being unprepared to handle an "affluent, highly educated and demanding population of parents" in a spot that may well boast more CEOs per capita than any community in the country.

Still, after a couple of articles by the Mercer Island Reporter's Mary L. McGrady, supportive parents were alerted that McGowan's job may well be in jeopardy, and many of them turned up at the school wearing black in protest of his ouster.

This after Mercer Island School Superintendent Cyndy Simms went to McGowan's classroom earlier this month to hand-deliver him a "letter of non-renewal."

But all's well that ends well; McGowan has been non-non-renewed and is now teaching second grade. Hopefully, he won't find himself in the position of having to take out a restraining order against a parent this year, like he did last year. If that happens, I hope we all hear about that, too.

Posted by kswygert at May 27, 2004 11:47 AM