An Unsolved Problem

In a stack of papers called Connections.

  • May
  • 24
  • 2009

Out for a run yesterday, I listened to Act One of a deeply disturbing episode of This American Life. In New York, there’s apparently a place called the Rubber Room. Essentially, teachers report there when the board decides that they shouldn’t be in the classroom. Instead of firing teachers or even accusing them of anything, they are removed from the classroom and told to show up for their regular work hours to sit in a room. This happens to hundreds of teachers. The room is very loud. They are paid for their time. They wait for nothing.

Some teachers are there for months, others for years.

Of the teachers covered in the piece on This American Life, two stay in my mind. One threw a chair across the room and it accidentally hit a kid (listen at 12:19). That teacher should be let go. Another’s principal leveled an abuse charge because he let a swear word fly in a conversation with another teacher as he walked past an open eighth-grade classroom (listen at 14:30). That teacher should be brought back.

If the teacher really did abuse a kid, they wait. If the teacher didn’t do anything wrong, they wait. In either case, the actual issues that brought the teacher to the Rubber Room are not dealt with. So even though there is clearly a problem, it’s ignored.

Rubber Rooms are simply a way to avoid the difficulty of saying, “You should no longer be a teacher. Good-bye.” There’s an admission of a problem by the creation of Rubber Rooms, but there’s no solution provided by putting these people into a system that is basically a prison. I’m horrified at what Rubber Rooms suggest about the way my profession works.

1 comment

1. Kevin Blissett says:

[5/29/2009 - 7:48 pm]

Unbelievable. This sounds medieval…and completely ineffective.