Mr. Joseph Really Cared


I was distressed to learn that Mr. Robert Joseph, a longtime and much beloved teacher at Weber Middle School, has been forced into early retirement under the guise of “medical leave.” He was not permitted to finish out the school year, forbidden from attending eighth grade graduation ceremonies, and his departure after so many years of service is not to be recognized with the customary fanfare afforded to other retiring teachers. Then again, he hasn’t really retired; he’s been kicked to the curb.
Although my son, Sam, has two more years until he graduates from Schreiber, thus far Mr. Joseph stands out as the most influential and caring teacher he has had. Sam never cared much for writing (even though he’s very good at it), refused to write in cursive, and was otherwise marginally interested in most subjects.
Mr. Joseph sparked not only his interest, but insisted that he write in cursive (no small feat, believe me), and didn’t let any imperfection—whether in content or in spelling and punctuation—pass by. He was a stickler, and Sam appreciated that.
Mr. Joseph also made himself available to his students before, after, and during the school day; in fact, he spent many a lunch hour with Sam and other students, rather than decompress for a little while, which I’m sure he surely needed. However, his students were always his number one priority.
So he complimented a student? Another student touched his shoulder? My guess is that someone’s little darling was being graded as per his or her performance, and mommy and daddy threw a tantrum and threatened to sue the school district.
Maybe this happened one too many times, and he didn’t learn his lesson. But then again, I might be wrong. But having lived here for nearly 19 years and experiencing first-hand the pervasive sense of superiority and entitlement amongst many of these parents, I wouldn’t be shocked if this were indeed the case.
But whatever the case may be, I find the treatment of Mr. Joseph appalling, and although I have never been involved in any school-related activities or issues (I believe the above paragraph explains why), this changes everything.
We may never find out the real reasons why this has happened, because I’m sure Mr. Joseph would have been denied his well-earned pension and any other benefits had he not cooperated with the powers-that-be.
One thing I have learned over time is that dedication, decency, and kindness is often overlooked, while mediocrity, arrogance, and egotism is invariably rewarded. That many teachers can barely construct a coherent sentence, let alone make it through a paragraph without spelling or grammatical errors, is irrelevant.
Teaching one’s students to be able to do so correctly, and grading them accordingly? Not the best idea. Whoever came up with the old saying, “The cream always rises to the top” got it all wrong. The cream is tossed. It’s the crap that wins.
— Cheryl Podolsky


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