Jeff Bliss: Insightful or Inappropriate?

By frwl (Takahata highschool 10) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
So I came across this article from The Educator’s Room last night while scrolling through my FB feed, and naturally, I was captivated.  Jeff Bliss, a high school student somewhere in America, got mad at his world history teacher and blew up in front of the whole class, criticizing the teacher’s practice and dropping a few Fs and Bs in the process.  (You can watch the video here and his follow-up interview with a local news outlet here.)

Nothing out of the ordinary, really.  I mean, high school students get mad at their teachers and criticize their teachers’ practice and call them Effing Bs and As like every day.

Except this wasn’t ordinary.  You see, amid the typical swears and insubordination, the kid kind of had a point.

During his tirade, he yelled about how not all kids can learn from reading packets every day and how his teacher needs to take her job seriously because the future of the nation depends on it and how if a teacher wants to reach a student, she has to touch that student’s heart.

Makes sense to me.

Apparently, it made sense to a lot of other people, too, who took it as an opportunity to bash teachers and the public education system and how they and it are responsible for everything that’s wrong with society, from teenage pregnancy to unemployment (this may or may not be slightly hyperbolic) — unfair assertions to make based on a minute-long video with no background information.  But this doesn’t mean the incident shouldn’t be used to spark conversation about some issues many students, teachers, and community members find important.

Here are just a few things that popped into my mind as I watched the video:

  • Thank God this didn’t happen in my classroom.
  • What happened between the teacher and student in the moments preceding the video that prompted this kid’s reaction?
  • What has the teacher been dealing with to decide making students simply read worksheets every day is the best option?
  • Is that really all the teacher does every day, or is it that kid’s excuse for having a temper tantrum simply because he doesn’t like the way something is?
  • Are the students unruly?
  • Has administration put undue pressure on her to get through a lot of material in a small amount of time?
  • Is there little to no discipline in the school and district?
  • Has the teacher been dealing with a personal issue such as a health scare or a family problem that has made instructing every day difficult?
  • Does the teacher not care?
  • Is the teacher burned out?
  • Has the teacher given up?
  • What is the kid’s track record in class?
  • Why hasn’t this kid been disciplined yet for disrupting the classroom environment?  I mean, you can’t just stand up and start screaming and swearing at a teacher no matter how angry you are.
  • Why hasn’t the kid who took the video been disciplined (or has s/he)?  Videotaping people and placing it on the Internet without permission certainly must violate some school rule.
  • Whether the kid was right or not, why has such an outburst been glorified?  That’s not how we should confront people with whom we have a problem.
  • What’s going to happen when this kid is upset at his boss one day?  You think an employer’s likely to put up with this kind of behavior?
  • How’s this kid going to get hired one day now that his mug is out there and everyone knows what a loose cannon he is?
  • Does anybody with the opinion that teachers suck have an inkling of a clue what goes on outside of classroom time?  The hours of planning and grading and making pedagogical decisions and trying to meet the needs of 150 students with different home lives and educational backgrounds and IQs and health issues?  The heart and soul teachers pour into lessons and feedback and assessments?  The deep love and concern and devotion teachers have for their students?
  • This teacher is a person — a human being with feelings — who has been dragged behind a semi since the video went viral.
  • This kid has a right to feel angry if he believes he’s not receiving a quality education.
  • Students are humans with their own free will.  Teachers can’t make them learn or do well.  They can only do their best to present material in an accessible way.  Students have to pick up the slack and take responsibility for their own learning.
  • Teachers can’t read students’ minds.  If a student is not content or doesn’t understand something, s/he has to approach the teacher before it’s too late.
  • I know what it’s like to try my very best and to not feel appreciated, to feel as though everything I try fails, to be attacked like this kid attacks the teacher.
  • I know the political climate and ever-increasing demands on educators and impossible evaluation procedures can make one feel like they can’t take another minute.
  • This kid’s pretty insightful when it comes to what constitutes good teaching — the one-on-one interaction, the discussion, the connection with students.
  • This kid’s behavior is inappropriate.  He didn’t handle the situation properly.

I don’t, of course, have any answers here because like everyone else, I only caught a minute’s glimpse inside this classroom and know nothing of the other factors that play into what’s really going on.  But I think talking about this is worthwhile, and I wonder, what do you think of Jeff Bliss’s outburst?