The Docile Educator vs The Badass One

1.ready to accept control or instruction; submissive.
“a cheap and docile workforce”

Shhhh…quiet. We are in the habitat and age of the Docile Educator.

Wait, before we get into the Docile Educator, let’s talk about what scientists have discovered about frogs. Scientists say that if you take a pot of boiling water and throw a live frog into it, it will jump right out. Don’t try this at home. However, if you take a pot of room temperature water, place the frog in and slowly, but surely, increase the temperature, the frog will sit and boil to death.

That’s a metaphor and I want to accent it with a picture I created as it pertains to the Docile Educator and the frog.

Teacher Broil


Back to the Docile Educator

The Docile Educator is not necessarily a bad educator. When all the parameters are properly in place, they can do a pretty good job of conveying information to their students and even creating that “spark” that may last a lifetime. My hat is off to them.

The Docile Educator has a problem though. They are by naturedocileand therefore submissive. They won’t speak up to defend their students or careers. If you are an educator reading this and say “Hey! I defend my students!” then you are obviously not the species of educator I am describing. You are not a Docile Educator.



Admin: “Sign this Special Education meeting form!”
Docile Educator: “But we never had a meeting with -“
Admin: “Just Sign it!”
Docile Educator: “OK”
[Based on a True Story]


Admin: “You can’t fail a whole class!”
Docile Educator: “But they refused to do work and you kept letting them go on trips and hugging them.”
Admin: “I’m changing all your grades to passing. Shut up!”
Docile Educator: “OK”
[Based on a True Story]


The Docile Educator means well and has a conscience, but they also have rent or a mortgage to pay. Perhaps a family as well. The Docile Educator has to be careful. I’m not oblivious to some of the reasons the Docile Educator is…well so docile.

The Docile Educator will look the other way when a child is losing out on special and necessary services or being handled in an inappropriate way. They feel bad and may lose sleep at night, but shhhh…not a peep.

The Docile Educator will let their administrators punish them by making them line up to sign out at the end of the day like factory workers. Shhhh…the day is over, they are off the clock, but not a peep from the Docile Educator. They will wait their turn and pick up their children late.

Principal Linda Hill, of IS 49, making staff line up to sign out like factory workers.

Principal Linda Hill made staff line up to sign out like factory workers and in violation of their contract. This went on for two months until the SI UFT Office and I stepped in.

The Docile Educatorwill be called in to the administrator’s office, be asked why are they wearing union blue in solidarity, hanging out in the staff lounge and told whom to hang out with and whom to avoid. The Docile Educator will never say “Excuse me, but you are not the Fashion Police and don’t dare tell me whom to hang out with.

The Docile Educator will teach to Common Core Learning Standards they do not believe in, but not sign a petition to oppose them.

The Docile Educator will change their entire set of lesson plans (that worked for years) because they were told to and…make not a peep about it.

The Docile Educator will give test after test after test and assess and assess. They will extract all creativity from their lessons and paint the classroom walls gray with dullness. Creativity and engagement….The Docile Educatorsays “ain’t nobody got time for that.

A reminder that the Docile Educator has bills to pay and the country is not in the best economic state. Yes, it is true that the Docile Educator has to be careful. Their union may not back them, should they decide to become less docile. Their local politicians will not back them. Their Community Education Council will not back them. The parents may not back them. In some horrible situations the educator is the only voice of the voiceless, but not a peep from the Docile Educator.

The Docile Educator will be asked by students “Why are we doing this This is boring!” and the Docile Educator will respond “Because we have to…shhh…stop asking questions…stop thinking critically. We have a test to prep for. My job depends on it.

The Docile Educator’s contract and rights will be violated again and again, but shhhh…..the Docile Educator will not grieve. They will not even ask for money they are owed for working extra during their prep periods.

The Docile Educator is not always docile. They will blow off steam and yell and rant in the staff lounge, behind classroom doors and on Facebook. When questioned if they did say this or that, the Docile Educator will put down their head and say “No.” In some circumstances the Docile Educator will panic and point fingers at their colleagues.


Thankfully there is another species of educator in school buildings. The Badass Educator.

The Badass Educator is different. They may have once been docile, but then proclaimed “Enough is enough!” and “You will not treadon me any longer!” They may have said “Wait a minute…I’m an educator and am in the same career as Aristotle, Sophocles and Plato. Why am I treated like this I won’t stand for it!

When I first thought of changing careers, I was walking on a chain link fence, inspecting the Verrazano Bridge. It was June 2005. There was intertwined metal preventing me from falling to the bay. It was a 150ft drop to my death. I thought “Teaching Sure I will lose out on a large chunk ofsalary, but I will be entering the most noble of professions.” My mind went to the picture below. I had seen it online and at a coworker’s office. Little did I know that just two months later I would be seeing it in real life on my honeymoon in Rome. Look at it. The “School of Athens” by the famous artist Raphael. It was painted back in a time when educators were highly respected and regarded. (Fun Fact: Raphael added himself sitting by that desk on the bottom left. He then redid his legs to make them look more muscular after seeing Michelangelo’s more muscular Creation of Adam.)

Raphael’s “School of Athens”. When educators were respected.


The Badass Educator is a good or great teacher. Usually, people who are really bad at their jobs do not make a lot of noise and instead try to fly under the radar. The Badass Educator will speak out even if they do it alone. They know that their job is more than a paycheck. WE ARE EDUCATORS! Our jobs are more important than putting food on a table. Don’t let anyone take that away from you! Anyone…not a parent, not a principal, not a superintendent, chancellor or mayor.

The Badass Educator will not only look out for themselves and their own students, but they will put out their neck for those of the Docile Educator as well. This career is too important not to.

The Badass Educator will not only speak up in school, but may also use social media to defend their rights and the rights of their students. So to compare, we have “not a peep” from the Docile Educator and “digital loudness” from the Badass Educator.

Education is under heavy attack. The system is broken and is putting obstacles in the way of all to break education. Be Badass fellow educators, because this docile mentality is not good for anyone. Be Badass, and defend your rights and the rights of your students. I and others will help in anyway we can.


BATs -Badass Teachers Associationalso on Facebook with over 30,000 members

NYCORE -New York Collective of Radical Educators

MORE -Movement of Rank and file Educators (General Meeting this Saturday Oct 19, 2013 CLICK HERE)

I also recommend Dr. Lois Weiner’s book The Future of Our Schoolsand Diane Ravitch’s Blog

and many more.

Or contact me to help unleash your inner Badass. I used to be a Docile Educator. Sure I spoke up before I was tenured, but I was for the most part docile and lost many, many, many nights of sleep. I now sleep very well. I fight for something. I stand for something.

Many of you have been telling me you have been following my Educator Survival Guide.

See also a bunch of Badass Educators, Badass Parents and Politicians who said “No More!” and successfully had a principal removed.

State Senator Tony Avella, Parents, Teachers at PS 29Q Protest Principal Jennifer Jones Rogers from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.


See you at to our co-sponsored forum on November 14th in Elmhurst,Queens.

DTOE Nov 14 Flyer


About Francesco Portelos

Parent and Educator fighting for the student and the teacher.
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  1. I do not like this post. Many docile educators have biological children to feed, clothe and house. To smear them as docile rather than admit they have little choice if they want a job is unfair.

    • I knew I was going to draw some criticism. Trust me. I know they are stuck between a rock and a hard place, but to an extent. Those children they have to feed also have their own teachers. Correct My son’s, that are shown at top of this blog, will have teachers soon. I would personally prefer they have a “Badass” teacher. I fear, from what I’ve seen, that a “docile” one would ignore some of their needs, if it would interfere with their evaluation, rating etc.

      I value your opinion greatly, but I think “smear” is a strong word. I know teachers in my school that are docile, but I respect very much.

      If a teacher was told they have to spend their professional period scrubbing the toilets with a toothbrush or face disciplinary action, and they did it…would you label them docile

      I think there are extremes, but perhaps our disagreement is where lies the “line in the sand”.

      • I have a big problem with the badass movement. They have aligned with the rabid right. Badass teachers don’t really exist. This silly meme now has Progressives and Tea Party members conflated, and our reasons for being against reform are very different.

        I also think that to malign teachers for doing what they must in order to stay employed is going too far.

        That’s why I am active in the opt out movement, where parents are the ones making the statements of opposition to the reform movement, and won’t get fired for it. They need us to inform them, not call each other names or make broad (and false) claims about the efficacy of one or the other kind of teacher you have basically made up.

        Also, many of those supposedly docile teachers you made up stories about actually do the right thing once the classroom door is closed and the admins are gone.

        We definitely have our hearts in the same place, but this piece just strikes me as self-immolating.

        • I didn’t make those stories up. The grade changing was me..the old me. I see this now in my own school. Maybe you haven’t seen the extreme that I have. Those teachers lined up were in my school. 80% wanted to keep the start and end time if school the same so they can get out at 2:22pm. The principal went against that and they now leave later, pick up their kids later, pay for longer after school programs etc. Would raising their hand in a meeting and saying “hey…why don’t we just keep the SBO the same ” be so “daring” I asked the staff in my building to wear blue in solidarity. Two teachers wore it by accident and one went home to change while the other put a senior shirt over it….docile.

          I held meetings outside school since I’m not allowed in and staff would walk by and murmur…”I can’t stay..they are watching from the windows.” Are you kidding me

          • I was referring to the toothbrush/toilet scrubbing.

            I don’t like milquetoast either. But I do understand that many teachers would like to pay their mortgage and send their own kids off to college one day.

            Yes, if we, all of us teachers, would rise up, things would change. Or not.

            You know what will happen if the 99% choose to revolt We will be bombed. To death. We will lose because THEY have all the guns, bombers and drones.

            We need to fight, yes. But we need to eat, too.

          • TFT,
            I spoke up and left the docile realm and have been paying my mortgage. I count January 30, 2012 as the day they aimed to fire me. That is the day I had the first 3 of 30+ investigations opened on me and my first two disciplinary notices. I think everyone would agree that that was no mistake and their goal was to have me terminated. That was, as of today, 628 days ago. Sure I have lost a lot of money in per session, tutoring and increase in expenses due to travel. But I have not just spoken up….I’ve yelled. I really yelled as a parent and citizen, but I have been paying my mortgage.

            Having said that though, I might be singing a different tune in a few months if I am terminated. As of right now I have no regrets of questioning the budget and other misconduct that hurt the safety and education of children. If I could go back, I would do it again. Differently, but still raise the concerns. I did effect change though. Even if small, my principal stopped overlapping her SLT time with DANA time. That put more money in the budget for children and less in her purse. Win! I heard other principals learned from my story and felt their staff would FOIL and investigate and probably followed suit. We will never know the ripple effect this story had, but I know it would not be possible if I remained “docile”.

            I guess there is really, really ballsy and outspoken educator and really, really submissive educator and you and I disagree on what range is acceptable.

            I’m in my third recall attempt and I told probationary teachers to petition to recall me. It was the best thing to have their names visible. It gave them brownie points. Do you think I could have written my post, but in a different way. I was trying to poke at quiet educators and see if they were alive.

            Let me ask you (hypothetically), if a teacher is given several subjects and several grades to teach, and they don’t grieve, are they docile Isn’t their extra prep for all those classes taking away focus and energy if they could have been teaching one grade and subject Don’t the kids suffer

            Power in numbers…one by one people get picked off.

    • People always have a choice. Some choose to be sheep. Some do not. Free will. Don’t resent those of us who call the sheep docile and refuse to go willingly to the slaughter.

  2. The Badass Teacher is simply engaging in self defence. It is no deep secret that stress is the source of most diseases. When a teacher submits to the abuse and bullying of school administrators, they are allowing themselves to be subjected to the stress caused by the accompanying humiliation. Having to constantly face this every time one enters a school building, day in and day out, has a cumulative deleterious effect, that I have witnessed make some of my colleagues ill. These so called docile teachers suffer through their school day and its written on their face and body language. The so called badass teacher enters ready for battle, if necessary. It sometimes gives the bully pause. Maybe…

  3. Francesco….I love this entry. I really do. I can empathize with teachers who sit back and keep silent. I get it-completely. Eventually, teachers MUST realize that it is one for all and all for one. I am with you on this. How much longer are teachers going to sit back and just keep complaining It aggravates me when I have to educate my old colleagues about what really goes on. It aggravates me because they should be informed and follow the city motto- IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.

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