Note: inspired once again by one of Knotty's posts
In eighth grade I had a truly abysmal language arts teacher. I'm not sure how it's commonly being handled now, but back then, in middle, school language arts was typically a two-period class. The district knew they'd made a bad hire in the first week of school (or at least when district personnel learned a few weeks later about what had happened in the first week of school; kids have a way of keeping their mouths shut about even juicy school matter when it benefits them to allow the status quo to remain) when they learned that the teacher had brought in issues of National Geographic and other more graphic nudie magazines to try to illustrate to us the difference between nudity and actual pornography.) That particular practice, or the district's knowledge of it, signified the beginning and the end of the teacher's employment with our district.
The district became aware of the "nudity versus pornography" assignment when my mother found copies of Hustler and Playboy stacked between Matthew's other school books. On a typical middle school afternoon, Matthew might not even have brought home any books or other study materials.
The stack of books was left on the dining room table. Because Matthew had a headache following the day's football practice (unenlightened coaches were still denying students access to water during practices, resulting in many student athletes feeling ill on a daily basis following practice), my mother moved his books from the dining room table to his room herself instead of calling upon him to do it. She noticed a magazine sticking out from the stack of books and out of curiosity, took it from the middle of the pile to see what it was. She was horrified to see that it was Oui magazine - a periodical slightly harder-core than either Playboy or Hustler on the porno scale. She questioned Matthew initially as to what he was doing with such smut, When Matthew claimed it was from school and for a class assignment, she was skeptical at the very least, but asked me for corroboration on the outside chance that there was any truth whatsoever to Mathew;s explanation. When she learned that he was telling the truth, the whole, truth, and nothing but the truth, she went to work the next day at our school district;s main office armed and prepared to call an emergency meeting of the school board, which, according to the Brown act, had to be publicized X number of days in advance.
The meeting was publicized the required number if days and was held, but the governing board, according to my mom, totally wimped out. They agreed collectively that the woman was not fit to teach, but also agreed with the superintendent that terminating her before the expiration date of her contract would cost more than it was worth to fire her. They instead decided to sacrifice the language arts education of roughly one hundred students for the remainder of the year.
A district more concerned with student welfare and less concerned with finances would have fired her on the spot, or at least would have found her a menial job in the district office until the end of the school year, but it was cheaper to tolerate her incompetence for the remainder of the year and simply not offer her a contract for the following year than it would have been to remove her from her teaching position mid-contract. (She's the one who assigned the book reports so she wouldn't have to prep any teaching materials the time I did the book report on THE ESSENTIALS OF PROCTOLOGY.)
Anyway, another of her low-prep teaching methods was to hook us all up with prisoners for pen pals. I don't know if it was through WriteaPrisoner (I don't even know if the organization existed in my middle school days, through a similar organization, or if she just happened to be acquainted with enough prisoners that she was able to match one up with each of her students. My prisoner was Johnny McFarland. He sent me his picture, which I still have stored away in my box of memorabilia from middle school.He was a lifer at Folsom Prison, though I never found out what he was in for. We had to send our prisoners stamps so they could write us back. The project lasted for me through two letters, when my mom found out about it and made a few calls to put an absolute end to the project. The teacher hated me after that because she had been able to waste an hour per week for each of three classes on that assignment. Actually, losing the project was no extra effort on her part; it was just one more hour per week that the kids ran around the room screaming and chasing each other. It's not like she had to put forth any extra effort.
One girl in the class made the fairly serious mistake of giving out her home address to her pen pal. She thought since he was a lifer, it was no big deal, but he had a buddy in prison who won an appeal and got out of the big house, and he showed up on the girl's doorstep asking for financial assistance. It was a family with a single mother, and they ended up moving within a week. They moved in with grandparents until they could sell their house and buy another one. The girl's poor mother was totally traumatized, but I don't think the girl herself was all that bothered. She was a pretty heavy ditz queen and thought the parolee was cute in a rough sort of way.
Anyhow, if you choose to go into teaching and you want your students to have pen pals, you would do well to choose some facility or organization other than your local penitentiary as your source of pen pals for your student. Write to prisoners yourself if you feel so compelled, but don't set your students up with pen pals from Cell Block H.