Horror story of a DC public school.
I had a very brief experience teaching ballroom dance to middle schoolers in an after-school program at a public school, in Woonsocket, RI. Woonsocket is apparently a relatively poor town, but the school buildings were brand new, so it couldn't have been that bad.
The author's comments about most of his time going to maintaining order match my experience exactly. He also talked about how ridding the class of the 2-3 worst offenders drastically improved the experience. If I could have kicked out the worst 2-4 kids (from a class of about 20), the difference would have been transformative. Instead, the majority of my time was spent trying to undo the damage caused by these few. I spent 15 minutes one day trying to keep a student from leaving the building.
For a stark contrast, I also taught a ballroom after-school program to high-school students at Andover, the world's greatest educational institution. To a person, they were attentive, eager, and well-behaved. I taught more in an hour at Andover than in five at the public school.
I commend this guy for sticking with the job as long as he did; there's no way I could have done the program for longer than I did. As it was, I would spend the hour after the class bitching to my girlfriend about how horrible the kids were. There's no chance in hell that I'd put myself through an ordeal like that again.
The whole thing was a huge waste of time for nearly everyone involved; the kids weren't getting much out of it and my time could have been put to better use doing almost literally anything else. It's a sad state to be in and there doesn't seem to be a simple way out. Being able to expel or flagellate the few troublemakers would be a start.