Let me preface this letter by stating that I do not speak for all Florida teachers nor do I know what all Florida teachers want. I do, however, know what I would like to see from a candidate running for Governor who is going to need the teacher vote if he wants to win (and teachers, you actually need to vote).
Dear Charlie Christ,
Congratulations on winning the Democratic primary in the race for the Governor of Florida. Now that you’ve won, teachers are going to need to hear you speak on issues that are near and dear to their hearts. You’ve stood up for teachers in the past as a Republican Governor and we hope you will stand up for teachers even more so as a Democratic Governor. (By the way, I would stay away from affiliating yourself too much with President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. They are not very popular among teachers these days.) Because you are not a public school teacher, you may be unaware of the plight of the Florida educator as experienced during the Reign of Rick Scott. Here’s a list of bad legislation passed in the last four years that teachers would like to see reversed.
- SB736, need I say more. I believe you are partially responsible as you initiated the state’s Race to the Top application. The grant period for Race to the Top is now over, so you should be able to reverse some of its ridiculous demands. Teachers should not be evaluated on the standardized test scores of their students. There is no fair way to do this. If you use pass rates, then teachers doing the hard work of teaching our most challenging populations will suffer. Judging teachers by growth rates (VAM) has proven to be statistically invalid and tends to penalize teachers who teach high achievers as well as special needs and English language learners.
- Amend the amendment to the class size amendment. All Florida teachers and students deserve a class size that is conducive to a productive learning environment. Advanced Placement teachers and students have especially suffered since their classes were declared “electives” and exempt from the 25 student cap. Advanced Placement teachers have seen their class size balloon to over 40 and their student load increase from 150 to 200 without any additional pay. Inclusion classrooms also tend to be over 40 students because technically there are two teachers assigned to the room. Many times the trained Special Education teacher is absent from the class due to IEP meetings and paperwork. This leaves a teacher with no special education training in a room with over 40 students, most of whom have special needs.
- Merit pay. Pitting teachers against each other for a few hundred dollars is no way to improve our schools. One known way to improve teacher quality is to share best practices and provide quality professional development. Teachers are not going to feel comfortable collaborating with their peers and sharing materials when they are being ranked against their colleagues in every possible way.
- Bring back continuing contract status for all Florida teachers. Teachers need to have some due process rights before they are fired or simply not rehired. Left to the whims of administrators, quality teachers can be let go just because of personality differences, nepotism, or because they stood up for their students when it may have conflicted with administrative decisions.
Thanks for listening Charlie! I hope you can speak out on some of these issues and give teachers a reason to go to the polls in November!
A Concerned Florida Educator
***Please feel free to leave a comment below to add to the list of issues important to Florida teachers***
As educators we may be reluctant to embrace the latest fad technology our districts seem quite happy to invest millions in while not bothering to invest any money in training their staff how to actually use it. I know you’re busy, you’re tired, you’re wary of wasting time learning one platform only to see it replaced by another shinier platform the following year. But believe me, it is worth devoting some extra time to learning the wonders of the digital classroom and here are the top ten reasons why:
1. If you go paperless, you will never have to be hit in the head with a crumpled up ball of paper some student accidently threw in your direction while trying to prove to the class he is the next Lebron James.
2. Your janitors will love you when they come to your classroom at the end of the day and it’s free of papers and books all over the floor.
3. Think of all the money you will save on pens and pencils! How many times has a kid asked you for a pencil or pen? They may not bring writing utensils to school but they certainly remember their smartphones.
4. You will never waste your time running to the copier in the teachers’ lounge only to find it’s jammed or has no toner and no one has bothered to fix it.
5. When your printer goes offline, you won’t have to wait three months for the tech guys downtown to fix it
6. Are the fumes from those stinky and expensive dry erase markers giving you a migraine? Go ahead and toss them in the trash.
7. Did your Smartboard bulb burn out and the school doesn’t have any money to replace it? Don’t worry, you can throw your Smartboard in the trash too but that would require heavy lifting.
8. Tired of giving a lecture and hearing students say “Wait, Wait, I’m not done copying yet.” Post in online and go ahead and talk as fast as you want.
9. Do you hate it when you play a video and the kids’ heads automatically fall to the desk or their pants light up from the glare of their smartphones? Stop wasting class time showing movies and make them watch them for homework instead. Quiz them on it the next day.
10. Embracing technology will make you work smarter, faster, cheaper and engage your learners who are too busy playing with their devices to listen to you anyway. If you can’t beat them, join them.
This year our district is not only implementing a tablet program for 7th and 9th graders, we have also become a Bring Your Own Device district. The district has spent millions of dollars creating operable Wi-Fi networks for our schools. I give them great credit for the speed in which they have installed the necessary infrastructure required in making sure our schools are ready for the 21st Century. Unfortunately, even though our schools are ready for a one to one classroom, the tablets the district purchased are not. All I can say is, I hope they got a really great deal on those tablets! The tablets seem to have a bug when it comes to picking up Wi-Fi. I have great Wi-Fi at my house but I couldn’t pick up the Internet using my district provided tablet. When I went to my training, it took me over thirty minutes to pick up Wi-Fi on my tablet. The tech guys solution, “turn it on and off again” (funny how much these guys get paid to hit the on and off switch). In my classroom, I have never had more than 50 percent of my students be able to pick up the Wi-Fi at any one time. It is extremely difficult to try to teach a one to one lesson and go paperless when I’m dealing with a one to two (or three) ratio of students that have Internet access. This will create a nightmare scenario if we actually decide to use these tablets to administer state assessments.
So why do I believe it is a problem with the tablet and not a problem with the Wi-Fi servers? First, my students have no problem getting on the Internet when they are using their own devices. Second, well, the Internet told me so. I love Amazon.com! Not just because I don’t have to wait in line at the store and they deliver my goodies in two days, but for the consumer reviews. Hint, before you buy anything, read the reviews on Amazons. Not the 5 star reviews, the one star reviews. Because I don’t want to be sued for slander in case I am wrong about this, I am not going to reveal the brand and can’t provide you with a direct link, but here is part of the statement,
“it would not recognize wi-
- Spent over 2 hours on the phone with a very patient helpful tech support person. Finally resolved the problem after doing a reset. The reset lost many accessories/programs. Microsoft now wants to charge me to down load the programs I lost. Not happy with the product. “
A further Internet search reveals more problems with the tablet, “I’m having a problem connecting to my office wi-fi network. This is an open network – anyone can connect; I manage to connect with my Galaxy S2 smartphone without any problem. After the connection is established I get a “Limited connectivity” and no internet access. When I “repair” the network connection I get some more time connected and then it happens again.”
This is why I believe the problem is with the tablets themselves. Sure would have been nice if the district had done some consumer research before spending millions on a device that has problems picking up the Wi-Fi the district spent more millions on installing. I demand a refund!
Much to my surprise, I am loving the new technology and teaching in a one to one class. Though I may be in favor of bringing technology to the classroom, I am against the government corruption and ineptitude that seem to go along with it. So if you are a teacher or a learner in my district, all I can say for now is BYOD!
As much as I love the new technology and the experience of teaching in a one to one classroom, the end of my day usually puts me in a bad mood as I am faced with the task of trying to unravel 30 hanging dongles. I thought we were going wireless? Imagine 30 hanging cords dangling in 2 cubic square feet with barely any light and no organization. Was it too much to ask for the district to make sure the corporation distributing the carts neatly arranged all 30 dongles? Ain’t no teacher got time for that! (Oops, I used “ain’t.” I hope the My Big Campus Thought Police don’t come after me. They already flagged me for using the word “dongle” and that’s the dangling cord’s official name). I tried having the students be responsible for putting their tablets away but they didn’t put them in the right slots and didn’t insert their dongles properly so the following day the batteries weren’t charged. I’ve been spending at least 40 minutes extra after work dealing with all the dongles. Thank goodness we only have two more weeks of the cart!
As much fun as I am having teaching with the tablets, I have to admit I wanted to throw them out the window the first day (only my hurricane shutters got in the way and I’m on the first floor and I needed at least 20 feet to do some damage). If I am feeling this frustration and I am someone who actually got a little training and is embracing this technology, I can’t imagine what the average 9th grade Social Studies teacher is experiencing with these tablets. They probably haven’t even opened their carts and I can’t blame them because the lock on the carts is so darn complicated. Which brings me to my next point. Why invest in the technology and not invest in your staff if you actually expect people to use it? There is already plenty of resentment as teacher Facebook groups are filled with comments like “I’m not touching it until they train me how to use it. “ “What good is it if they block youtube?” In case you haven’t heard, the district now allows open access to youtube. It’s awesome! I can insert any link to a video to my My Big Campus classes and they can watch it at home for homework and I can quiz them on it the next day. You can hold online discussions and keep track of which students participated and the quality of their answers and give them grades based on the discussion. I love it! (In case you don’t know how to get into My Big Campus, just log into the district portal, click on the applications tab as if you are going to the gradebook and click on My Big Campus. Bam, you’re in and you can find your classes under groups. )
Unfortunately the district did not invest in training their staff and most teachers will probably just let their carts collect dust and their students’ tablets collect Cheeto crumbs in their backpacks. What a waste! You would think they would have learned from the Los Angeles School District’s disastrous Ipad rollout (hey, how come they got Ipads and we got the HP tablet? It’s like the orthopedic shoe of tablets-ugly but functional) <a href="http://articles.dailypilot.com/2013-10-04/opinion/tn-dpt-me-
/>1006-apodaca-20131004_1_ipad-high-school-students-local-schools/2″>http://articles.dailypilot.com/2013-10-04/opinion/tn-dpt-me-1006-apodaca-20131004_1_ipad-high-school-students-local-schools/2 . Hoboken NJ had similar issues and now their tablets are sitting in a storage room until they can find someone to pay to take them away http://www.wnyc.org/story/why-hoboken-throwing-away-all-its-student-laptops/.
Contrast these scenarios with Mooresville, NC where they invest in summer trainings for their teachers and believe the person behind the fancy box is more important than the box itself. I really like what their Chief Technology Officer had to say, “The point is not the box,” Scott Smith, the Mooresville district’s chief technology officer, said Tuesday, referring to the laptops and iPads. “The point is changing the teachers and the learning environment and doing what’s best for kids.” http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/07/22/5060274/ushering-in-the-digital-classroom.html#.U_WPxzmjTww
So if the district really wants this tech initiative to be successful and is not just out for a photo op, they need to first and foremost do what’s best for kids, invest in summer training for their teachers, and hopefully purchase laptops in the next go round so I never have to see another dongle.
Dear Mr. Gates,
I would like to propose the following challenge to Mr.Bill Gates in order to test the sincerity of his motives in transforming the American education system for the benefit of all students and his interest in closing the achievement gap. Mr. Gates, if you are sincere in your motives please donate a tablet (or I would prefer one of those cool new laptops that have touchscreen and app capabilities. They cost less than five hundred and we don’t have to worry about losing keyboards) to every child in my school district. Surely the richest man in the world who is so passionate about reforming education for the benefit of the students and not lining his own pockets could afford such a thing. I know you like to use our schools, our children, our facilities, our teachers and our unions as guinea pigs for your education reform experiments. I have criticized most of your experiments and, let’s be honest, most of them have been failures. I am now directly one of your guinea pigs as I am responsible for helping implement my school district’s one to one device initiative this year for 9th grade Social Studies students. I have finally seen the light and I have now come around to your way of thinking. The technology has finally been synchronized to a level where wireless devices can save the district money and hopefully they can find more funds in their operating budget to invest in their staff.
Through tablet devices, wireless connectivity and cloud storage we can save the district millions of dollars on paper, scantrons, toner and textbooks. You want all of that testing? OK. Just engage teachers in designing age appropriate curriculum since they are the experts. I see how testing through wireless devices can help solve almost everything we hate about testing. The constant disruptions and logistical nightmares of testing could be ended once the students start taking these tests on their wireless devices. Just, please, don’t make these tests the main factor in my job evaluation. As we’ve seen through the disaster of value added models, there is no fair way to evaluate teachers on test scores. As a numbers man, you should appreciate the statistical flaws of such a system.
The latest buzz word in our district is “collaboration.” I am a firm believer in collaboration. Surely a man of your intelligence can understand that if you are ranking teachers based on test results it is very hard for them to collaborate with each other in order to raise the test scores of all students and help close the achievement gap. So please let us all collaborate in order to save our public schools from the edge of the performance cliff that you keep saying they are on. Please, let the teachers, the parents, the administrators, the unions, the school superintendents and private enterprise all work together to improve public schools and the teaching profession. Together we can solve our nation’s education crisis by investing in traditional public schools.
By the way Mr. Gates, I feel your pain. I think I can understand why you dropped out of Harvard. Why you seem to have a strong disdain for teachers. You were probably that introverted kid sitting in the back who was always the smartest person in the room and bored out of your mind listening to your teachers and professors drone on and on. I love how these tablet devices can engage all types of learners, empower our students and teachers, and transform the learning experience to one of equity. Where all learners feel that they have something to contribute. This is why I love the Internet Age. The gods of the Digital Revolution: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Marc Zuckerburg share certainly qualities. You may not have the best interpersonal skills, you are probably independent and a non-conformist who could give two cents what anyone else thinks about you. Maybe you ruffled a few feathers along the way. You are probably obsessive, passionate and strategic. Believe it or not, Mr. Gates, some teachers share those qualities too. So please Mr. Gates, if you are sincere in your passion to transform the American education system for the benefit of all students, meet my challenge and donate a wireless device to every student in my school district.
Kafkateach is proud to declare that after devoting much of this blog to complaining about how terrible the union is, she has finally decided to join it. This blog is all about absurdity anyway, so it’s fitting in a way. After briefly working in a state with no union, I’ve come to the conclusion that some union is better than no union. I may change my mind about this, and if I do my readers will be the first to know. So what series of events landed Kafkateach in the union for the first time in her career?
I’m not sure where to begin. I just wanted to go back to my classroom and shut the door and my mouth and be the best teacher I could be.
Then I got my schedule and it was very clear that someone had decided to use my maternity leave as an opportunity for demotion. This would seem to violate the Family Leave and Medical Act http://www.fmlainsights.com/employer-burned-for-failing-to-return-employee-to-equivalent-position-after-fmla-ended/
but since I was gone for so long I’m not sure that this law would apply to my situation and I have no interest in suing anyway. After all this is over, I am hoping to be able to write a book called “How to Turn Your Demotion into a Promotion.”
Through a series of factors that seemed more controlled by the universe than myself, I ended up in some sort of tech guru position at my school by default. If you read this blog, that should strike you as hysterical because I’ve certainly never bothered to devote any time making it look good. All I can say to teachers in my county, is that this is a blessing for us all. The district’s latest tech initiatives are actually very empowering to teachers. Please pay attention to and use the new district application “My Big Campus.” It offers all of the social networking that we love about Facebook and gives us unprecedented ways to organize. Of course “My Big Campus” is monitored by the Thought Police but as long as we remain professional I think we’ll be fine. The Thought Police are mostly looking for students bullying other students, cheating, and using curse laden acronyms like WTF and LMFAO. There is even a blog feature on your teacher profile. Hmm…that could get interesting.
Unfortunately, nothing is ever easy for Kafkateach and I had to go into combat mode much sooner than I would have liked as the old guard of teacher leaders (who were the same teachers in place under the previous administration) did not want to see Kafkateach in a teacher leader role. To make matters worse and to make the District’s launch of their device program even more absurd, the Administrators have no idea what I am talking about. They have never received the very abrupt training I received, played around with the tablet and they don’t even have access to My Big Campus. So I sound like a crazy person trying to get the staff trained for a successful tablet launch by Monday when the Superintendent does his victory tour. In the next few weeks, I think the staff will come around to my way of thinking, but for now since I am the only person with this information I probably seem a little nutty.
Speaking of staff, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge our school janitors and security guards. The warmest and most authentic “Welcome Backs” I received, were from the janitors and security guards. The janitor in my wing gave me the warmest hug I’ve had in a long time. She must be approaching 60 and she brings her granddaughter around to help her. For her efforts to keep our hallways clean and safe she was called a “puta” by a student that she kicked out of our wing. School janitors, I salute you! You are just as much an integral part of our school community as the teachers and administrators. Thank you for your hard and unappreciated work (hmm…maybe that’s why janitors and I get along so well). And if there are any janitors who read my blog, your job is about to get easier! If we do go paperless and bookless, you will have a lot less mess to clean!
Anyway, back to why I joined the union. This year is a very important election year in Florida and New York. I feel like the more teachers we have in the union during the election, the better organized we can be through social media, the better our chances will be for ending the reign of Rick Scott. I’m starting to see some changes in the tone of union leadership that I am very pleased with. The new NEA president, Lily Garcia, openly condemns corporate education reforms and she doesn’t seem to be looking for a seat at the table http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/11/new-nea-leader-to-nations-educators-revolt-ignore-stupid-reforms/
In more promising news that teachers and their unions are finally starting to wake up and organize, in NY State the teachers’ union refused to endorse Democrat Cuomo for re-election http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/14/public-employees-federation-endorses-teachout/.
These are all very positive signs that teachers and their unions are finally starting to resist profit driven reforms so I’m willing to give the union a shot. My motto this year is, “Working within systems to change systems.”
There is not much Kafkateach can tell you for sure about how our county’s tablet device pilot program will be rolled out this fall. But here’s what I do know after a day of training:
1. The techy-nerdmen who designed this device never taught a class full of ninth grade boys. One of the accessories to the device our students will be receiving is actually called a “dongle.” Do they have any idea what is going to happen every time a teacher has to tell the class to “get out their dongles” or “put away their dongles”? I will probably try to avoid using the thing just to avoid the inevitable adolescent humor regarding their “dongles,” or God forbid one of them actually tries to unzip their pants!
2. Bill Gates is making bank. While I am very excited about being lucky enough to teach in a one to one classroom, we didn’t need any of the Microsoft software to make this work. Everything was already available for free on the Internet. Google Docs and Google Drive could have easily been used instead of Microsoft OneNote and OneDrive. Edmodo and Snapshot serves the same purpose as My Big Campus and ThinkGATE.
3. As stated in my last post, not investing in training the teachers who are on the front lines of implementing the one to one program was a major misstep. The district sent out an email at the end of the school year regarding trainings with names that probably seemed encrypted to the average teacher. There was no stipend for attending the trainings, so not surprisingly, nobody registered and the scheduled sessions were cancelled. There are about 700 7th and 9th grade Social Studies teachers in the county. If they offered to pay each teacher their daily rate (around $200), most of the teachers would have attended and it would have only cost the district around $140,000. A paltry sum compared to how much they invested in these devices and chump change compared to the district’s total operating budget.
4. If you are a 7th or 9th grade Social Studies teacher, you and your students better use the devices from day one. We were warned at today’s training that the Superintendent will be visiting classrooms on the first day of school and he will expect to see the devices out and the students engaged in digital instruction. The fact that only 20 Social Studies teachers in the county have received any instruction on these devices so far and many teachers may not even see one of these devices until the first day of school at 7 am does not excuse you from incorporating these devices in your lesson. Figure out how to turn it on and at least get to the online textbook. You will look “innovative” even though you have no idea what you are doing.
5. Expect glitches. Tons of them. The Internet was down most of the day during our training. With every 7th and 9th grader in the county trying to login at the same time, expect the server to crash. Have a backup plan.
6. Embrace technology in the classroom even if the actual tablet will be outdated by January and replaced by something newer and shinier. The one to one instructional techniques you develop should be able to be used on whatever future device the district decides to purchase. Most of your lessons will be stored on the Cloud. The future is one to one instruction. It’s going to be a rough ride in the beginning, but the tech boat has sailed and if you don’t hop aboard you are going to be left behind. At some point it will make our lives easier, increase student engagement, and save tons of paper.
7. The one to one initiative could help bridge the digital divide. The training I attended was in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. The fact that these kids will have access to the same technology as the wealthiest students in our district really is “innovative” and hopefully transformational. Even though our cynical teacher side may poo-poo the millions wasted on techie devices that will inevitably be lost, stolen or damaged, let’s all try to recapture the optimistic dreamer side we had when we first started this profession. We can change lives, ourselves, and the very nature of instruction.
I keep telling myself I’m going to stop blogging, but then the theater of the absurd rears its ugly head and I can’t control myself. I was already feeling anxious about returning to the classroom after over a year of maternity leave. I would also be facing the challenge of designing my course around two entirely new textbooks. Then I was informed that the district would be equipping all incoming ninth graders with tablet computers. The thought of trying to teach a class of 30 fourteen year olds on tablets who were already obsessed with the zombie boxes filled me with a fear I haven’t experienced since my first year of teaching. In just ten years I’ve gone from chalk and overhead projector based instruction, to white boards, to Smartboards, and now individual learning devices. Don’t get me wrong, I realize I’m incredibly lucky to be in a district that invests in technology and prides itself on being “innovative.” I just wish they would invest as much in their instructors as they do in their devices.
Knowing that your best defense as a teacher is a good offense, I decided to suck it up and register for some unpaid professional development over the summer. Courses with titles like “Reimagining Teaching and Learning with Windows 8.1”, “Microsoft OneNote” and the not so subtle and Orwellianian “ThinkGATE.” I guess these titles were not titillating enough to entice any of the other 20,000 teachers in my district to drive out to the edge of the Everglades for an unpaid day of tablet training. All four of the workshops I registered for were cancelled at the last minute due to low enrollment. They only needed five people to enroll in the course and in a district with over 20,000 teachers they couldn’t even get that many.
Was I the only teacher in my county desperate enough for master plan points and a day away from my screaming children to register for unpaid professional development over the summer? Was I the only teacher paranoid that some future Ed Snowden in the back of my classroom would be hacking away at the district firewalls and all of a sudden porno noises would cause the classroom to erupt in hysterics and me to lose my job and possibly be featured on the O’Reilly Factor as the teacher that allowed her students to watch porn in the classroom on expensive tax payer funded devices? I just wanted to be able to stand in front of my class with a little confidence that I actually knew how to use this tablet thingy and I could catch them if they were up to no good. Students can sense fear like wild animals and they are ready to pounce if they feel you are weak. Gifted students especially will plot their days around trying to make their teachers look as stupid as possible. So I registered knowing that I would be uncompensated for my time, spend over fifty dollars on gas, and possibly be out hundreds on childcare if my mother in law fell through. The sad thing is that if the district were to even offer their measly $100 stipend that doesn’t even cover the cost of a decent babysitter, the courses would have been filled.
Once upon a time, in the glory days when I first started teaching in my district, there was this magnificent professional development opportunity called “Summer Heat.” Each year, right after the end of the school year, two weeks of professional development seminars were offered and you were actually paid your daily rate! You would have to wait up until midnight of the official day of registration just to get a spot they were so popular. Teachers will eagerly sign up for professional development if they are paid like professionals. The fact that the district invested enough money to equip every third and ninth grader with a tablet computer, but failed to properly invest in training the teachers who are being asked to implement this technology in their classrooms, is a major misstep. I want the tablets to be a success. I want the tablets to transform learning and improve student achievement. But I know that if you merely pass out a fancy gadget to students and teachers without any advance training, it will end up as just another million dollar boondoggle used to ridicule the waste in our public schools.
***I just read an article about Mooresville, NC which equips every 4th through 12th grader with a MacBook Air (sweet!). I really like what their Chief Technology Officer had to say, ““The point is not the box,” Scott Smith, the Mooresville district’s chief technology officer, said Tuesday, referring to the laptops and iPads. “The point is changing the teachers and the learning environment and doing what’s best for kids.”
If any teachers were brave enough to watch the morning talk shows the day after the Vergara verdict, where a California judge declared teacher tenure unconstitutional, they quickly became aware that the general public and media pundits on both sides of the political aisle hate you and your stinking tenure. The only thing they hate more than a tenured teacher, is the teachers’ union which protects crappy teachers and will go to great lengths to keep the pot smokin’, child molestin’, Cheeto eatin,’ worksheet distributin’ (err…Ipads, or the Microsoft classroom “device”) teacher in the classroom. You should see the look on every panelist’s face on “Morning Joe” when they utter the words “teachers’ union.” It’s like they just walked into my classroom at the end of a 90 degree day when a bunch of sweaty fourteen year old boys who haven’t discovered deodorant stampede through the door after gym class. I’m not a big fan of “The View” but it was on in the background as I was spoon feeding my baby some Spaghettios and I had to listen to Whoopi Goldberg unleash some whoop ass on the teachers’ union and tenure. Then she asked the audience to applause if they thought teachers should not have tenure. There was a good deal of clapping. She forgot to conduct the other side of the oh-so scientific method of the talk show applause-o-meter and allow the audience to clap if they thought teachers should have tenure. Despite another school shooting in which students were killed and a teacher was injured on the same day of the Vergara verdict, talk show commentators still seemed convinced that the number one problem standing in the way of a child’s education is teacher tenure.
For the general public who have only experienced one side of the classroom, I can understand why they hate teacher tenure and don’t see the need for it. They only see tenure as protecting “bad” teachers. They don’t understand that tenure also protects good teachers. What the general public doesn’t understand is that sometimes being a good teacher makes you a bad employee. For those of you who may have clicked on this blog because of Google and you actually do believe that tenured teachers are the greatest threat to public education, if you haven’t stopped reading, allow me to elucidate the value of teacher tenure.
- First of fall, public school teachers have due process rights which is a far cry from the tenure of university professors. A bad teacher may be fired if it can be documented by the administration and they go through the legal procedure. My first principal prided herself on being able to get rid of any teacher and she did.
- If you read the About section of my blog, you’ll see I started this blog after experiencing a class size of 57 students and going to the media after witnessing my students struggle to find a seat on the floor. Would I have spoken up if I didn’t have tenure and I had to fear not having my contract renewed the following fall? Did it make me a bad teacher to care about my students’ learning conditions? No. But exposing the squalor in a respected public school certainly made me a bad employee.
- Would I be sitting here writing this blog about the realities of public education and school reform without tenure? Hell no. Will any teacher feel comfortable speaking out against excessive testing, district fraud, squandering of funds, lack of student resources, or misguided reforms without tenure? No.
- Tenure protects good but expensive teachers. If you are a principal with a tight budget and you have to choose between retaining one excellent experienced teacher or hiring two newbies for the same price, you may be forced to pick two for the price of one. If you are a principal and you desperately need a football coach but you don’t have any social studies openings, do you renew your erudite teacher’s contract who caters to a small number of gifted students needs, or do you replace such a teacher with one who can finally give your school a winning season? There’s so much more involved in school hiring and firing decisions. It is not merely based on whether or not a teacher is performing. Without tenure, excellent teachers can be kicked out of the classroom based on administrative whims.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Vergara verdict is that the judge actually believed Professor Chetty’s claim that one bad teacher can cost a child hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. As if that one “bad” teacher can do more damage to a poor student’s upward mobility than a childhood of abuse, being homeless, hungry, witnessing violence, lack of extracurricular opportunities or absentee parenting because their mother or father has to work three jobs to make ends meet. If they do manage to go to college, they face a future burdened with student debt and little job opportunity. Dear judge, the security of the teaching profession has lifted many poor minority children out of poverty and into the middle class. It has been a solid career option for many poor citizens who have attended college but may have lacked the connections for more high paying and prestigious careers. Without tenure, the profession becomes just another low wage at will temp job in our Walmart nation.
In the shadows of the Vergara verdict, and what has become almost a daily dose of school shootings, there’s a bizarre little news story circulating about a 34 year old woman who posed as a fifteen year old so she could go back to high school http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/texas-woman-34-posed-15-year-old-high-school-student-released-jail-article-1.1825190. Why would anyone want to go back to high school? Her answer? So she could feel loved. Despite all of the reform emphasis on test scores, failing students, failing teachers, failing schools… the one thing our public schools and our public school teachers have always succeeded best at doing is making our students feel loved.
I have spent the past year wearing nothing but yoga pants. In the winter months my yoga pants were accompanied by a long underwear shirt, Ugg boots and a poofy jacket. In the summer months my yoga pants (Capri length) have been paired with a wife beater tank top and flip flops. This has been my uniform for sitting around the house, going to the grocery store, picking the kids up at school, and about twice a week actually doing some yoga. I am not alone in my fashion reliance on stretchy black pants. In a city that pulsates with the energy of bored housewives on Zoloft, gym-wear is king.
On the runways of the YMCA, housewife chic is epitomized by three staple looks, all of which include the wardrobe staple of elastic waistbands. Look number one is the Crossfit Mom who dawns a pair of incredibly short and baggy running shorts at all times, even in the middle of winter. Is it really necessary to expose the entirety of one’s legs to sub-arctic temperatures in order to run? Whatever happened to grey sweatpants? They were good enough for Rocky. Look number two is Zumba mom. Her eighties inspired gym wear consists of fluorescent cargo pants, animal print, sweat bands and bandanas. Then of course there is the timeless classic of Pilates/Yoga mom. Her black stretchy Lululemons don’t leave much to the imagination but how is a Yogi supposed to perform the ancient ritual of downward dog without wearing $100 see through pants?
Many working moms may fantasize about ditching their panty hose and lounging around in elastics all day long. Trust me ladies, it gets old fast and your husband will start making fun of you and questioning your hygiene. If he were a stay at home Dad, he would surely wear his Sunday finest to walk the dog and feed the baby. For me, I yearn to put on a pencil skirt, uncomfortable heels, a little make up, and to have an excuse to take a shower every morning. It looks like I’ll be getting my wish. The classroom is calling and my husband has decided that my teacher paycheck isn’t so shabby after all. Stay tuned as Kafkateach braves the digital classroom next Fall! I was just informed that the district will be equipping all ninth graders with tablet computers. This could get interesting…