Monday: I don’t remember anything about Monday. I am so mentally exhausted by Friday that Monday may as well have been three years ago.
Tuesday: The only reason I remember anything about Tuesdays is because there is always a faculty meeting to remind me of how little educators’ time and opinions are valued. This Tuesday was extra special because it started with a bomb threat. There is never a dull moment (save for faculty meetings) in the life a public school teacher. In what other profession does one have to immediately drop what they’re doing and be herded into an auditorium because of an unattended box? The timing of this event was spectacular. I just started teaching the Cold War and my students were having a good laugh over an old Duck and Cover PSA video I showed them when all of sudden the school cop bursts in and tells us we had to move to the auditorium because of a bomb in the bus lane. Said “bomb” turned out to be an empty chicken nugget box but it made my lesson more relevant as I could link the paranoia of an atomic bombing during the Cold War to paranoia over unattended packages in the present War on Terror. After spending my planning period in an auditorium filled with 1,000 teenagers, I dreaded the additional waste of time at the end of the day faculty meeting. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2015/04/3_reasons_why_faculty_meetings_are_a_waste_of_time.html?intc=es
Here is a quick run down of what educators must endure at the end of their school day twice a month:
- We were greeted with a proctoring form which we had to sign promising not look at the state test or we would risk losing our teaching certification. The form still said “FCAT” on it so it might not stand up in court anyway.
- We were told to submit our IPEGS documentation by April 30th. This includes providing evidence of professional development as well as “communication with stakeholders” dating back to August.
- Next we were handed a 70 page packet printed on expensive yellow card stock paper which listed which planning periods we would have to give up during the next two weeks because of FSA testing and listed the names of 9th and 10th grade students who would be testing over the next two weeks.
- Feeling demoralized yet? Not quite done making us feel like a common criminal, we were reprimanded for our “classroom kitchens” which violated fire codes. Funny, I thought 60 kids in a room violated fire code too but the district seems less concerned about overcrowded classrooms than with teachers trying to get a cheap caffeine fix or heat up a Lean Cuisine. One teacher stood up and questioned if perhaps we could move the expired textbooks out of the planning rooms built in every hallway which teachers have never been able to utilize because they have always been used as storage rather than a place for teachers to collaborate and warm up a hot drink or meal. He was quickly made to feel like a grumpy old man and sat down. He violated the educator conduct code of never, ever saying anything during a faculty meeting.
- Normally we might be subjected to a Union sales pitch at the end of a faculty meeting. Today our faculty meeting was sponsored by a local private university who felt they had the right to waste ten minutes of our time selling us on the merits of their expensive advanced degree programs even though 90% of our faculty already has a Masters or Doctorate. I’m sure graduate degrees in education are a tough sell these days but at least they could have brought cookies. Teachers will sit through almost anything for some free food.
- After the faculty meeting the teacher who stood up to complain about not having anywhere to warm up a cup of coffee, expressed his dismay that I did not back him up during the meeting. Apparently, people view me as their designated griper who must express outrage at anything a teacher might want to complain about. I don’t drink coffee, I eat the school lunch, and I don’t have a “classroom kitchen.” So, frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a darn! Nobody has ever bothered to back me up when I’ve opened my mouth at a faculty meeting about something important to our profession like class size or VAM. I refuse to be your Che Guevara for a cup of coffee.
- The bomb scare, coupled with a particularly horrendous faculty meeting, reminded me of an oldie but goodie blog post by Mr. Teachbad where a teacher fakes a bomb threat to end a faculty meeting. Possibly the best teacher blog post ever written. http://teachbad.com/2010/12/28/teacher-fakes-bomb-threat-ends-faculty-meeting/
Wednesday: the revolution will not be televised, it will begin on district email. Somebody actually had the balls to use the district email to call for a sick out on April 15th. I liked their strategy. They used a fake name on a gmail account and systematically went through the search feature in Outlook finding group email addresses by plugging in the school codes. Slick, whoever you are I hope you don’t get fired. Of course some teacher ratted them out, and by morning the mysterious “Blue Flu” email had mysteriously disappeared from our Inboxes. The only reason there is any record of the sickout email is because another self-righteous teacher responded to the email complaining about the insensitivity of choosing April 15th. There have been two district wide emails from frustrated teachers who are calling out the privatization of public schools this year. Each time the only response from teachers is critical. Teachers actually choose to gripe over a few grammatical errors rather than commend a fellow teacher for standing up for our profession and public schools. We are dooming ourselves by such petty behavior. Here is a link to the original “Blue Flu” email in case you missed it https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1TEO563R6ywVVdRWmpRdVFEekk/view?hc_location=ufi
(I would start forwarding important emails to your personal account or printing them out now that we know the district is capable of deleting our emails without our knowledge of consent). The Chief of Staff sent a warning email against teachers calling in sick or boycotting tests the next day:
“SUBJECT: UNAUTHORIZED DISRUPTION OF WORK ENVIRONMENT
“It has come to the attention of District Administration that an unauthorized email has been sent to many of our instructional personnel advocating a “sick out” on April 15, 2015, to allegedly protest state testing of our students. Further, this email advocated a “testing boycott” on April 16, 2015, urging teachers to refuse to administer tests.
It is important to note that a disruption of the work environment of this type is not legal. As educators we understand your concerns regarding over-testing and the affect it has on student learning, but the education and safety of our students is our first responsibility. We urge you to let your voices be heard in a different manner by writing your legislator or becoming involved with groups trying to influence public policy. “
Fair enough. If any Dade County educators would like to become involved in groups seeking to influence public policy in a legal manner there will be a protest over the district’s violation of the class size amendment outside of the School Board meeting next week on April 15th. Teachers will be wearing blue in solidarity with the Blue Flu “We Are More than Test Scores” people. As noted in the blue flu email, April 15th is tax day and all teachers should feel that public tax dollars being funneled to private corporations instead of being spent in public schools is worthy of protesting.
Thursday: received my second new student of the week in my class of 32 (now 34) regular World History students. She is the fourth student in the class that doesn’t speak any English. Not only does she not speak English, she is deaf. I wrote an email asking how I am supposed to accommodate this student and did not receive a response. Apparently, my only obligation is to wear a microphone so I can speak really loudly in a language she doesn’t understand.
Friday: TGIF! It was a fabulous Friday since most of my students were out on a district field trip called “Take Your Child to Work Day” a.k.a “Stay Home and Play Video Games.” I didn’t mind. I needed a day to get caught up and a chance to visit the benefits counselor. I needed to look into district health insurance since the premiums on my husband’s plan kept increasing. Maybe the district’s health plan would be more affordable than my husband’s small private company’s plan? Wrong, still more expensive. How can the largest employer in Dade County not be able to negotiate lower health insurance rates? Housing is supposed to be one third of your monthly budget, not health insurance!
At lunch I spoke with a Miami Herald reporter doing a story on district intimidation against teachers that speak at board meetings. I would really rather not be in this story at all, or be in any Miami Herald story again, but she felt my interaction with the Superintendent after I spoke at last month’s meeting was important. Looks like I might not have another week as a public school teacher after the story runs. C’est la vie. My students tell me their relatives are making $300 a day as Uber drivers. I might even be able to get me one of those cheap Obamacare health insurance plans.