Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I've been a victim of LIFO, twice.

I received my Multiple Subject Credential in 2003 from a prestigious university and spent my first year out of school substitute teaching and job hunting. A year later, I landed my first position in an elementary classroom, in a Title-1, Program Improvement, Reading First school with a high population of English learners.

I loved my job and recall treating my students to a pizza party once a month, creating an incentive system with rewards such as mechanical pencils and cute erasers, I enjoyed finding creative ways to help my struggling students grasp the curriculum by implementing learning modalities, choice, and scaffolding into my lessons. My first observation had some pointers for improvement as it may for any new teacher, but it was not a scathing review by any means. However, I recall in about November, I was called into the office and told I was not effectively teaching the Language Arts program. I was actually asked, "where did you learn to teach?" in regards to my "inability" to follow the scripted curriculum to the "t"; didn't my scripted curriculum training teach me anything? I asked, "what training?" and they immediately signed me up for the next training in late January.

In early January I had my second observation and received a teacher improvement plan to help me improve in the classroom. Might I reitterate, this was before my training. I attended the training, continued to teach, and yet odd things began to occur. I had my teacher's aide sub in my class while I was at training and my supervisor called me in training to yell at me that my sub had yet to show up. I was also written up once for asking a sub to kindly make a few copies of something for my students; I had left the previus day early with a migraine so bad my husband had to drive me home so I was unable to make copies. I saw district personnel frequently in my classroom, and was written up for a crooked spelling word on my word wall, and for having my students help make posters in my room with one stating "co-operate" instead of the American English version, "cooperate". It seemed they were building a case against me.

I was "pink slipped" for sure, due to declining student enrollment, in May.

Two years later, I was finishing my Secondary English credential while working in another elementary classroom, my first year at that district. I had good reviews until my final review around March, even though my student's benchmark scores were comparable to the other classes in my grade level. I received a warning about the possibiltiy of a pink slip, and did indeed receive it in May. Our school had four new teachers that year and two of us were pink slipped, and we both were shocked because we had good reviews until the final one when things began to change and we began to be treated differently- not enough that we exactly noticed but in retrospect, yes, things began to change.

It seems it is a common mosconception that pink slips are an empty threat and that all teachers are re-employed the next year. I know for sure that both times I was obviously not re-employed by the district and the other woman who was pink slipped at my second school did not return either.

Not every beginning teacher is perfect and the same applies for master teachers with decades of experience. A LIFO analogy could be this- choose 100 people ages 10 - 100 and teach them about piano philosophy, and then have them perform in concert. You just might get some Beethovens at age ten, and some 100 year olds who are not musically inclined and cannot even play a simple tune. LIFO would rid of all piano players under age 20 and state that the 100 year old is the best pianist because, well, he is oldest and thus the master pianist. Ridiculous!

Experience does play into teacher effectiveness- I will say I am a better teacher now than my first day on the job, but experience is not and should not be the only determining factor in teacher effectiveness. New teachers bring with them a joie de vivre and new research and methods. New teachers most often are employed with the at-risk student population, and ridding of the newest staff via LIFO means a lack of continuity for our at risk students. New teachers did not enter the field to be replaced like reusable batteries year after year.

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