Friday, October 14, 2011

Just...Ignore it but pretend not to or: I am a highly qualified moron

I was reflecting back to my teaching days and thought hmm...I was a LIFO case, but was there indeed any reason behind my LIFO status- was it pure coincidence, a pull-a-name-out-of-the-hat LIFO case or were there some reasons behind my LIFO status over another "equal" teacher? I will never know because you can be let go without cause, rhyme, or reason as a non-tenured, probationary teacher. No questions asked, no explanations given. Therefore, you only know if you're a LIFO case, a "we don't like you, you suck" case, or a mix of the two. Not very helpful for personal and professional growth.

I must speculate, however, that if I were "both", why? What did I do "wrong"? Yes, I was not the best teacher in the whole wide world. Studies do show beginning teachers are not, in general, as "good' as master teachers, which is as expected. But I do not feel I was the "OMG why is she in the classroom?" type of teacher. But it is all relative to perspective.

My test scores and attendance rates of my students were on par or above my c
o-workers so it was not that I was a bad teacher.

I did, however, not ignore things and that my friends may be the problem. Here goes my confessional, a possible black listing of future career if such things are relative.... (in no particular order of importance or timing of event....)

1. I am all for FAPE- Free and Appropriate Education. For all. So if I see a student struggling, I'll begin the chain of command, rigamarole, and bureaucratic tape to get to the bottom of things and help the child. That means I will hold a parent meeting, SST, vouch for IEP, etc etc which...gasp..costs staff time, effort, and money. They don't like that and seem to only want to help a few. Plus some (maybe all?) schools have a cap on how many students can, for example, be in Special Ed. There is "RTI" and other forms of "special ed light" without caps but there seems to be an unspoken for cap. Helping kids is n
ot easy- I admit this myself; having a class with say 4 IEPs, 6 ELLs, 2 GATEs, 8 RTIs etc etc gets a little tricky but's our job. Helping children is the teacher mantra. So...when little ol' me, a new teacher, asks for meetings, documents, plans to help Billy and Susie, it looks bad. The master teachers who denied or simply ignored Billy and Susie's needs all throughout school would rather not take the blame and in
stead tell the new teacher that she is new, inexperienced, dumb, don't try and do this.
I did in District B exit two children from the ELL program who were fluent, their previous teachers had "forgotten" to exit them, forgotten to look at the CELDT RFEP (Ell test, fluent redesignation, exit the program...) qualifications. I did and had two sets of happy parents and
kids. In District C I not only identified 5x the ELL students than we thought we had (n
o one thought to look at files and data to see if they were ELL, needed assessed, and/or needed service) but I also began to exit 20% of our EL population to RFEP status. However, I ne
eded teacher signatures for this one obliged.... too much extra work. I had dug up childr
en that had been lost in the system, either denied their FAPE services or denied exiting something they did not need, and that was not well taken. Yes, I followed federal, state, district EL law to the "t" which I guess a "newbie" should not do. District A, as much as I did not like how they operated, did one th
ing right- EL services.

And I'm sorry but when a child writes to me that they wish to kill themselves, no one li
kes them, I talk to them and seek a counselor. When the school is cheap and only has one counselor serving three schools, and the counselor is on maternity leave and then too "busy catching up" to help, and then "it is too close to the end of the school year, let's try it again next year"... I get a little mad. Thank God this child did not commit suicide and I was able to stabilize things on my own effort and time because I would publicly blame a suicide on t
he system that refused to help.

2. I know there is mixed research on retaining students. However, I had a student who did not qualify for Special Ed (IQ and performance did not meet the Sp. Ed equation) but was, in upper elementary, unable to add punctuation or capitalization to writing, or to add or subtract past ten- forget multiplication, graphing, geometry. Set to go to middle school after my classroom,I thought, this child needs another year of elementary as middle school will not help this child- this child will be completely "left behind" and "lost in the shuffle". I tracked down the impossible to reach, who cares, parent, got signatures, district approval and.. was LIFOed. Somehow, after all my legal docs to retain the child, the retention was revoked and off the kiddo went to middle school. Perhaps those dumb new teachers don't know when a child needs extra time in elementary. Perhaps I was supposed to ignore when this child could barely even do "finger math" such as 10-8. Just pass 'em on, social promotion my friends. Act like I am a caring teacher, out to help every
child, but really just ignore any problems and pass it on to someone else.

3. Stakeholder Influence - Teachers always say, bla bla bla, we need more parent input and help, administrator input, bla bla bla. But don't kowtow to these wishes no sir no way. I am one
to fix problems so when Ricky is not doing ANY work, I talk to Ricky, his parents, my co-workers, the curriculum coordinator, etc. Sure I am supposed to fix this all by myself because I'm super teacher! Really that means, I'm supposed to ignore Ricky's laziness or have a "heart to heart" with him, and just hope no one notices Ricky's failing test scores, besides, it is the next year's teacher's problems. By the way, "Ricky", after my initiated meetings and modifications, got sent next door to a tenured "better" teacher and continued to, gasp, not do a thing and no one batted an eye. When Anna is failing English, and parents do not care, and admin ignores me, I will not ignore her. I will work with Anna, whom everyone -including parents- says "probably does not have a chance graduating on time, she is slow and defiant" and she will come to my class at lunch, we'll eat together and work on
Romeo and Juliet, an expository essay, practice vocabulary tests. And Anna will go up a
band/level on the standardized exam.

Ok sometimes I am not super teacher and can't rescue Jose or Kristy. Some other teacher might "click" better, or perhaps no matter what, Jose and Kristy are so beaten by the system that my continual pep talks, assistance, etc are cast aside. It is sad. But I will not give up, I will try my darnedest - and involve others when I see fit- to ensure Jose and Kristy succeed.

4. Eek! I challenge the status quo, curriculum, and tradition! How dare I, a new teacher, have any thoughts let alone input on what is "right" for students. Since I have only taught for one, two, three, four years and everyone else five, ten, thirty, I know nothing. I am a credentialed, highly qualified, moron. I ne
ed tenure and experience, title of master teacher, to know that scripted curriculum is indeed
best for children. Making kids sit, feet on floor, back straight, hands folded, at attention, silent, for two hours of a lecture is research-based and something a master teacher promotes because, well, only experts know this is how a classroom should look. Because I'm a newbie, I am to blindly follow direction, not question a thing, not have a single opinion, just operate like a smiley robot meets prison guard in the institution we call school.

I cannot try and fix things or help children because, as stated, I am a highly qualified moron. I MUST act like a smiling peppy child advocate at ALL moments, happily delivering a dumbed-down curriculum, willingly stuffing children in desks and lecturing when they need to move, play, experience, discover. Any problems I see must look like they're being resolved, but really, I'm to pass the buck on to the next teacher who will in turn pass it on again until we have 40% high school drop out rates, tons
of college entrants taking remedial courses because "schools are not preparing children", children and soon, adults, who f
ollow a path of entitlement, poverty, crime because they were told, whether directly or via the system, that no one cares.

I am to just shut up, follow directions, do minimal work, and be proud of my job. I am to kowtow to damaging practices and procedures and gladly accept my position of highly qualified moron until, by turning my back or eye, ignoring my instincts and morals, I gain tenure. Then, I can use the damaging system still (what's the difference? Not much except that now I can dictate my expertise in the damaging system and prevent change).

Sorry. No.

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