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School Stories

Living with Pirates on Your Ship…and getting back to the teaching.

Originally posted at educatedtodeath.com

I’ve written a series of depressing posts. Perhaps I’m in my blue period as a teacher. I certainly find the mess surrounding me depressing. My conversations with teachers at my school are similarly hopeless. But, we are not without hope. Before proceeding, the juxtaposition of my position, and the position of the students I serve and the educational bliss experienced by the kids and teachers across the railroad tracks is a bit disheartening at first glance.

What is “my” situation? Why is it so awful? Is it as awful as I perceive? What can I do?

To begin, I am not without hope or fight. I am greatly concerned for my students and the teachers with whom I share this sinking ship. Our vessel has been boarded by pirates who have the golden elixir that will systematically heal all that ails us. I could have called it a coup. Intervention is too benevolent of a term. You intervene when you care, not when you wish to take control. And that’s what’s happening here (and in many other places). Our “interventionists” are here to “organize” our already ineffective system into a smooth operating system that will close the achievement gap and heal the societal wrongs that can only be measured with a standardized test. How can this be done?, you may ask. You take an existing structure that is dying or in crisis (a created crisis, mind you) and you hire outsiders. Pay them at least three times as much as the teachers. It never hurts if they drive and wear their wealth. It makes it easier to distinguish the teachers from the saviors. These saviors will bring with them a plan to be implemented by the teachers and administration. It will involve a lot of paper work and extra meetings. In these meetings teachers should analyze every aspect of the school function, from finance to curriculum. The kicker is that you must ask the teachers for suggestions how to make improvements and then shoot them down kindly. Say something like, “that’s a really great idea, but it probably won’t work for us.” Do this until teachers understand that their voice will not be heard. Also, pit teachers against one another in meetings. Give then things to debate and use emotional topics to divide them. Or better yet, just frustrate them with opposing ideas that could never be mitigated. And so on so on so forth.

We have three outside organizations in our school working to help us “fix” the problem. That comes to approximately 3 evals a week with at least 4 more walk throughs. We have quality in house academic coaches by the way, but they’ve been deluged with even more paperwork. We’re under constant surveillance. We’re internalizing that and beginning to function as we are being watched constantly, and not to the betterment of our students. We’re following a simple algorithm for staying out of trouble, not teaching.

The answer? Conversation. We, as a faculty have to talk. We have to join forces. I’ve seen it work before. The faculty came together and agreed to teach regardless of the outside forces. We supported each other. We banded together. We talked. We became closer in and out of the work place. We made a huge impact on our students, each other, and not surprisingly test scores. We’re just a little further down the hole here. This faculty has been incredibly divided for some time now, but the other one was too. That’s the answer, we have to give voice to our problems. We have to wade through the never ending pile of papers and constant observations and observed meetings and really work together. I don’t know if I’m in a position to do this at this school, at least not overtly. We’ll see what happens.

And, then to tackle this on the systemic piracy.

Addendum:

I was giving my students a stern talking to this afternoon, what my grandmother would have called a “come to Jesus meeting”. An evaluator walked in in the middle of our “meeting”. I continued as usual. The kids have given up, or have just decided they’re finished trying until after the holiday break. I understand. These things happen. Sometimes we all need a little motivation, even if it’s a little stern, a little loving, and a little not in line with the chosen objective that’s on the lesson plan on the board. I will hurry to my box in the morning to see what charming remarks my dear friend left me. We have to teach. I have to teach. Nothing happens if I keep jumping through their hoops.

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educatedtodeath is a teacher, advocate, and activist and keeper of educatedtodeath.com

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Living with Pirates on Your Ship…and getting back to the teaching.

  1. It is so irrelevant what evaluators think about my teaching, I’ve decided to ignore them. Someone other than myself knows little or nothing about what I should or shouldn’t do to improve. I get my cues from students and parents and my inner voice called intuition that has rarely let me down during far more serious and dire situations than standing in front of eager learners and going with the next right thing to offer up to them. I realize that the noise is so loud, we cannot hear them any longer. The yammering has become redundant and completely out of step with what a professional should endure. I’ve become quite good at shaking my head, being cordial and carrying on with my craft. If it does anything, it will annoy the hell out of them or better yet, ignite a decent, cogent, professional conversation that might begin to establlish a rapport so we can return to the friendly, supportive staff of teachers we once were before the deformation process began. Never doubt this…the pendulum is always in motion. This, too, shall pass. Unfortunately, not before too many children and teachers and parents suffer unnecessarily. Brave of you to write your truth in this article. I am gratified that finally, teachers are speaking out. Once we begin doing so in the hallways, get back…real change will happen. Kudos to you.

    Posted by Sandy | November 27, 2012, 7:45 pm
  2. Name the problem; work the solution; join others ready to do the same. I like your approach – let us know how best to support you in it.

    In solidarity,
    C

    Posted by Chad Sansing | November 29, 2012, 8:09 pm

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