flightless hag

A chronicle of the adventures of birdwoman: a lonely, talentless freak who wanders the internet in search of entertainment.

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Location: Philly

I'm a 40-something married white female, survivor of weight watchers, avid reader of pulp. Dogs (not cats), extreme right (handed, not politics), ENTJ, alto, wanna-be knitter.

January 31, 2011

We Do What We're Told

Old Peter Gabriel song, stuck in my head today...

Those of you who know me know that I teach in a failing school. Our students are those you hear about on the news: the ones whose needs are not being fulfilled by the schools.

My school was outsourced several years ago because it was failing. It was taken away from the district and given to an EMO (like an HMO, but it's E for Educational). The staff wasn't fired, but 90% of them left. Since then, vacancies have been filled to a large extent by folks like me: alternatively trained, non-union-huggers. We have a boat load of Teach For America folks here, and Teaching Fellows, too. Have had, for at least 6 years (since the EMO took over). The amount of work the majority of these folks put into their jobs astounds me. They're, for a large part, dynamos. They don't stay long - 2 years, as a rule - but while they're here, they're putting in 100%.

We're still failing.

We have all sorts of new strictures this year: each teacher must have specific "words" in his or her lesson plan which shows the level of questioning (higher levels for more thought). We have to have so many calls to parents - regardless of the fact that most of the time we can't get a number that connects. We have to have certain posters on our walls. We have to have certain structures in each lesson. Our lesson plans have to be in before the week starts and are rigorously vetted by administration. We have formal and informal walkthroughs of our classrooms as many times as once a week. And the list goes on.

So, they announced last week that they're firing us all. Something like 2000 teachers are to be "replaced" because we aren't meeting goals. We can reapply for our jobs, but only up to 50% of us are allowed to come back. Next year, our school will be outsourced. Again. And this time, we're adding an hour to the school day, we're adding a day to every other school week, and we're extending the school year through July. And teachers will be even more closely watched than they are now.

I do what I'm told. I do all the required and recommended stuff - sometimes it adds to my lessons; sometimes it takes away. I generally work an extra hour at school, daily, and on weekends, I'll spend most of Sunday doing schoolwork. I would not go so far as to say I am a good teacher. But I am not a lazy teacher. I am not a stupid teacher. I am not an uninterested or uncaring teacher.

At the end of the day, I have 30% truancy, minimum, from all of my classes. And it's not the same kids daily. I would estimate that I see 20% of my students on a regular basis (missing 0 or 1 class every 2 weeks). I have a bell curve of reading levels from 2 to 11th grade (I teach juniors and seniors) in EVERY CLASS. Ditto for math. My kids can't, as a rule, point out NORTH FRICKING AMERICA on a map, let alone the city where they live.

And it's my fault.

Until last week, I really laughed this stuff off. But between the Obama "it's all the union - fire the teachers and it'll fix the school!" example that my husband told me about, and the kerfuffle at my own district, I Give Up. I give up.

It takes two to tango, and my dance partner's sittin on the floor, laughing at me and kicking me. Until the kids are held accountable for their own educations, the schools will fail. Charters succeed because they can kick out kids who don't perform or who don't behave. Schools who don't have that option will fail. And any kids who want to succeed who are in those schools? God bless 'em. They don't stand a chance.

Anybody want a sub next year? Or maybe a washed up DBA? I'm so over this crapola.


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January 09, 2011


As three of my students argue about whether a mushroom is a f’ing (no apostrophe) consumer or a f’ing producer, another pulls me aside.

“Miss, a vegetarian eats vegetables, right?” I'm proud, because he's using his prefix/suffix/root word examinations and connecting to outside knowledge! All those teacher buzzwords!

“It’s the term for a human herbivore, mostly, yes,” I answer.

“So what’s a humanitarian?” he asks, with a look of disgust.

“Someone who’s nice to humans…” I answer, understanding his confusion.



Also, as I was listening to some chant, to try to soothe the inner beast, some of my students came in for help… one of them looks up and says “this sh’t is just like rap, only not as cool.”

And he was right.

New insights abound!