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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Anonymous one-of-the-bros said...

Wow. You hear about these situations, but it always hits the hardest when it is someone you know.

Until someone figures out how to break the cycle of apathy (towards an education) in these kids, this will go on. You can't force-feed knowledge down someones throat, and bringing in a new set of teachers isn't going to fix the problem, as you know.

Hopes for a better future for you!

February 03, 2011 6:23 PM  
Blogger birdwoman said...

thanks! It's not really bothering me, as John had demanded that I leave this year, anyhow. He didn't want me to burn out. So, anyhow, I'm now getting my environmental certification, because, what do you know, this is one fun class to teach?!

BTW, there is a kid named umiak at my school. Every time I see the name, I think, a boat for many men.


February 03, 2011 7:00 PM  
Blogger cube said...

What a sad state of affairs. Will you have any difficulty finding work with your environmental certification?

February 07, 2011 1:54 PM  
Blogger cube said...

I thought umiak was the woman's boat, as opposed to the kayak, which was the men's boat. I'm just saying...

February 07, 2011 1:59 PM  
Blogger birdwoman said...

my primary cert is in chem, so I think I'll be OK, but you don't know in this climate...

the umiak thing is an inside family joke. I have a very weird family!


February 07, 2011 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Kid #6 said...

HEY! We're not 'very weird.' We just remember very weird stuff!

You'll do well with your Chem background and Env-Sci specialty.

Hang in there.

(Take it from a Nuclear Engineer with work history in weaponry(sp), power plants, toilet paper, and electronics!)

February 10, 2011 12:46 PM  
Blogger birdwoman said...

we're not very weird? hmm, guess it depends on your tare weight. Maybe compared to some of the cousints... we're almost normal. Abby normal, but normal none the less.

I'm not worried. I'll get a job, somewhere. It's just SO discouraging at work right now. It's as bad as when GM was going through all the layoffs... maybe worse, because I really can't see how this is going to help.


February 10, 2011 5:58 PM  

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