Monday, October 29, 2007

The Teacher as Processed Sandwich

Isn't it odd when four years in, you find yourself the senior teacher at your grade level? Perhaps not, in New York City. There's not a whole lot of sense of continuity, and perhaps that's par for the course nowadays. But what happens when you're stuck in such a place? Ask Jules from Mildly Melancholy:

I have no friends at school, I have no trusted colleagues to talk to about my teaching, I don't feel like I'm a valued member of the department, I don't feel like I am an important part of the school community.

This doesn't bode well for teacher retention. Now folks like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and UFT President Randi Weingarten pay lip service to teacher retention, like class size reduction, but rather than address it, they focus on "reforms" that reduce prep time, eviscerate seniority privileges, and pile on extra work. Oddly enough, the theory that teachers leave because the work is too easy and the pay too high does not appear to hold water, and worsening working conditions does not make teachers want to stay:

I've been pondering next year for weeks already. This good year with the kids is encouraging, but I'm exhausted by all the internal change at my school--everything has changed, yet things remain the same. And I think it's going to be time for me to be the new blood. The West is calling...

And unfortunately, the cookie-cutter "reforms" imposed by Bloomberg and tacitly approved by Weingarten do not appear to encourage teachers like Ms. Malarkey:
When BloomKlein took over and Balanced Literacy became the law, our literature anthologies and class sets of novels were taken away.

Can you imagine such a thing? Taking away novels and literature so as to impose a particular methodology? Taking away the teacher's choice as to what kids will read? How can you make kids love reading when you're prohibited from sharing literature you love? What happens when you take such options away from conscientious teachers?
I’ve begun to ask myself how much longer I can do this. I suspect that the more frustrated I get, the less effective I am as a teacher. After more than ten years in the city, I’ve finally started to ask myself if it’s worth shelling out a small fortune in gas money to come here.

This, actually, is precisely the sort of thinking the mayor and the chancellor revel in. The more of us leave, the less they have to spend on teacher pensions. They've just reaped a bonanza by taking back 1.85% of teacher salaries for pensions, and it's highly likely they'll keep the majority of these funds, while frustrated would-be teachers head for the hills.

Clearly experience is not valued. A recent agreement between Weingarten and Bloomberg allows entire faculties to be disbanded, with 50% of said faculties dumped into the demoralizing, dehumanizing ATR brigade--anything to discourage and dissuade people from making it to their pensions, thus diverting funds which could be used for sports stadiums.

The picture above is not a real rib. Real ribs take time. It's some sort of processed McDonald's food product painted with barbecue sauce and made to look like a rib. In Texas they call such things faux-Q. Fake ribs and disposable teachers are becoming all the rage.

I don't take my kid to McDonald's, and I don't want her to have McTeachers either. We owe our teachers better, and more importantly, we owe our kids better.

Thanks to Schoolgal
blog comments powered by Disqus