Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Miss Eyre, NYC Educator, and You: Are We the "Irreplaceables"?

It's funny how much I seem to be thinking about quitting my job over the summer.  Not really, of course.  I have ever intention of coming back for another year of masochism educating the youth in September, really!  But my last post here (title: "Those Who Can, Teach, Until They Don't") dealt with the issue of retention, and, after reading this GothamSchools post, I find myself thinking about it again.  It's long been my chief ed policy interest (sorry, my friends at Core Knowledge, though I promise curriculum is a very close second!).  Eventually I'd like to get into a position where I could actually make a difference in teacher retention, like coaching or (GOD FORBID) administration.  But at least for now, I'm just another no-good unionized teacher, so I'll make some observations from where I currently stand.

One of the findings of the report--a no-brainer, I think, but let's just throw it out there--is that poor working conditions and lousy school cultures push teachers, good ones, out of schools like nothing else.  And, yeah, that sounds about right.  After more-than-one-hand's worth of years in the NYCDOE, I feel comfortable calling myself a pretty good teacher, and the last time I switched schools, it was totally due to school culture going down the drain.  I felt like good work I'd done was being thrown out for no reason and that dissent, even informed dissent in the best interest of kids, was being quashed.  So off I went.

Related: I've been doing a lot of PD over the summer, and today, for maybe the first time ever, I heard a DOE official say something along the lines of, "We're going to just talk for a little while this morning and then give you the rest of the time to work.  You're teachers, you all know what you need to do."  Whoa whoa WHOA, now that's new and different from the DOE brass, no?  IMAGINE THAT, ASSUMING THAT I AM A PROFESSIONAL AND CAN PRETTY MUCH FIGURE STUFF OUT BY MYSELF.  I'm being hyperbolic here, of course, but you get the point.

And so my larger point is that I concur with the TNTP report (yikes, but yeah): You can do a lot to keep your "irreplaceables" if you're a principal or a superintendent--you know, folks like me and NYC Educator and you!!!--without spending a lot of money.  (I mean, money is always nice, though.  I won't turn it down.)  What means a lot is respect, and support, and gratitude, and trust, and constructive feedback.  I don't get paid a dime more for being at my current school than I would if I had stayed put, but you can bet I'm a lot happier and a lot less likely to leave. It's all about being in a good place.

But don't spread this post around.  I don't want my pals at DOE headquarters hearing that I don't REALLY want more money.  If they ask you, say, Yes, you want more money.
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